{Book + Short Stories} What Went Back to the Library Today

Took a couple of #RIPXIV / #somethingWickedFall books back to the library today:

Cover via Goodreads

The Small Hand and Dolly by Susan Hill

Two chilling ghost stories from the author of The Woman in Black, both set in crumbling English houses that are haunted by the spirits of thwarted children.

In The Small Hand, antiquarian bookseller Adam Snow is returning from a client visit when he takes a wrong turn and stumbles across a derelict Edwardian house with a lush, overgrown garden. Approaching the door, he is startled to feel the unmistakable sensation of a small cold hand creeping into his own, almost as though a child had taken hold of it. Plagued by nightmares, he returns with the intention of figuring out its mysteries, only to be troubled by further, increasingly sinister visits. In Dolly, orphan Edward Cayley is sent to spend the summer with his forbidding Aunt Kestrel at Iyot House, her decaying home in the damp, lonely fens. With him is his spoiled, spiteful cousin, Leonora. And when Leonora’s birthday wish for a beautiful doll is denied, she unleashes a furious rage which will haunt Edward for years afterward. (via Goodreads)

Read both The Small Hand and Dolly. I enjoyed them well enough, but really don’t have too much to say about them. Neither was as good as the other Susan Hill book I’ve read, The Woman in Black, but that *is* considered a ghost story classic. I probably liked Dolly better because The Small Hand felt a little padded out. Still, some nice reading for autumn nights.

Cover via Goodreads

Poe’s Children: The New Horror edited by Peter Straub

From the incomparable master of horror and suspense comes an electrifying collection of contemporary literary horror, with stories from twenty-five writers representing today’s most talented voices in the genre.

Horror writing is usually associated with formulaic gore, but New Wave horror writers have more in common with the wildly inventive, evocative spookiness of Edgar Allan Poe than with the sometimes-predictable hallmarks of their peers. Showcasing this cutting-edge talent, Poe’s Children now brings the best of the genre’s stories to a wider audience. (via Goodreads)

I find it funny that a this anthology of “new” fiction is over 10 years old at this point… It’s my habit when I go to the library to pluck a couple books from shelves, give some a 10-page test, and maybe read a short story from a random anthology. A few weeks back I picked up Poe’s Children and started reading “Notes on the Writing of a Horror Story” by Thomas Ligotti, since I hadn’t read any Ligotti before. Unfortunately, it was a too long to finish at the library. So, I took it home. I meant to read a few more of the stories, but I only fit in one more. “Notes on the Writing of a Horror Story” was clever with an excellently twisted ending. The other story I read was “The Bees” by Dan Chaon. The setting was great but I thought the ending was a little flat.

📽 30-Day Horror Movie Challenge, Days 3 & 4 🎃

What’s this all about? See the first post.

Day 03 – Your favorite slasher

I know, I know… But Halloween (1978) is another horror film that is so iconic that it spawned an entire sub-genre and a franchise that is still going strong 40 years later. Like Night of the Living Dead, John Carpenter did a lot with a little. I’ve also always been impressed by Carpenter’s movie scores. While not sweeping or melodic, they are the perfect accompaniment to his films.

Day 04 – Your favorite werewolf film

American Werewolf in London (1981) is a great film. Rick Baker’s practical special effects are still a marvel. But my pick for favorite werewolf flick is a sentimental one. The action sequences in Wolf (1994) are…not good, but there are things I find endearing. The cast is great: Jack Nicholson only becomes more Jack Nicholson as the wolf takes over, James Spader is at his skeevy best, I’ll watch Michelle Pfeiffer in anything, and the supporting cast is full of familiar faces. But mostly I think I like Wolf because of its horrific setting…the publishing industry. 😉 (Wolf is available on Sony Crackle.)

📽 30-Day Horror Movie Challenge 🎃

Michelle of Castle Macabre and #SomethingWickedFall turned me on to this challenge/tag which originated at Dollar Bin Horror and is being hosted this year by Unleash the Flying Monkeys. I figure this is a perfect accompaniment to #RIPXIV‘s Peril on the Screen.

The list of prompts is here if you want to peek ahead. The rule is pick a horror movie for every prompt and don’t list any movie twice. I’m probably going to update every few days.

Day 01 – A horror film that no one would expect you to love, but you do

This is a hard question because I’m not sure what people expect of me. I’m not sure many people even know that I like horror movies. But if you do know that I like horror movies, you probably know that I don’t care for zombies. Therefore, it might be surprising that I love Night of the Living Dead (1968). I can’t deny George Romero is a heck of a filmmaker. Working on a micro-budget he created an iconic film that laid the groundwork for an entire genre. Duane Jones gives a performance as Ben that should have made him a star. (Available free on Tubi)

Day 02 – The horror film that you relate most to

“Relate” might be the wrong word. Instead I’ll reinterpret the prompt as  “is most on-brand for you.” If  Guillermo del Toro were to have peeked directly into my brain, he probably couldn’t have come up with a horror movie more me than  Crimson Peak (2015). Dreamy, dilapidated old mansion? Check. Creepy ghosts who hold the clues to a murder mystery? Check. Juxtaposition of technology and the supernatural near the turn of the (19th) century? Check. I mean, half of those things showed up in my first novel, Lucinda at the Window, before I had even read or watched much in the gothic genre.

{Book} The Other

picture of a book, The Other
My copy of The Other along with a nice bookmark from the library.

