Halloween is my favourite day of the year. It’s a time when I can get my goth on and not get stared at. It’s all cobwebs, bats and phantasms, washed down with some winter Pimms, while sitting by a crackling fire, casting slithering shadows. And with the nights drawing in, it’s the perfect time to curl up in an armchair and indulge in some tales from the darker side of the library.
For me, Halloween is more about atmosphere than horror, so don’t turn away if you’re not into guts and gore. Instead, follow me for a list of 7 seasonal tales to read with all the lights on…unless you’re feeling brave.
- Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte. This is the ultimate gothic novel; a tale of obsession, overwhelming passion and love that haunts you from beyond the grave. Heathcliffe is the ultimate dark, brooding, romantic lead, with more than a touch of the monstrous about him. Add to this, the paranormal aspect, the windswept moors and the tragedy of it all, and you’ve got yourself the ultimate gothic love story.
- Frankenstein – Mary Shelley. Regarded as the first science fiction novel, Frankenstein hits this list for obvious reasons. When friends Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary and Polidori challenged each other to write the best horror story, Frankenstein is what happened. More than just a horror story, Frankenstein tackles themes, which have become mainstays of genre fiction – nature vs nurture, science vs nature, the monster in us all. It also spawned a movie tradition and plenty of Halloween costumes.
- H.P. Lovecraft. He’s the king of creepy, cosmological entities and tales of cults and demonic powers. His tale of Cthulu is the stuff of legend and his short stories are all linked by the Cthulu mythos, making his fiction unique. I recommend The Shadow Over Innsmouth and The Music of Eric Zann. It’s rare for a writer to be able to truly scare, but Lovecraft often succeeds.
- Gormenghast – Mervin Peake. Heading into the modern age, Peake delivers nouveau-gothic with his dark, twisted tale of the Groan family. Part Dickens, part Poe, Gormenghast is an epic journey through a sometimes surreal world, populated with compelling characters and one of fiction’s best villains.
- The Sandman – Neil Gaiman. A graphic novel series about Dream, the Lord of Dreams, whose sister is Death. Dream is imprisoned for 70 years using an ancient ritual and we first meet him naked and powerless, but he is waiting until his captors die, to make good his escape. Written in the late 80s, this series needs a Joy Division soundtrack to go with the black drainpipes, Dream’s Ian McCullough hair and brooding disposition. The Sandman combines ancient mythology with a gritty modern day setting (well 80s) and beautiful prose with art that just sings.
- The Yellow Wallpaper – Charlotte Perkins Gilman. This early feminist work is a short story which centres on a woman’s descent into madness, as a result of enforced incaceration by her husband, who is trying to cure her of her ‘nervous disposition’. It’s an incredible work and will send a chill down your spine.
- American Vampire – Scott Snyder, Stephen King and art Rafael Albuquerque. No Halloween reading list would be complete without some vampires, despite them being done to death (if you’ll excuse the pun) recently. This comic series charts the rise of a new type of vampire in the New World that’s stronger and faster. Beginning with an actress in the 1920s, the series moves through the decades in America, including World War II, gangsters of Las Vegas and through to the 50s. Stunning artwork, great writing and not a glittery vamp to be seen – what more could you want?
So stoke the fire, draw the curtains and open a terrifying tome to get your all hallow’s eve off with a bump in the night.