Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Few of My Favorite Chills

With shortened days, colder nights, falling leaves, and the approach of Halloween, it is time to crank up the horror genre. It just isn't October without a few good scares. I prefer psychological terror over grotesque or gore because it is what happens before the "Boo" that makes the "gotcha" delicious, but here are a few of my favorite classic horror reads:

1) Everything by Edgar Allen Poe. From the Tell-Tale Heart to the Cask of Amontillado, his stories have stuck with me over the decades. I still listen for the thump of a heart under the floorboards.

2) Stephen King, pick a title: Carrie, Salem’s Lot, The Shining, Cell. They’re all chill-icious. His books have caused me several sleepless nights and a few near heart attacks.

3) The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson was a fantastical, terrifying ghost story about a group of people drawn to Hill House for a psychological experiment that goes awry when it seems the house has possessed one of them. It spawned several film versions.

4) In Rosemary’s Baby, by Ira Levin, a woman gives birth to the devil’s child. The devil truly made them do it. It made a compelling film as well.

5) Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, in which the mad scientist cobbles together a man, was one of the first stories about medical tinkering and has spawned countless retellings in books and film.

6) The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde is about a young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and only his portrait ages. He lives a life of excess until his true nature via the portrait is revealed.

7) The Turn of the Screw by Henry James is a tale of two creepy children and the governess and gardener who haunt them. This story has been remade many times. It kept me guessing until the end. Even then I questioned the truth. It is also sits on the gothic shelf.

8) Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice introduced us to the vampire as protagonist and took us inside the night life of the vampire. It isn’t easy being undead.

9) The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, introduced us to the split-personality, a doctor whose alter ego was a madman, and another cautionary tale about medical tinkering.

10) Dracula by Bram Stoker, the original vampire bestseller, introducing us to the vampire as antagonist, Vlad the Impaler. It followed several points of view including Jonathan Harker, Mina Murray, and Van Helsing, the vampire hunter. There have been many subsequent offshoots and retellings.

Other horror writers that receive honorable mention include: V. C. Andrews, Clive Barker, Ambrose Bierce, Algernon Blackwood, Robert Block, Nathanial Hawthorne, Washington Irving, Jack Ketchum, Dean Koontz, Richard Laymon, H.P. Lovecraft, Graham Masterson, Richard Matheson, Robert McCammon, John Saul, and Peter Straub.

My thanks goes out to the horror writers who keep me afraid of the dark. Keep the chills coming.

Who are your favorite horror writers? Feel free to leave recommendations in the comments. I'm always looking for new authors to read.

Continue reading about thrills and chills:





Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit DianaHurwitz.com for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

12 comments :

  1. I respect your author choices, Diana ... but I'm not a big horror fan. My favorite horror movie would be Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein ... that's FRANKENSCHTEEEEN!

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    1. It's not everyone's cup of tea. I'm more horrified by the election this year than any novel I've read.

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  2. May I add HARVEST HOME by Thomas Tryon? The book gave me nightmares, but movie even more so. the 1978 film had the most diabolical Bette Davis ever.

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    1. I loved that one. I actually diagrammed that novel. :) And it made a great movie.

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  3. What a great list. Like you, I loved anything by Poe, mainly for the surprise element. He always keeps the reader guessing. I have enjoyed some of the other authors you mentioned as well, especially Stephen King. I also like Joe Landsdale. His book, The Bottoms, was quite a good read.

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  4. I'm not much of a horror reader, but I've read a few of those you mentioned. My favorite was Rosemary's Baby. I don't like to be scared reading unless I know it's out of the realm of possibility. I never could read or watch The Shining because of Jack Nicholson's rabid face shot. So I'm a wuss. I admit it.

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    1. The real horror stories are too real for me. I prefer to stay in the fantasy horrors of fiction.

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  5. If you like Peter Straub and Dean Koontz you would probably enjoy David Wellington - start with Monster Island.

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  6. I have never read a horror novel, and the only such movie I've seen is The Picture of Dorian Gray. Needless to say, I saw it just once (on television years ago). Pounding hearts and sleepless nights are not among my favorite things; however, I do admire authors whose stories evoke an emotional response in their readers. :-)

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    1. There was a recent remake of Dorian Gray that I quite enjoyed. He also makes a great character in the TV series Penny Dreadful.

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  7. Poe is my absokute favorite. Levin I could read once a week and never tire. All of these are terrific.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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