The horror, the horror

It's been so long I've almost forgotten how to blog... Let's just crash right in and see what happens.

So, I was mulling over the wealth of horror books I've read and I could only count three that had left me with bad dreams.  I think this is an impressive feat for any book, but I was a little troubled that only three have sufficiently invaded my subconscious to make me wake in cold sweats.  Not that a book has to set you up with the night-time shakes to be effective, obviously.  Take "Christine" by Stephen King, for example.  That book made me actually flinch.  And "IT", also by Mr King, made me question whether I was out past curfew until I remembered that there is no curfew in real life - only in the fictional town of Derry.

Plenty of books have made me cry.  "The Time Traveler's Wife" on audiobook - that was a lot of fun on the tube as I struggled to hold it together whilst Henry and Claire did their audio thing.  "Supermouse" by Jean Ure is the first book that made me blub.  And Guy Gavriel Kay can regularly make me well up, but I particularly love "The Fionavar Tapestry" books and "Tigana".

Books that make you laugh are always a good find. Neal Stephenson occasionally makes me snort with laughter, as does Bill Bryson.  The best laugh-out-loud read I have ever had is the website for "Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About". It is properly hilarious, and much MUCH funnier than the subsequent published book by Mil Millington.  "A Year In The Life Of The Man Who Fell Asleep" by Greg Stekelman was weird enough to make me grin too.

But books that freak you out while you're asleep are my particular favourite, and if I ever manage to write a horror book that keeps its readers awake, flinching at the creaks and knocks of a sleeping house, then I will consider it a good job jobbed.

So what were these three hairy scary horror masterpieces?

Ghost Story, by Peter Straub
This is a fabulous book and Peter Straub is a firm favourite with me.  He's not everybody's cup of tea.  I have repeatedly attempted to browbeat other people into reading him, and so far I've not found anyone who's managed to finish any of his books.  But I think he's fantastic and "Ghost Story", "The Hellfire Club", "Koko", "The Throat" and "Mystery" are all in my list of "books I will happily and regularly re-read".
So.  Ghost Story.  I won't go into detail about the book - read it and find out - but the bit that stayed with me was this one:

Peter lifted the telescope, searched the window, scanned past the top of the A in the hotel's sign. Back to the A; then straight up. He involuntarily moved several inches back on the sill.  The woman stood at the window, smiling, holding a cigarette, looking right into his eyes.

Even out of context I think that's pretty creepy.

Bag of Bones, by Stephen King
I'm glad Stephen King has made the list.  I used to be quite the obsessive reader of King books, but I've waned a little lately.  I read Bag of Bones in the middle of a disappointing run - a run where I just wasn't being gripped by his writing - and it sneakily crept in and left some decidedly oozing things staggering up the banks of a haunted lake.  Excellent.  Stephen King is massively prolific and I have a very soft spot for him, but he doesn't always deliver, so I was thrilled when this one did.  It's a pretty classic ghost story in many ways, and if you were going to compile a "best of King" then this is definitely one to include.

House of Leaves, by Mark Z Danielewski
I can't tell you how fantastic this book is.  It's creative, engrossing, all over the place (in a good way) and totally unlike anything else you've ever read.  If you give this a read then you could follow it up with the album "Haunted" by Poe, since she's Mr Danielewski's sister, and the album is jointly inspired by House of Leaves and some old tapes she found of her father speaking.
This book is so scary that I had to hide it under the bed for a couple of weeks and muster up the courage to keep reading.  What I love about it is that it's not a gross-out scary - it's not like the rubbish "Cows" by Matthew Stokoe, which is an exercise in attempting to turn the reader's stomach - it's genuinely breath-takingly frightening.  I borrowed it from my brother (he has an excellent record in guiding me towards books that I love... As well as towards some that I don't.  Cows is a case in point...) and then, when I had finally managed to read it all, I went and bought it. At some point I will read it again, but I'm trying to save it until I can 1) cope with how messed up it is and 2) have time.  It's a big old book.

I realise I've told you almost nothing about these books... Poor you.  Now you'll have to go and read them.

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