The Other by Thomas Tryon

Holland and Niles Perry are identical thirteen-year-old twins. They are close, close enough, almost, to read each other’s thoughts, but they couldn’t be more different. Holland is bold and mischievous, a bad influence, while Niles is kind and eager to please, the sort of boy who makes parents proud. The Perrys live in the bucolic New England town their family settled centuries ago, and as it happens, the extended clan has gathered at its ancestral farm this summer to mourn the death of the twins’ father in a most unfortunate accident. Mrs. Perry still hasn’t recovered from the shock of her husband’s gruesome end and stays sequestered in her room, leaving her sons to roam free. As the summer goes on, though, and Holland’s pranks become increasingly sinister, Niles finds he can no longer make excuses for his brother’s actions. (via Goodreads)

Why Did I Read This Book?
The Other is on a lot of classic horror best-of lists. It’s considered pretty scary and very influential in the genre of horror.

What Did I Think?
There is a problem sometimes with influential genre books…they’re *influential*. Meaning their tropes and twists get used in other stories (when they’re not being entirely ripped off). I can’t think of any story that specifically like The Other, but nothing about this novel’s twist surprised me. I figured it out really early on despite some obfuscation in the narrative. Or maybe it’s a matter of my “learning” horror in a post-M. Night Shyamalan world. I kind of meta-analyzed this book as I read it and that perhaps that robbed it of some enjoyment for me. I will admit, an event near the end of the book did surprise me.

Original Publishing info: Knopf, May 1971
My Copy: mass market paperback, Fawcett Crest, acquired via Book Mooch
Genre: horror, psychological thriller.

Readers Imbibing Peril | Something Wicked Fall

{Book} The Two Sams

The paperback The Two Sams and a bookmark.
My copy of The Two Sams along with a bookmark made from a birthday card sent to me by my friend Tania.

The Two Sams: Ghost Stories by Glen Hirshberg

With this unique collection, acclaimed author Glen Hirshberg breathes new life into an age-old literary tradition. In the title story a husband struggles with the grief and confusion of losing two children, and forms an odd bond with the infant spectrals that visit him in the night. “Dancing Men” depicts one of the creepiest rites of passage in recent memory when a boy visits his deranged grandfather in the New Mexico desert. “Struwwelpeter” introduces us to a brilliant, treacherous adolescent whose violent tendencies and reckless mischief reach a sinister pinnacle as Halloween descends on a rundown Pacific Northwest fishing village. Tormented by his guilty conscience, a young man plumbs the depths of atonement as he and his favorite cousin commune with the almighty Hawaiian surf in “Shipwreck Beach.” In “Mr. Dark’s Carnival,” a college professor confronts his own dark places in the form of a mysterious haunted house steeped in the folklore of grisly badlands justice. (via Goodreads)

Why Did I Read This Book?
‘Tis the season, but as I was reading some of the other books on my #RIPXIV and #SomethingWickedFall pile, I kept thinking about these stories. The Two Sams is a reread for me. I first read it in 2015, but I believe I’ve read “Struwwelpeter” separately since then.

What Did I Think?
These stories are so good.

I had forgotten the endings of “Mr. Dark’s Carnival” and “The Two Sams.” They are shocking and discomfiting by turns. I had more appreciation for the two stories I considered weaker during my the first read-through (“Shipwreak Beach” and “Dancing Men”), but I haven’t put my finger on exactly why. Maybe I’m a little more accepting of these “warm weather” horror stories, one set in Hawaii and the other in New Mexico. Each story is set in a different place and Hirshberg goes out of his way to make the settings distinct. Plus, there is such wonderfully creepy subtlety to character motivations.

Hirshberg has become one of my favorite writers and The Two Sams is probably in my top 10 books of all time.

Original Publishing info: Carroll & Graf, 2003
My Copy: paperback, acquired via PaperbackSwap
Genre: horror


Readers Imbibing Peril | Something Wicked Fall

🎃 Fall Blogging Events 2019

It’s that time of the year again, friends. In Arizona, the weather doesn’t actually get cool (“cool” defined as low 80s) until late October, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying a good pumpkin porter, putting up my Halloween tree, and reading all the creepy good literature.  As is usual, I’ll be taking part in two events: Readers Imbibing Peril and Something Wicked Fall.

Updates

Continue reading “🎃 Fall Blogging Events 2019”

Deal Me In, Week 42 ~ “The Frolic”

DealMeIn

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“The Frolic” by Thomas Ligotti

Card picked: K

David felt his own words lingering atmospherically in the room, tainting the serenity of the house. Until then their home had been an insular haven beyond the contamination of the prison, an imposing structure outside the town limits. Now its psychic imposition transcended the limits of physical distance.

David is a psychologist at a prison hospital. Over after-dinner drinks, he tells his wife about one of his patients, a child killer known only as John Doe who claims to have let himself be caught.* Doe won’t give his real name and claims that he has many names, thousands even (or maybe legions?). While Doe’s case is interesting, David has decided he needs to leave the job, especially considering what John Doe said to him at the end of  the day’s interview.

I’m not sure this story really worked for me. The dialogue has a stilted, heightened feel to it that takes away some of the story’s tension. I haven’t read any Ligotti before despite his reputation in the horror community. I don’t know whether that’s indicative of his style or only this story.

* This was  six years before the movie Seven in which a serial killer known as John Doe lets himself be caught. As far as I can tell one was not an inspiration for the other. They are fairly different stories, but I found it interesting in light of the controversy over season one of True Detective: it seems possible that the writer of the show lifted some of Ligotti’s bleaker ideas.

This story counts for Peril of the Short Story!

Perilous Details