I love reading. I think reading novels, consuming stories, is one of the best ways to gain inspiration for writing and, honestly, a lot of fun. So I thought I’d put together an October list of 7 ‘Creeps and Thrills’ reading list of some of my personal favourites in honour of Halloween. Enjoy!
- Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn
Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, reporter Camille Preaker faces a troubling assignment: she must return to her tiny hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls. For years, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows, a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed in her old bedroom in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Dogged by her own demons, she must unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past if she wants to get the story—and survive this homecoming.
I am a huge Gillian Flynn fan – she’s one of my favourite authors and I recommend everything. As a lover of brilliant villains, and of interesting female characters, so far she has yet to disappoint me. And Sharp Objects has one of the most intriguing and creepy villains I have seen in a long time!
- Confessions of a Sociopath, by M.E Thomas
The first memoir of its kind, Confessions of a Sociopath is an engrossing, highly captivating narrative of the author’s life as a diagnosed sociopath.She is a charismatic charmer, an ambitious self-promoter, and a cunning and calculating liar. She can induce you to invest in her financial schemes, vote for her causes, and even join her in bed. Like a real-life Lisbeth Salander, she has her own system of ethics, and like Dexter, she thrives on bending and occasionally breaking the rules. She is a diagnosed, high-functioning, noncriminal sociopath, and this is her world from her point of view.Drawn from the author’s own experiences; her popular blog, Sociopathworld.com; and scientific literature, Confessions of a Sociopath is part confessional memoir, part primer for the curious. Written from the point of view of a diagnosed sociopath, it unveils for the very first time these people who are hiding in plain sight. The book confirms suspicions and debunks myths about sociopathy, providing a road map for dealing with the sociopath in your life.
So, not a fiction book for once, but it’s one of the most interesting books I’ve read in a long while. It’s a different perspective on sociopaths that you would normally get in the media, and personally I found it really helpful and fascinating. I love a good villain – but sometimes it’s important that not everything can be split into black and white categories of hero and villain like you’d expect.
- House of Leaves, by Mark. Z Danielewski
A blind old man, a young apprentice working in a tattoo shop, and a mad woman haunting an Ohio institute narrate this story of a family that encounters an endlessly shifting series of hallways in their new home, eventually coming face to face with the awful darkness lying at its heart.
One of the cleverest creepy books I’ve ever read. You get as much out of it as you put in, so perhaps not a read if you’re just looking for some lighter reading…but absolutely brilliant! It will linger with you long after you read it as you try and decipher the clues to work everything out.
- Exquisite Corpse, by Poppy Z Brite
To serial slayer Andrew Compton, murder is an art, the most intimate art. After feigning his own death to escape from prison, Compton makes his way to the United States with the sole ambition of bringing his “art” to new heights. Tortured by his own perverse desires, and drawn to possess and destroy young boys, Compton inadvertently joins forces with Jay Byrne, a dissolute playboy who has pushed his “art” to limits even Compton hadn’t previously imagined. Together, Compton and Byrne set their sights on an exquisite young Vietnamese-American runaway, Tran, whom they deem to be the perfect victim.Swiftly moving from the grimy streets of London’s Piccadilly Circus to the decadence of the New Orleans French Quarter, and punctuated by rants from radio talk show host Lush Rimbaud, a.k.a. Luke Ransom, Tran’s ex-lover, who is dying of AIDS and who intends to wreak ultimate havoc before leaving this world, Exquisite Corpse unfolds into a labyrinth of murder and love. Ultimately all four characters converge on a singular bloody night after which their lives will be irrevocably changed — or terminated.
I very much enjoyed this one. Set in New Orleans – always a fantastic place for a serial killer novel – it’s great for the way that, for once, you get two killers actually interacting with each other. Which is good fun and makes a nice change.
- The Child Thief, by Brom
Peter is quick, daring, and full of mischief—and like all boys, he loves to play, though his games often end in blood. His eyes are sparkling gold, and when he graces you with his smile you are his friend for life, but his promised land is not Neverland. Fourteen-year-old Nick would have been murdered by the drug dealers preying on his family had Peter not saved him. Now the irresistibly charismatic wild boy wants Nick to follow him to a secret place of great adventure, where magic is alive and you never grow old. Even though he is wary of Peter’s crazy talk of faeries and monsters, Nick agrees. After all, New York City is no longer safe for him, and what more could he possibly lose?There is always more to lose.Accompanying Peter to a gray and ravished island that was once a lush, enchanted paradise, Nick finds himself unwittingly recruited for a war that has raged for centuries—one where he must learn to fight or die among the “Devils,” Peter’s savage tribe of lost and stolen children.There, Peter’s dark past is revealed: left to wolves as an infant, despised and hunted, Peter moves restlessly between the worlds of faerie and man. The Child Thief is a leader of bloodthirsty children, a brave friend, and a creature driven to do whatever he must to stop the “Flesh-eaters” and save the last, wild magic in this dying land.
This is a wonderful dark re-telling of Peter Pan. It’s unique and clever and still full of magic. I really enjoyed it. It’s great if you’re looking for something a little different.
- Lunar Park, by Bret Easton Ellis
Bret Ellis, the narrator of Lunar Park, is a writer whose first novel Less Than Zero catapulted him to international stardom while he was still in college. In the years that followed he found himself adrift in a world of wealth, drugs, and fame, as well as dealing with the unexpected death of his abusive father. After a decade of decadence a chance for salvation arrives; the chance to reconnect with an actress he was once involved with, and their son. But almost immediately his new life is threatened by a freak sequence of events and a bizarre series of murders that all seem to connect to Ellis’s past. His attempts to save his new world from his own demons makes Lunar Park Ellis’s most suspenseful novel.
I bet you were expecting American Psycho. While a classic read, I personally found it utterly tedious to read – which was probably rather the point. Lunar Park was completely different. I’ve heard it described as the Bret Easton Ellis novel to read if you hate Bret Easton Ellis’ work, which worked for me. It’s a clever mock-autobiographical gothic about a writer haunted by his own work and (you guessed it) American Psycho. It was unusual and, as a writer, I really got a kick out of it.
- A Portable Shelter, by Kirsty Logan
In their tiny, sea-beaten cottage on the north coast of Scotland, Liska and Ruth await the birth of their first child. They spend their time telling stories to the unborn baby, trying to pass on the lessons they’ve learned: tales of circuses and stargazing, selkie fishermen and domestic werewolves, child-eating witches and broken-toothed dragons. But each must keep their storytelling a secret from the other, as they’ve agreed to only ever tell the plain truth. Ruth tells her stories when Liska is at work, to a background of shrieking seabirds; Liska tells hers when Ruth is asleep, with the lighthouse sweeping its steady beam through the window. As their tales build and grow along with their child, Liska and Ruth realise that the truth lives in their stories, and they cannot hide from one another.
A little dark, and a little beautiful. This is a great and fantastical collection of short stories – for those who like a bit of horror, but mixed with love, where hope can win out.
Honourable mentions of classics you really should read, because these ones really are classic for a reason: