Five books to get you in the Halloween mood

This is obviously a Lovecraftian magazine/website, but Lovecraft fans are also horror fans — and, I’d venture to say, Halloween fans as well.  With that in mind, here are five books that I’ve enjoyed, guaranteed to get you into the Halloween spirit.

This is not meant to be a complete list.  Just the opposite, in fact: I hope this post guides you to some deserving books that until now, you may not have heard of.

Text in italics from Amazon.  Click the book title to buy the book.

“The Harrowing”, by Alexandra Sokoloff.  A storm, an empty Gothic college campus… and while it takes place in November, not October, from the first chapter you’ll feel that autumn mood.  I’ve read this book twice and I’m sure I’ll read it again.  Baird College’s Mendenhall echoes with the footsteps of students heading home for Thanksgiving break, and Robin Stone, who won’t be going home, swears she can feel the creepy, hundred-year-old residence hall breathe a sigh of relief for its long-awaited solitude. As a massive storm approaches, four other lonely students reveal themselves to Robin: Patrick, a handsome jock; Lisa, a manipulative tease; Cain, a brooding musician; and Martin, a scholarly eccentric. Each has forsaken a long weekend at home for their own secret reasons.  The five unlikely companions establish a tentative rapport, but they soon become aware of another presence disturbing the building’s ominous silence. Are they the victims of an elaborate prank, or is the energy evidence of something genuine–something intent on using them for its own terrifying ends? Together, they’ll face three long days and dark nights before the world returns to find out what’s become of five students nobody wants and no one will miss…

“Halloween: Mystery, Magic, and the Macabre”, edited by Paula Guran.  An anthology of short stories celebrating our favorite holiday, just released.  The farther we’ve gotten from the magic and mystery of the past, the more we’ve come to love Halloween – the one time each year when the mundane is overturned in favor of the bizarre, the “other side” is closest, and everyone can become anyone (or anything) they wish… and sometimes what they don’t. Introducing nineteen original stories from mistresses and masters of the dark celebrate the most fantastic, enchanting, spooky, and supernatural of holidays.

“The Boys Are Back in Town”, by Christopher Golden.  This nostalgic tale begins on a crisp autumn day where everything is still solid and reliable… but it won’t stay that way.  For Will James, facing his tenth high school reunion is far from his finest hour—especially since his life has not gone exactly as he planned. Dumped at the altar by his high school sweetheart and with his dreams of being a prize-winning reporter dashed by his job at a Boston tabloid, he is not sure he is ready to face his former peers.  But what he does find at the reunion is far more than he bargained for. He soon learns that one of his buddies had died several years back—even though Will had received an e-mail from him only a few days before. It is not long before other people Will was convinced were alive are turning out to be dead as well—or married to other people, or childless where they used to have children. And new memories are swarming in to replace what Will is convinced was his old life, until he no longer knows what is real and what is not. The only thing he does know for certain is that he has to figure out why he alone remembers snatches of another life before everything dissolves into this new, darker reality.

“A Haunted Halloween”, by Paul Melniczek.  Halloween. The name itself conjures up a witch’s brew of images. Leering jack-o’-lanterns sitting on porches, costumed children trick-or-treating across suburban neighborhoods, skeletal trees marking the passage of another season, and lonely fields of corn swaying gently in a chill, autumn breeze. But there is also a darker side to this magical night, one which can breathe life into things which were only a possibility, and sculpt them into dreadful reality. Every home has at least one closet which harbors a skeleton. There’s a house in every town with a morbid past and haunted occupant. Families hide their own dark secrets, and inside each of us wages a struggle of good against evil, one in which the final outcome is never certain, or necessarily pretty. Within the folds of the dark season, all things emerge from the shadows to celebrate, claiming the holiday for their own sinister purpose, and for every treat there’s a nasty trick waiting somewhere close by…

“The Sea of Flesh and Ash”, by Jeffrey Thomas and Scott Thomas.  You’re probably familiar with “Punktown” by Jeffrey Thomas, and Scott Thomas is a master of quiet horror.  In The Sea of Flesh and Ash, brothers Jeffrey Thomas (Deadstock, Punktown) and Scott Thomas (Quill & Candle, Midnight in New England) explore the haunted environs of their native New England – and alternate realms of existence – in two poetic and chilling short novels: An elderly woman lies dying in her hospital bed, beset by terrifying nightmares. A young Vietnamese woman begins to experience strange visions in which she is transported to a fog-shrouded alien world. An American research scientist is stalked by a menacing figure he calls The Crooked Man. Their destinies will mesh both in and out of dream, with dangerous consequences, in Jeffrey Thomas’ eerie dark fantasy The Sea of Flesh. A Victorian Englishman summons a strange puppet-like being to an old Colonial inn. A doctor returns from The Great War and discovers a mysterious naked woman at the edge of the Atlantic. A contemporary collector of arcane books retraces the steps of these other men – adventurers who sought out the mysteries of neighboring dimensions. Scott Thomas’ The Sea of Ash takes us along as three men from three different centuries experience the wonders and horrors of an unknown New England.

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