12 New Books to Keep the Halloween Horror Going

Just because today is Halloween doesn’t mean the spirit of the holiday has to end with October’s close. Reading books rooted in and/or about horror can keep the bad vibes and ill feelings alive — or undead — as the months grow more chilling. From fiction to nonfiction, here are several recent releases that may help do just that. —Rod Lott

ZOMBIES! ZOMBIES! ZOMBIES! edited by Otto Penzler — There is never a dull moment in the world of zombies. They are superstars of horror and they are everywhere, storming the world of print and visual media. Their endless march will never be stopped. It’s the Zombie Zeitgeist! Now, with his wide sweep of knowledge and keen eye for great storytelling, Otto Penzler offers a remarkable catalog of zombie literature. Including unstoppable tales from world-renowned authors like Stephen King, Joe R. Lansdale, Robert McCammon, Robert E. Howard, and Richard Matheson to the writer who started it all, W.B. Seabrook, ZOMBIES! ZOMBIES! ZOMBIES! features deadly bites, satanic pigeons, a parade of corpses, zombies, zombies and more zombies.

HARBOR by John Ajvide Lindqvist — One ordinary winter afternoon on a snowy island, Anders and Cecilia take their 6-year-old daughter, Maja, across the ice to visit the lighthouse in the middle of the frozen channel. While the couple explore the lighthouse, Maja disappears — either into thin air or under thin ice. Two years later, alone and more or less permanently drunk, Anders returns to the island to regroup. He slowly realises that people are not telling him all they know; even his own mother, it seems, is keeping secrets. What is happening in Domaro, and what power does the sea have over the town’s inhabitants?

BLACK LIGHT by Patrick Melton, Marcus Dunstan and Stephen Romano — If you have a supernatural problem that won’t go away, you need Buck Carlsbad: private eye, exorcist and last resort. Buck’s got a way with spirits that no one else can match. He was normal, once. Until Something Horrible killed his parents and left him for dead. Buck has spent years using his gift to trace his family. It’s his only hope of finding out what happened to them, and what made him the way he is. Now the voices say that Something Big is coming: a super high-tech bullet train running express across a stretch of unforgiving desert known for the most deadly paranormal events in history.

EYES TO SEE by Joseph Nassise — Jeremiah Hunt has been broken by a malevolent force that has taken his young daughter and everything else of value in his life: his marriage, his career, his reputation. Desperate to reclaim what he has lost, Hunt finally turns to the supernatural for justice. Abandoning all hope for a normal life, he enters the world of ghosts and even more dangerous entities from beyond the grave. Sacrificing his normal sight so that he can see the souls of the dead and the powers that stalk his worst nightmares, Hunt embarks upon a strange new career: a pariah among the living, a scourge among the dead, doomed to walk between the light of day and the deepest darkness beyond night.

THE NIGHT ETERNAL by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan — It’s been two years since the vampiric virus was unleashed in THE STRAIN, and the entire world now lies on the brink of annihilation. There is only night as nuclear winter blankets the land, the sun filtering through the poisoned atmosphere for two hours each day — the perfect environment for the propagation of vampires. There has been a mass extermination of humans, orchestrated by an ancient vampire possessed of unparalleled powers. Those who remain are entirely subjugated, interred in camps, and separated by status: those who breed more humans, and those who are bled for the sustenance of the Master’s vast army.

MIDNIGHT MOVIE by Tobe Hooper and Alan Goldsher — The good news: Director Tobe Hooper has been invited to speak at a screening of DESTINY EXPRESS, a movie he wrote and directed as a teenager, but that hasn’t seen the light of day in decades. And Hooper’s fans are ecstatic. The bad news: DESTINY EXPRESS proves to be a killer … literally. As the death toll mounts, Tobe embarks on a desperate journey to understand the film’s 30-year-old origins — and put an end to the strange epidemic his creation has set in motion.

THEM OR US by David Moody — Hundreds of Hater fighters have settled on the East Coast in the abandoned remains of a relatively undamaged town under the command of Hinchcliffe, who’ll stop at nothing to eradicate the last few Unchanged and consolidate his position at the top of this new world order. Danny McCoyne is the exception to the rule. His ability to hold the Hate and to use it to hunt out the remaining Unchanged has given him a unique position in Hinchcliffe’s army of fighters. As the enemy’s numbers reduce, so the pressure on McCoyne increases, until he finds himself at the very center of a pivotal confrontation, the outcome of which will have repercussions on the future of everyone who is left alive.

