Chapter and curse: is the horror novel entering a golden age? | Books
HOrr fiction, says author Stephen Graham Jones, is booming right now. “It blooms, it blooms. I mean, nocturnal flowers, of course, with a bloody center. Probably flies crawling on these petals.
Jones, a Blackfeet Native American, should know: his terrifying story about a spirit ready for revenge, The only good Indians, swept the boards at last year’s Horror Fiction Awards, winning the Bram Stoker and Shirley Jackson Awards for Best Horror Novel. Opening as Ricky is beaten to death by white drinkers in a bar, the novel goes back in time to show how he and his friends slaughtered part of an elk herd in their teenage reserve, including a pregnant elk. Now they die, brutally, as adults, wondering if their past is catching up with them.
Jones has published over a dozen novels in the US, but The Only Good Indians was his first UK release; George Sandison, who acquired it for Titan, said “a feverish dream of a later reading, my mind wandering in the North American wilderness, rolling storm clouds, a blast momentum on my neck, I realized I had to buy it “.
British-American author Catriona Ward calls Jones “a master stylist who takes risks with narrative boundaries, playing with the very idea of what horror is.” She adds: “I like this daring. That’s what horror is for: finding new ways that cross boundaries to share fear and empathy.
Ward had previously published two literary horror novels, Little Eve and Raw blood, when his latest book, The Last House on Needless Street, was released this year. A multi-level dive into a horrible secret – with a talking cat – it received a rave review from genre master Stephen King, who said he had “read nothing so exciting since Gone. Girl ”.
“Horror is in a very exciting place,” says Neil McRobert, who hosts the Talking Scared Podcast, who interviews some of the biggest names in horror fiction. It points to authors such as Jones, V Castro – whose dirt goddess sees four friends hold a session, only for one of them to start singing in Nahuatl, the language of their Aztec ancestors – and Silvia Moreno – Garcia, including Mexican gothic is a delightfully spooky take on gothic horror, set in 1950s Mexico (I loved it).
“[They] have all really pushed the boundaries when it comes to new perspectives on tradition, especially introducing alternative folklore and marrying them with Western – white tropes, “McRobert said.” Slightly less well-known writers like Cassandra Khaw is also making waves. Her recent short story Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a fresh take on J horror, unmitigated by the usual Western dilution. Meanwhile, Zakiya Dalila Harris and James Han Mattson are writing some truly social commentary horror. point of view that directly confronts the dangers of abandonment to white culture, in The other black girl and Stay respectively.”
At Waterstones, buyer Bea Carvalho also recommends Mattson’s Reprieve, which features a murder and spooky haunted house escape room. “It’s a tribute to classic horror with real social commentary at its heart – it really pays homage to the genre as a whole, which I love,” Carvalho says. “It’s perfect for anyone who loves Squid Game.” She also recommends The whistle of Rebecca Netley as “a distant, Scottish ghost story with real Hill House vibes”, as well as The haunting season, which brings together spooky stories from authors like Andrew Michael Hurley, Imogen Hermes Gowar, and Bridget Collins.
“Horror can be anything from Saw to Shirley Jackson,” says Ward. “There’s this fantastic description of Gothic – that it’s not a genre at all, but a virus that attaches itself to genres and infects texts, and also transforms over time and adapts as needed. I think horror could perhaps be considered the same.
Paul Tremblay, whose A Head Full of Ghosts is one of the scariest novels I have ever read (think of a Shirley Jackson riff with a possessed teenage girl), says: “With so many new voices released, he There has never been an exciting time for horror readers. Tremblay offers two first novels: Build Your Home Around My Body by Violet Kupersmith, an “epic genre” in which two young Vietnamese women disappear decades apart; and This Thing Between Us by Gus Moreno, “an inventive and genuinely scary book on grief” in which a widower fights against the evil that inhabits his home smart speaker. Jones, meanwhile, is excited about Hailey Piper – her queen of teeth opens as a woman bares teeth between her thighs – and Shane Hawk, whose Anoka is a collection of Indigenous horror stories.
Jonathan Sims, author of the haunted house story twist Thirteen floors, and the voice of the horror podcast The Magnus Archives, states that, “the decline in many of the traditional publication avenues” for the genre, such as news magazines, over the past 20 years means that “a lot of the more exciting, the voices to come in horror are not on shelves, but online, ”pointing to fictional podcasts such as PseudoPod and Nightlight. Adam Nevill, whose novel The Ritual was adapted for film, recently turned to independent publishing for his latest, Cunning Folk, in which a man suspects his hostile new neighbors in the rural southwest of the England possess malicious powers. “Horror, to all of my eyes, continues to thrive in most mediums,” Nevill says. And is free from the tight yoke of ‘what’s hot right now’ on the page and screen. Independent publishing and streamers have opened the doors to the extent that new releases are impossible to keep up with, but it is easy to avoid the pastiche.
Nevill indicates that Egaeus Press’s collection of cursed dwellings stories, Crooked Houses, is “the best multi-author collection I have read in years,” adding that “anyone interested in the strange should read the first two collections of Nathan Ballingrud “. They are: North American Lake Monsters, which won the Shirley Jackson Award; and Injury, which features the new The Visible Filth, adapted into the movie starring Armie Hammer in 2019.
Ward believes that all good writing contains horror. “There’s still that little kernel of horror at the heart of human existence,” she says. “We are not supposed to be really afraid as adults. Are not authorized.
“Only children are afraid of things in the dark and things under the bed or have that kind of rudimentary fear that has no particular form; they are the shadows at the bottom of the cave. Horror is a way for us to be able to engage with this fear as adults. I don’t think as a genre it has enough credit for it, actually – it’s kind of a cure; you walk through the darkness on the other side.
Five books to read for Halloween
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
Ten years after a moose hunt, Ricky, Gabe, Lewis and Cassidy are hunted down by a vengeful spirit. Paul Tremblay calls it a “masterpiece”.
The whistle of Rebecca Netley
Elspeth takes up a nanny job on a remote Scottish island, where her load, Mary, has not spoken since the death of her twin William, and where something lurks in the empty hallways.
Cat and her friends spend the night in an old mansion in Japan looking for the perfect wedding venue, but it’s built on a foundation of sacrifice and bones, and a ghost bride is hungry for them.
Catriona Ward’s Last Home on Needless Street
Ted lives with his daughter Lauren and Cat Olivia at the end of a regular street, but 11 years ago a little girl went missing on a family trip to a nearby lake, and Ted knows more than he does. suggests it.
Suspension of James Han Mattson
Can Bryan, Jaidee, Victor and Jane make their way through all of the escape rooms in the “extreme haunted” Quigley House? They will win a big cash prize if they do, but there are more dangers in this House of Horrors than they realize.