These days, there are many Lovecraftian and cosmic horror novels available, and with Halloween just around the corner, it’s the perfect excuse for me to share five of my favorites with you.
I tend to gravitate toward quiet horror and the themes of Lovecraft, rather than Lovecraftian pastiche. And while there are obviously more than five cosmic horror novels that I’ve enjoyed reading, I chose these books because I liked them so much that I’ve read each of them at least twice.
With that in mind, here’s the list (click the book titles or covers to purchase):
Synopses from Amazon.
To Walk the Night, by William Sloane (1930). Okay, technically a novella. To Walk the Night can be found in The Rim of Morning, which contains that story plus The Edge of Running Water, also by Sloane, as well as an introduction by Stephen King.
Bark Jones and his college buddy Jerry Lister, a science whiz, head back to their alma mater to visit a cherished professor of astronomy. They discover his body, consumed by fire, in his laboratory, and an uncannily beautiful young widow in his house—but nothing compares to the revelation that Jerry and Bark encounter in the deserts of Arizona at the end of the book.
Deep Night, by Greg F. Gifune (2005). Genuinely disturbing.
For Seth Roman, his younger brother Raymond and their friends, it was supposed to be a few days of relaxation and fun, a getaway from their dull corporate jobs and troubled lives, a week of card playing and drinking at a cabin in the remote woods of northern Maine. But when a young woman staggers into their camp with her clothes covered in blood, their lives are changed forever. The woman brings with her something ancient and deadly, evil and inhuman, and something secretly familiar to Raymond, a man plagued by inexplicable night terrors as a child, the horrors of which still torment him as an adult. As an unexpected snowstorm moves in, the night will unfold and come alive, changing the very nature of their lives and beliefs, the very nature of time, and the very nature of good and evil.
A year later, with only sparse memories of that horrible night, Seth and the others struggle to hold their lives together while being haunted by vague but terrifying flashbacks. Something is pursuing them and their families, their friends, their coworkers, forcing them to question everything they see and hear and feel, everything they hold dear. As they begin to unravel the truth, the answers they find stretch the boundaries of their sanity and put the love of two brothers to the ultimate test of sacrifice and faith. Using fear, lies, deception and relentless paranoia as its weapons, it nests within them, stealing their bodies and minds. Now, it wants their souls. Held in the clutches of something they cannot even begin to fully comprehend, they must fight an all-consuming evil from which there is no escape, an evil born of the darkest corners of human existence–the darkest corners of DEEP NIGHT.
The Broken Hours, by Jacqueline Baker (2014). I’m not usually a fan of stories in which Lovecraft is one of the characters, but this is an exception. An elegantly written, poignant novel.
In the cold spring of 1936, Arthor Crandle, down-on-his luck and desperate for work, accepts a position in Providence, Rhode Island, as a live-in secretary/assistant for an unnamed shut-in.
He arrives at the gloomy colonial-style house to discover that his strange employer is an author of disturbing, bizarre fiction. Health issues have confined him to his bedroom, where he is never to be disturbed. But the writer, who Crandle knows only as “Ech-Pi,” refuses to meet him, communicating only by letters left on a table outside his room. Soon the home reveals other unnerving peculiarities. There is an ominous presence Crandle feels on the main stairwell. Light shines out underneath the door of the writer’s room, but is invisible from the street. It becomes increasingly clear there is something not right about the house or its occupant.
Haunting visions of a young girl in a white nightgown wandering the walled-in garden behind the house motivate Crandle to investigate the circumstances of his employer’s dark family history. Meanwhile, the unsettling aura of the house pulls him into a world increasingly cut off from reality, into black depths, where an unspeakable secret lies waiting.
Displaced Person, by Lee Harding (1979). Don’t ignore this one simply because it’s classified under YA. I read Displaced Person when I was 15 or so, and it had a powerful effect on me. I’ve read it at least three or four more times as an adult.
From Goodreads: Graeme Drury is seventeen. he is rather an ordinary looking person of average height. He dresses casually and well and gets along fine with his classmates and friends. In fact the typical all-rounder.
The change begins gradually. More and more he feels that people are ignoring him. Why? Waitresses, tram conductors, even his parents and girlfriend, are looking right through him as if they can hardly see or hear him. And as he becomes indistinct to them, they and their world become grey and faint to him. Is he going mad? What’s going on?
Displaced Person won the 1978 Alan Marshall Award for narrative fiction.
The Croning, by Laird Barron (2012). Last, but certainly not least. Laird Barron is one of the few writers whose stories can genuinely disturb me.
Strange things exist on the periphery of our existence, haunting us from the darkness looming beyond our relight. Black magic, weird cults and worse things loom in the shadows. The Children of Old Leech have been with us from time immemorial. And they love us…
Donald Miller, geologist and academic, has walked along the edge of a chasm for most of his nearly eighty years, leading a charmed life between endearing absent-mindedness and sanity-shattering realization. Now, all things must converge. Donald will discover the dark secrets along the edges, unearthing savage truths about his wife Michelle, their adult twins, and all he knows and trusts. For Donald is about to stumble on the secret… OF THE CRONING.
Happy October, autumn, and Halloween, everyone.