Remember when having the bejesus scared out of you didn’t involve watching a slasher film with gallons of fake blood and menacing machetes and a ton of guns? You know, that kinder, gentler time when the horror genre used suspense and an intricate plot to cause you to read late at night with all lights blazing?
If handing out nut-free candy or sugar-free gum this Halloween isn’t your idea of a ghoulish time, consider revisiting these literary fright fests. Extra “C” or “D” batteries for your industrial-size flashlight not included:
Rosemary’s Baby Might Spur a Trip to Dubrovnik: Ira Levin penned this excellent example of motherhood-gone-wrong way back in 1967. A smashing piece of high art from the film version that did justice to the book’s surreal description is Rosemary’s infamous dream sequence. How can you not be sucked in by a scene that begins with the main character dressed in burgundy silk lounging pajamas and ends with her ritualistic impregnation by Satan? If you need a code phrase for a doctor you don’t like or don’t trust, feel free to borrow “Doctor Sapirstein.” Tannis (root), anyone?
Never Take a Girl Named Carrie to Your High School Reunion: Salem’s Lot is the book that put Mr. Stephen King on readers’ radar screens in 1975. But I have a soft spot for Carrie White: “She” was King’s first book, she had telekinetic powers, and she killed her religious zealot of a mother by stopping her heart. The book is darker and more destructive than the film version with Sissy Spacek. One scene done particularly well in the movie is the bucket of pig’s blood dumped on Carrie and her white prom dress. It took only one bucketful of the nasty stuff to unleash the full force of Carrie’s unforgiving mental powers!
The Exorcist Scared the Merde Out of Me: Sure, you’ve seen the (excellent) movie from 1973, but the book is a must-read. Best passages include: the details of Father Damien Karras’s questioned faith and the exorcism battle scenes pitting the young demonic hostess, Regan MacNeil, against Fathers Merren and Karras. Interestingly, last year, author William Peter Blatty had the opportunity to spruce up his benchmark masterpiece and add a new character for a 40th anniversary release of the book.
Second Honeymoons Were Bad News for The Stepford Wives: Yes, more Ira Levin. This quick read packs some strong undertones of feminist heat for a book published in 1972. Smart and savvy photographer Joanna Eberhart moves with her family to idyllic Stepford, Connecticut, and ends up surrounded by married women who live to clean. The town’s (evil!) Men’s Association meets on a regular basis, but no hausfraus allowed. When each of the few like-minded women that Joanna befriends comes back from a “second honeymoon” with her respective man, they reform their sloppy or independent ways. Then, it’s Joanna’s turn…
Other Creepy Psychological Thrillers for Your Consideration:
- Flowers in the Attic (V.C. Andrews)
- Something Wicked This Way Comes (Ray Bradbury)
- The Boys From Brazil (more Ira Levin)
- The Omen (David Seltzer)
- The Picture of Dorian Gray (Oscar Wilde)
- The Shining (more Stephen King)
- The Silence of the Lambs (Thomas Harris)
- The Turn of the Screw (Henry James)
Which horror and suspense books in your personal library keep you on edge no matter what time of day you read them? Are there any new, emerging authors for this genre whom you consider read-worthy? As always, your opinion is appreciated, so don’t be The Invisible Man (but don’t be that video-making, long-haired girl from The Ring either)…
Lori Shapiro is the owner of By All Writes LLC, a business writing, editing, and research company in Marlton, New Jersey. She revels in shielding her clients from the pain of writing their own print and web marketing copy. Call her (856-810-9764) or email her (firstname.lastname@example.org) for a no-obligation project quote today!