THE CALL OF CTHULHU AND OTHER WEIRD STORIES by H.P. Lovecraft, edited by S.T. Joshi — Frequently imitated and widely influential, H.P. Lovecraft reinvented the horror genre in the 1920s, discarding ghosts and witches and instead envisioning mankind as a tiny outpost of dwindling sanity in a chaotic and malevolent universe. S.T. Joshi presents a selection of the master’s fiction, from the early tales of nightmares and madness such as “The Outsider” to the overpowering cosmic terror of “The Call of Cthulhu.” More than just a collection of terrifying tales, this Penguin Classics volume reveals the development of Lovecraft’s mesmerizing narrative style and establishes him as a canonical and visionary American writer.

THE WHITE PEOPLE AND OTHER WEIRD STORIES by Arthur Machen, edited by S.T. Joshi — Actor, journalist, devotee of Celtic Christianity and the Holy Grail legend, Welshman Arthur Machen is considered one of the fathers of weird fiction, a master of mayhem whose work has drawn comparisons to H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe. Readers will find the perfect introduction to his style in this new Penguin Classics collection. With the title story, an exercise in the bizarre that leaves the reader disoriented virtually from the first page, Machen turns even fundamental truths upside down. “There have been those who have sounded the very depths of sin,” explains the character Ambrose, “who all their lives have never done an ‘ill deed.'”

JACK AND JILL WENT UP TO KILL: A BOOK OF ZOMBIE NURSERY RHYMES by Michael P. Spradlin and Jeff Weigel — Mother Goose is doing the undead shuffle! Every kiddie loves nursery rhymes — even the little ones in advanced state of decay who enjoy chowing down on human viscera. Now the madmen who brought you IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE ZOMBIES and EVERY ZOMBIE EATS SOMEBODY eviscerate the beloved poems that once filled our tiny oozing childish brains — “Little Miss Muffet Turned on a Tuffet” into something putrid and smelly, and it’s “Three Undead Mice” scampering across our kitchen table.

VAMPIRE ART NOW by Jasmine Becket-Griffith and Matthew David Becket — From the elegant beauties of Victoria Frances to the decaying savages of Anne Stokes, this book illustrates the vampire in his or her many moods: either wooing lovers with a hypnotic stare, biting long necks (willing and unwilling), or staring straight at the viewer as if ready to bound off the page in a nocturnal frenzy. By presenting multiple artists’ takes on what it means to be a vampire, this collection illustrates how one cultural icon can vary so greatly across different cultures, classes, media and artistic aesthetics.

SAD MONSTERS: GROWLING ON THE OUTSIDE, CRYING ON THE INSIDE by Frank Lesser and Willie Real — Monsters have it tough. Besides being deeply misunderstood, they suffer from very real problems: Mummies have body image issues, Godzilla is going through an existential crisis, and creatures from the black lagoon face discrimination from creatures from the white lagoon. At heart, these monsters are human; after all, you are what you eat. Quirkily illustrated, SAD MONSTERS documents the trials and tribulations of all the undead creatures monster-mad readers have grown to love, from vampires and werewolves, to chupacabras and sphinxes, and even claw-footed bathtubs.

Buy them at Amazon.

Ghosts by Gaslight: Stories of Steampunk and Supernatural Suspense

The old-fashion technology of Victorian-era fiction, especially the “scientific romances” of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, obviously inspired the various steampunk authors of today. But as editors Jack Dann and Nick Gevers note in the introduction to GHOSTS BY GASLIGHT: STORIES OF STEAMPUNK AND SUPERNATURAL SUSPENSE, another type of fiction was also popular in those times: the ghost story, with all its psychological implications, written by such authors as M.R. James and J. Sheridan Le Fanu. The original stories Dann and Gevers have gathered here pay tribute to both of these enduring influences.
 
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A Visible Darkness

I love historical mysteries, the choice of setting, the mannerisms, the facts an author chooses to let you see and those he or she chooses to hide. And so Michael Gregorio’s A VISIBLE DARKNESS is quite interesting in that regard. Set in the Prussian area in the first decade of the 1800s, it describes an occupation by the French that is very unwelcome. The Prussians hate the French, and the French manipulate and abuse the Prussians as much as they can.

Here, the Prussian magistrate Hanno Stiffeniis is surprised by an urgent call to the Baltic coast. Girls who have been hired to dive for amber are being found mutilated. The French are embarrassed. Their plans are to remove the girls anyway with automated amber mining equipment, but it’s important to find this killer, this potential saboteur, before things get wildly out of hand.

