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.

Benny and Penny in the Big No-No! / Luke on the Loose

Toon Books’ latest wave of child-aimed comics in handsome hardbound editions consists of two titles: Geoffrey Hayes’ BENNY AND PENNY IN THE BIG NO-NO! and Harry Bliss’ LUKE ON THE LOOSE. Both succeed in the label’s stated goal of encouraging kids to read … and its unstated one of entertaining their parents.

THE BIG NO-NO! represents the first repeat characters in the Toon Books lineup, with BENNY AND PENNY IN JUST PRETEND having been part of the inaugural releases. The sibling mouse duo return for an adventure in their backyard … and over the fence when they get curious about the mysterious new kid next door.

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The Mammoth Book of Zombie Comics

They’re coming to get you, reader! Running Press continues its impressive string of ridiculously affordable, brick-sized graphic anthologies with THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF ZOMBIE COMICS, edited by David Kendall. In case you haven’t read a book or seen a movie in the last decade, zombies are big business, and this volume collects 18 tales in more than 450 pages.

The great thing about these titles is being exposed to comics from all around the world that you’ve likely never read. Luckily, I’ve only encountered one entry here before: the opening “Making Amends,” by Steve Niles, who helped kickstart the horror-comics resurgence.

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SEARCH ME >> 8.08

A sampling of some of the bizarro search terms with (thankfully) low numbers that brought people to BOOKGASM over the last 30ish days:

• “spuergril batgril sex”
• “no bra needed”
• “dont hassel hoff”
• “girls get damp when excited”
• “submarine porn classic movie -yellow”
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QUICKGASM >> 1.25.08

quickgasmBecause time isn’t always kind: economic reviews in a world full of waste!

grim lands reviewHaving already issued collections of Conan, Kull, Solomon Kane and Bran Mak Morn, Del Rey turns to a hodgepodge of here-and-there again for THE BEST OF ROBERT E. HOWARD, VOLUME 2: GRIM LANDS. Yes, you get various tales featuring the above characters – including my favorite Conan story, “The Tower of the Elephant” – but you also get lesser-known and non-series numbers of swordplay and sorcery, of pirates, knights and even boxers. Throw Red Sonya in there for good measure, and Howard’s bent for the weird Western tale is in full force as well. It’s nice to see these stories here rather than in overpriced editions, plus accompanied by beautiful little illustrations from Jim and Ruth Keegan. For me, though, the real find here is “Pigeons from Hell”; it may carry a trite title, but it’s a chilling horror tale. Cheers to Del Rey for putting Howard’s work back into widespread existence these past few years; all eight in the collection are worth owning.

manga bible reviewIf you’ve ever wanted to see characters from the Bible with big doe eyes, let there be light! Siku’s THE MANGA BIBLE transforms ye olde bestseller into a full-fledged graphic novel, moving quickly – too quickly, some will say – from the creation story to Jesus’ revelations in a tidy 200 pages. No doubt this will hold massive appeal to today’s manga-hungry teens, as it is true manga (except it doesn’t have to be read backwards, thankfully). The script by Akin Akinsiku updates dry text with present-day lingo; witness Cain and Able (“Whassup, bro? I’ve got something I wanna show you in my farm.” “Sounds interesting … what is it?” “Your death, you smug *$&%*!”) It’s not without humor – Jonah’s story is presented as a two-page “comedy short” – and works in present-day framing scenes to make the story relevant.

sacha baron cohen nudeNo allegations of Scientology tampering in this celebrity bio. Kathleen Tracy’s SACHA BARON COHEN – THE UNAUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY: FROM CAMBRIDGE TO KAZAKHSTAN chronicles the maverick comedian’s rise from privileged scholar to British cult TV star to Oscar-nominated pop-culture tsunami. There’s nothing offensive about it, but nothing earth-shattering, either. It reads like Tracy just cherry-picked facts from People profiles and the like, which is both a blessing and a curse, meaning the read is an easy one, but also one that feels only skin-deep. The section on BORAT‘s filming and subsequent lawsuit-ridden release proves the most interesting; even though you’ve read it all before in countless news articles, it’s handy to have them assembled in one spot.

spider man monsters prowl reviewThe digest-sized MARVEL ADVENTURES SPIDER-MAN VOL. 5: MONSTERS ON THE PROWL pits Spider-Man against four monsters from Marvel’s stable of horror characters. In stories written by Peter David and drawn by Mike Norton, Spidey fights Werewolf by Night in a haunted house, spars with Man-Thing in the swamps, saves New York from a newly thawed Fin Fang Foom and rids his school’s Halloween dance of the presence of Frankenstein’s Monster. Hawkeye and Dr. Strange guest-star in these slight-on-plot but long-on-fun tales. Intended for all ages, they’re not exactly scary, but hey, monsters are monsters. Consider this a pint-sized version of the recent LEGION OF MONSTERS anthology. –Rod Lott

Buy it at Amazon.

Sundays with Vlad: From Pennsylvania to Transylvania, One Man’s Quest to Live in the World of the Undead

sundays with vlad reviewEver since he was a kid, Paul Bibeau has been fascinated by vampires, which is probably why he was cool with his wife’s idea of honeymooning in Romania. The trip may have been an utter misadventure, but at least it gave him the idea to explore the world’s fascination with Dracula in SUNDAYS WITH VLAD: FROM PENNSYLVANIA TO TRANSYLVANIA, ONE MAN’S QUEST TO LIVE IN THE WORLD OF THE UNDEAD.

For the book, Bibeau – a former editor of Maxim, but we won’t hold that against him – immersed himself in vampire culture, resulting in a globetrotting romp that wrings as many laughs out of the subject as it does the willies.

