Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Scary good Halloween reads

BY AARON SAGERS

During the Halloween season, audiences head to the movie theaters to seek out their scares. When new horror movies hit in October, it only seems natural to gather together for 90 minutes of jumping and screaming as a community. But regardless of how terrifying the new Paranormal Activity 3 may be (and it is), it is still a product being shown in a noisy environment with a lot of people around, and projected onto a big screen with a fairly powerful lightbulb - in a giant room well lit by emergency exit lights and signs.

What is so scary about that?

Instead, fear is sometimes best served at night in a lonely, dark, pindrop-silent home – maybe under the covers of the bed, even – via the pages of a spooky book.

Played out in the much more expansive theater of the mind, the images we conjur in our minds from a book can be far more disturbing than what we see on the screen of the local Cineplex. Anyone who has read Stephen King’s It or Edgar Allan Poe would not disagree. With that in mind, consider the following a reading list for the remainder of the Halloween and fall seasons. Some tales more outwardly scary than others, these recently released books all offer the reader a chance to scare himself for a little longer than just an hour and change in a theater.

The Walking Dead

The zombie genre is a no-brainer for making you squirm during this season. Not only are the creatures enjoying a pop culture resurrection (as well as the high brow treatment, thanks to AMC’s TheWalking Dead), they are a deceptively complex literary device with which many authors have left a mark. For instance, Zombies! Zombies!Zombies! is an 832-page collection of stories from the aforementioned King and Poe, along with Richard Matheson, Mort Castle, H.P. Lovecraft, Harlan Ellison, W.B. Seabrook (credited with writing the first zombie tale) and more. Edited by Otto Penzler, this is a meaty, affordable collection. Also check out Scott Kenemore’s Zombie, Ohio:A Tale of the Undead. Kenemore’s first novel tracks self-aware zombie Peter Mellor as he struggles to deal with his re-animated state, find his non-zombie girlfriend and uncover who killed him. It’s more humor than horror, but Zombie, Ohio doesn’t want for good old-fashioned gore.

The Haunting Dead

Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson have been pursuing the paranormal on Syfy’s Ghost Hunters since 2004, and over the past seven years of the show – and more than a decade prior to that – the leaders of TheAtlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS) have been gathering evidence as well as creepy stories of ghosts and more. Ghost Files collects these stories from the TAPS leaders’ previous two books – Ghost Hunting and Spirit Seeking – as a straightforward examination of their haunted cases. Whether or not the passing reader believes in the tales of demon attacks or violent spirits, the matter-of-fact storytelling leads to some tingling of the spine. Hawes and Wilson are also joined by co-writer Cameron Dokey in Ghost Hunt 2, a sequel to last year’s short story adaptation of the TAPS cases which targets young readers. Whereas Files is to-the-point, Hunt is aiming for spooks and succeeds without being too terrifying for the kid set. Keeping with the young adult category, author Marley Gibson’s fifth installment of her Ghost Huntress series. Book Five: The Discovery still follows teen medium and paranormal investigator Kendall. A ghost book for the Twilight set, Kendall grapples with her love for a boy – while she and her team also battle a tormenting doll, which is a vessel for an evil spirit.

Deadly Beasts

The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan (the same author who gave readers a peek at the mind of the devil in I, Lucifer) is a sexy, blood-soaked horror adventure with loads of comedy. Revolving around the 200-year-old werewolf Jake Marlowe, Duncan gives readers the wolfman story that’s been missing in pop culture for too long. An adult answer to the Twilight stories, Marlowe is a sharp sophisticate who is brutal but dashing. Marlowe is contemplating ending his existence and race after living life without love, but the romp is never overly sentimental. And yes, vampires do pop up – as do a group of monster hunters - but this time the werewolves are not the underdogs. Speaking of monster hunters, Josh Gates’ new book recounts the adventure of the Syfy host. A travelogue and diary of the unexplained, DestinationTruth: Memoirs of a Monster Hunter is a fun, behind-the-scenes look at a man whose career has him globetrotting in pursuit of Bigfoot, Mongolian Death Worms, living dinos and more. Gates has an easygoing, likable demeanor onscreen that translates well to the page; he seems like the crazy friend you want to travel with for an adventure, but who also makes you question whether it’s a good idea to do so. Moreover, while Gates doesn’t dismiss the existence of the creatures he pursues, it is also refreshing that he never seems compelled to bludgeon the reader into believing either.

Deadly Humans

Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Salem’s Lot and Poltergeist director Tobe Hooper goes back to the movies, but in book form with Midnight Movies. After attending a special screening of the student film from his past, the fictionalized character of Hooper soon begins to realize he had inadvertently unleashed a plague on humanity with the film. As the death toll mounts and viewers fall victim to zombification or sex-crazed behavior, Hooper and his cast attempt to solve the mystery of the movie in this fun horror story. In A Miscellany of Murder, a group of authors known collectively as The Monday Murder Club combine heinous acts from true history and pop culture in this book of trivia. Instead of having a plot, the deadly data contained in the book, categorized by the seven deadly sins, is simply disturbing on its own – especially when the fictional fatalities fit perfectly alongside the factual. Shockingly, the book manages to be humorous and entertaining despite the macabre material.

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