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Southern Gods

The apocryphal legend of bluesman Robert Johnson says he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his uncanny (and continuously influential) talent. This was no doubt what inspired John Hornor Jacobs, whose SOUTHERN GODS blends the Johnson legend with a bit of H.P. Lovecraft. It works impressively well for the most part, and Jacobs’ debut is a thoroughly entertaining, although uneven, horror novel.

Lewis “Bull” Ingram, a World War II veteran living in the South in the early 1950s, makes his living doing collections and occasional muscle work for a local bookie. Then Ingram’s boss refers him to a record label owner in Memphis. The record executive wants Ingram to find a missing employee: a promoter who went in search of a reclusive blues musician known as Ramblin’ John Hastur.

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World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

Many a zombie book has made the monster in vogue, but Max Brooks’ WORLD WAR Z: AN ORAL HISTORY OF THE ZOMBIE WAR arguably has been the most high-profile of them all, spawning a now-shooting, hope-it-doesn’t-suck movie starring Brad Pitt. It had to have sold a kajillion copies, because it’s just now hitting mass-market paperback, a full half-decade since its first publication.

The novel is exactly what it says it is: A series of loosely connected interviews with various survivors of the worldwide zombie plague. Because of government repression (and censorship), our narrator notes in his introduction that he thought it vital his story — meaning everyone’s story — be told. Thus, we get more than 300 pages of roughly chronological accounts and remembrances (in transcripts, interviews and monologues) of the zombie war, from coast to coast, hemisphere to hemisphere.

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The Ice Princess

Camilla Läckberg is yet another Scandinavian queen of mystery in a field that now seems almost dominated by writers from Northern Europe. THE ICE PRINCESS is her first novel, originally published in 2003 and now translated by Steven T. Murray, but she has seven others (and one children’s book) that have been published. In this debut, she introduces her series characters Erica Falck and local Fjällbacka policeman Patrik Hedstrom.

Falck has returned to her home after the death of her parents to clear out the house. Her sister, Anna, and the despised brother-in-law, Lucas, want to sell the old home in order to get the money to make a new start in London. As this family conflict rages on, one of Erica’s old childhood friends is found dead in a bathtub with her wrists slashed. It is most definitely not a suicide.

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R.I.P.: Best of 1985-2004

Like a silent film from long ago, Thomas Ott can say a lot without saying a single word. Okay, to be fair, a few words are used in R.I.P.: BEST OF 1985-2004, a Fantagraphics-pubbed collection of nearly 20 tales, but the word count is so minute, it’s hardly worth mentioning.

The same can’t be said for Ott’s darkly humorous, black-and-white work, which tells wordless short stories of horror and suspense while spoofing the genres of their comics past (“A FUCKING WAR STORY,” proclaims the EC-esque symbol adorning “Headbanger”). His structure is as unique as his line-heavy art, striving to birth narratives strictly through visuals. For the most part, it works.

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Aloha from Hell

I dig Sandman Slim.

James Stark, aka Sandman Slim, is the tough-as-titanium antihero of Richard Kadrey’s urban/noir/horror series that began in SANDMAN SLIM, continued in KILL THE DEAD, and is now on its third installment, ALOHA FROM HELL.

Stark is the scarred half-angel, self-proclaimed “monster who kills monsters.” In other words, he’s the boogeyman to the things that go bump in the night. He’s feared and hated by the denizens of Hell, and considered an abomination by the forces of Heaven.

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Bad Boy

Peter Robinson’s 19th novel featuring Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks, the new-to-paperback BAD BOY, may not be the strongest in the series, but it’s admirable for its unusual focus on the character of Banks’ daughter, Tracy, and its sneakily subtle comment on his notorious rogue style of operating and official protocol.

The tale begins with Banks on holiday in America, and Detective Inspector Annie Cabbot fielding a confused woman at HQ. The woman wishes to speak to Banks, a longtime friend, but with him away, she reluctantly informs Cabbot that she has found a handgun in her daughter’s room. She does not seem to know that handgun possession carries an almost automatic five-year sentence in jail (thank God I live in the U.S.), and Cabbot wrestles internally with how she would handle the situation as a mother. Knowing the outcome, could she turn in her own daughter?

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The Best American Comics 2011

How time flies. It was just five years ago when THE BEST AMERICAN COMICS was born, and how grown-up it’s become! Without looking a day over eight weeks!

Seriously, though, this sixth edition of the annual survey of the graphic story format — from both the worlds of print and the web — shows no signs of slowing down or slumping. If anything, it’s becoming more relevant with each passing year, as the general American audience grows more comfortable with the idea that, yes, Virginia, good words can be accompanied by good pictures.

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