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QUICKGASM >> 8.15.07

quickgasmBecause time isn’t always kind: economic reviews in a world full of waste!

summer chills reviewFor whatever reason, I have travel anxiety. The anthology SUMMER CHILLS: STRANGERS IN STRANGE LANDS offers 20 good reasons why my condition is justified. Edited by Stephen Jones, the horror collection follows people journeying to faraway places they’ll wish they hadn’t … assuming they stay alive, of course. Christopher Fowler’s greedy American couple runs up against Muslim tradition – and curses – in “The Threads,” while a vacationer in Michael Marshall Smith’s “Being Right” finds an invocation that allows him to know what his wife truly is thinking. The spookiest tale is Karl Edward Wagner’s “In the Pines,” set in a cabin in the mountains, which slowly turns a man insane as his affections drift away from his spouse and to a female ghost who visits him and tells him to do naughty things. Also included are Clive Barker, Harlan Ellison and Robert Silverberg, as well as two British writers whose work I continue to find impenetrable: Ramsey Campbell and Brian Lumley.

by george reviewHaving listened to and loved the music of John Wesley Harding a lot (as in, I wore out his 1989 debut album HERE COMES THE GROOM on tape and had to buy another), I shouldn’t be surprised that the man can write fiction as well. Under his real name of Wesley Stace, he’s written two novels, the latest of which is BY GEORGE. Like his music, it’s characterized by smart, sharp wordplay and clever turns of phrase. Its premise, however, spans way beyond a five-minute folk-rock number, following two characters named George over two different time periods: one is an English schoolboy in the ’70s, and the other is the boy’s grandfather’s ventriloquist dummy – who, even stranger, narrates. But don’t expect DEAD SILENCE-style horror; this is a serious – if seriously weird – novel filled with angst, nostalgia and a family of theatricality, in more ways than one. If Wes the singer finds influence from Dylan, Wes the writer draws from Dickens.

good neighbor policy reviewA Midsummer Night’s Press offers THE GOOD-NEIGHBOR POLICY by Hard Case Crime’s fearless leader Charles Ardai. Pegged as “a double-cross in double dactyls,” this thin – and I do mean thin – tale presents a murder mystery all in verse. The whodunit concerns a home invasion at the abode of Theo Gregg and his hot wife, Melanie. Gunfire is exchanged and Melanie is the only survivor. But does her story corroborate that of nosy neighbor Mr. Algernon, who – REAR WINDOW-style – spies on them with binoculars? All will be solved in the span of 21 pages. (See, I told you it was thin.) It’s a clever exercise that Ardai pulls off with expected wit, but the $6.95 price tag is hard to stomach for a 10-minute read, even if the tiny tome is well-designed.

i california reviewDear Stacey Grenrock Woods: I love you, but you’re going to hate me. I love your monthly sex column in Esquire, with its sharp answers, snarky sense of humor and that devilish postage-stamp pic of you shooting That Look. You’re a brainy sex goddess for the sophisticated men’s magazine world. but I dislike your book, starting with its unwieldy title: I, CALIFORNIA: THE OCCASIONAL HISTORY OF A CHILDHOOD ACTRESS/TAP DANCER/RECORD STORE CLERK/THAI WAITRESS/PLAYBOY REJECT/NIGHTCLUB BOOKER/DAILY SHOW CORRESPONDENT/SEX COLUMNIST/RECURRING CHARACTER/AND WHATEVER ELSE. Whereas your column is so tight and punchy, your memoir is a near stream-of-consciousness, shapeless, rambling thing. Plus, it reads like every other memoir: took some drugs, had an abortion, but lookitmenow! Adding in gratuitous Peter Frampton references just doesn’t cut it. When you’re back to penning orgasm jokes, I’m all yours. (But I’d love to see your rejected Playboy pic. Hey, I’m just sayin’…)

pigeons reviewEven if you detest pigeons, I recommend flocking to PIGEONS: THE FASCINATING SAGA OF THE WORLD’S MOST REVERED AND REVILED BIRD by journalist Andrew D. Blechman. Despite having been pooped on by them, he happens to love the feathered fiends, and takes us on a witty, wondrous, you-are-there trip as he attends New York’s pigeon racing contest, visits Pennsylvania’s pigeon show, meets a pigeon doctor who removes tumors via the eye socket, frustratingly participates in a pigeon shoot, goes on a pigeon population-control mission with firm Bye Bye Birdie, finds a pigeon stud farm and tries to interview reputed pigeon lover Mike Tyson. In between these true-life adventures, Blechman deals the dish on the role of pigeons through history and explains why they like to fly into windows so much. This is the kind of non-fiction book I love best: one that takes an entirely bizarro subject matter, immerses itself into the world, and has a shitload of fun doing it. –Rod Lott

Buy it at Amazon.

OTHER BOOKGASM REVIEWS OF THESE AUTHORS:
THE BEST HORROR FROM FANTASY TALES edited by Stephen Jones and David Sutton
THE BOOK OF SKULLS by Robert Silverberg
CREEPSHOWS: THE ILLUSTRATED STEPHEN KING MOVIE GUIDE by Stephen Jones
HORROR: ANOTHER 100 BEST BOOKS edited by Stephen Jones & Kim Newman
H.P. LOVECRAFT’S BOOK OF THE SUPERNATURAL edited by Stephen Jones
THE RETURN OF THE BLACK WIDOWERS by Isaac Asimov, edited by Charles Ardai
SONGS OF INNOCENCE by Richard Aleas
TEN SECOND STAIRCASE by Christopher Fowler
THE WATER ROOM by Christopher Fowler
WHITE CORRIDOR by Christopher Fowler