Fright Reads for Halloween!

Halloween guest post from occasional blog contributor and avid reader Judith Orlowski.

When it gets to be mid October, my thoughts turn to the scary.  

As soon as I hang up the mutant skeleton on the front door - mutant because over the years, some of his bones have mysteriously disappeared making him (Bob I call him) a freak with one foot on a tibia-only leg and no foot on the full length leg - I start re-reading my fave creepy books.  Nothing satisfies like reading at night by a small light, sleepy and yet afraid to turn off the lamp.  

Begin with the classics. Monsters that scare the crap out of me, means starting with Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  The prose is beautifully creepy and probes what makes us humans in search of immortality - as a vampire, or one of the first zombies created by Dr Frankenstein.  You can't die if you aren't really alive, right?

Then there are the modern classics.  

Maybe you like demons and possession?  Read William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist, Ira Levin's Rosemary's Baby or Tryon (The Other, Harvest Home)  Brilliantly plotted, they've put me off certain foods thanks to the equally scary movies - Linda Blair ruined me for pea soup, Mia Farrow for rare meat, and don't get me started on red wine, Mr Tryon.  Gross!

The prolific:
-- Shirley Jackson excels at simple spooky stories with a twist.  The Lottery is quaint but horrifying. The Haunting of Hill House invented the lock-em-in/kill-em-off-one-by-one grisly genre.  
-- Stephen King -  If you weren't creeped out by clowns before, read IT and research serial killer John Wayne Gacy.  Rainbow wigs on cute trick-or-treaters will set you to cowering.

Finally, there's the horror of the loss of humanity or sanity.  
--Cormac McCarthy's The Road left a lasting impression that has been revisited in AMC's Walking Dead.  
--Human lunch meat is a trope of Thomas Harris' malevolent genius Hannibal Lector in Silence of the Lambs.
--Charles Dickens showed us the horror of madness with Miss Havisham in Great Expectations.  Nobody wants to say yes to that dress!  

Get yourself some light bulbs, a box of saltines for the nausea, and settle down to seriously frightening reads that will take you from Halloween through year end.  Enjoy!

Literary Halloween Reads- The Way Through the Woods by Rudyard Kipling

As many of you know, I am a Rudyard Kipling fan-- and around Halloween, my thoughts often go to his scary classics, "The Phantom Rickshaw" and "The Wish House."   Both stories have Kipling's depth, and strangely moving characters, while maintaining the old-fashioned spookiness-- and "The Wish House" speaks of the world beyond, without making a fuss about it.   (Spoiler alert:  I'm releasing a spooky story collection soon.)

But for a departure, read and listen to this truly scary poem "The Way Through the Woods."  From the opener of "They shut the road through the woods," there's an eerie, still quality to the poem that's like the loneliness of a dark evening's walk, without a flashlight.

But don't take my word for it.  Listen:

BBC - Poetry Season - Poems - The Way Through the Woods by Rudyard Kipling

Literary Halloween Reads: Barbara Comyns

It's countdown to one of every literary person's favorite holidays (because seriously, who does not love a great ghost story?)  Naturally, we can return to the fabulous Edgar, he of the Raven, and get out our flashlights.But I have a few other literary-minded suggestions, to be posted over the next few days.

For starters, you can do no better than the weird, frightening novels of the English author, Barbara Comyns.  Why this superb writer is not better known is beyond me.  I would say that she deserves a revival, but the fact that, as far as I know, she was never popular.  Yet another woman writer neglected.  (I discovered her through Peter Cameron's wonderful blog.)

But on to her scary, terrific novels.

 If you are in the mood for a scare, look no further than THE VET'S DAUGHTER.  It's out in a New York Review Classics Paperback, with a fine introduction by Kathryn Davis.

The story is told from the point of view of a shy girl, Alice, whose father is a man of stormy, cruel moods whose source the reader can only guess at.  After the death of Alice's mother, a crass mother-in-law enters the scene and tries to mold Alice anew.  And at that point, Alice acquires mysterious, floating powers.

 Comyns blends the supernatural with the realities of child abuse, seamless and spookily, with page-turning suspense. And the ending-- well, I'll leave you to discover what a fantastic ending Comyns concocts.

Also, I am thrilled that Amazon has released the amazing THE JUNIPER TREE in a Kindle edition.  I'll hop over soon, and add the digital copy to my library. I have sent friends copies of this amazing book.

Some of you may know the Grimm Brothers tale, "The Juniper Tree,"  It's a mysterious tale in itself (about a step-mother who murders her step-son.)

Comyns, in her plain-spoken, stripped-down prose, re-works the narrative from the point of view of a beautiful, but physically scarred, young woman.  Comyns, as ever, disdains psychology and dives right into evil. You won't sleep, I promise.  

FREE OCTOBER 18 and 19 --Strange Courtships: Nine Romantic Stories by Carla Sarett

If you want to pick up a free copy of my short story collection (some tales romantic, some surreal and others comic): it is free this weekend, on October 18 and 19.  Most of the stories were previously published, but I did include a sneak preview from my (forthcoming) comic novel, which will be released in 2015.  

I'd love to hear which of these stories is your favorite-- so let me know in an Amazon review, if you like.

Strange Courtships: Nine Romantic Stories - Kindle edition by Carla Sarett. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @

Does Social Media Sell Books?

Interesting post from the FSB Associates Blog on the "chicken-egg" question of whether social media helps to account for blockbusters like Gillian Flynn's GONE GIRL.  Her agent, Stephanie Rostan, argues that the author didn't promote the book-- her readership did it for her.  So, the book stimulated others to spread the word-- and then the snowball effect of social media kicked in.  Obviously, Flynn had two books under her belt, and some built-in audience-- but this time, everything clicked.

You can read the interview here:

FSB Associates Blog

Philadelphia Inquirer reviews Shoplandia | Jim Breslin

Congrats to friend (and occasional contributor to this blog) on the enthusiastic review of his latest novel, Shoplandia, Iwhich is about a home shopping network (loosely modeled on QVC, where Jim worked as a producer for 17 years.)  Jim's an active presence on the Philadelphia literary scene, with two Story Slams (or perhaps more by now) which feature live story-telling, and drinks, to boot.

You can read this review here:  Philadelphia Inquirer reviews Shoplandia | Jim Breslin
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