This summer was long. It was hot and sweaty, and too many people were sun-crazed. It was impossible to sleep. People would not go indoors. They were everywhere, all of the time. It was hell. Now we can all wear jeans and Dr. Martens again, and eyeliner that stays on our eyes without melting off, we are officially in our best season, the season of horror and joy.
The best thing about autumn in general (despite the air, the leaves, and the moon) is that it’s much easier to stay indoors and stuff yourself with films and books. If you are an introvert or a person who likes to sit around absorbing spooky content, autumn is really your time to shine. At Turnaround, we are all more comfortable in this blessed season, and have been talking about the things we’re reading in the run-up to Halloween. So we’ve put together a little team blog in case you’re looking for ideas. Happy reading!
Fist of the Spider Woman edited by Amber Dawn
(Arsenal Pulp Press, 9781551522517, p/b, £14.99)
I’m unapologetically starting this with a plug to my absolute favourite book of 2018, Sodom Road Exit by Amber Dawn, but also because I would probably not have come across Fist of the Spider Woman had it not been for Sodom Road. I enjoyed Amber Dawn’s queer ghost story so much that I went on to read all her other books, including this total gem. Fist of the Spider Woman is an anthology of erotic horror stories about queerness, fear, and desire. It contains gothic stories, monster stories, ghost stories, and speculative stories, by writers like Michelle Tea, Fiona Zedde, Aurelia T. Evans, and queer porn queen Courtney Trouble. Obvs my favourite story in the collection is Amber Dawn’s ‘Here Lies the Last Lesbian Rental in East Vancouver’ about a BDSM play session that’s interrupted by a horny ghost in a notoriously lesbian house. And Michelle Tea’s ‘Crabby’ is really great too.
Are You in the House Alone? edited by Amanda Reyes
(Headpress, 9781909394445, p/b, £16.99)
Are You In the House Alone? is a compendium of made-for-TV movies spanning 1964 – 1999. We don’t really have telemovies anymore, but in their heyday they beamed horror tropes such as haunted houses, sinister cults and monsters into living rooms across the globe. Now we have Netflix, and the shows we watch tend to have higher production values and bigger budgets, but it would be a real shame to discount made-for-TV-films because some of them are frankly amazing. And who doesn’t like to kick back with some booze and watch a work of total trash-art every now and again? Are You in the House Alone? lists hundreds of trashy horror movies and thrillers to last you years, and it also explores their cultural significance at the same time.
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa & Robert Hack
(Archie Comics, 9781627389877, p/b, £14.99)
The Netflix adaptation of Chilling Adventures of Sabrina screens this weekend, and I urge you to read the comic before watching the show if you can. It’s one of the most enjoyable and wicked horror comics I have read, and so engrossing you can blast through it in a couple of hours. It follows Sabrina from her birth to the eve of her 16th birthday, when she must choose between living out the rest of her life as a mortal or a witch. The only thing complicating her decision is her love for that drip Harvey Kinkle, who has no idea what he’s in for.
The Luna Sol Tarot by Mike Medaglia
(Liminal 11, 9781912634002, £19.99)
I had a spooky experience with this tarot deck recently, starting with a haunted boat and some terrible neighbours and ending with a car floating in the Hackney canal. As a result I have a lot of faith in it. But that aside, autumn feels like a good time to sit quietly, regroup, and think things through, and using tarot to help you do this is a brilliant thing! Mike Medaglia’s deck is very beautiful; his art and symbolism are super engaging and the deck feels really modern and diverse.
The Book of Extraordinary Deaths by Cecilia Ruiz
(Blue Rider Press, 9780399184048, £14.99)
At first, I picked up this small, unusually-horizontal book because I’m shallow and it’s very pretty – but I found it made me really think about life, death, and how easily we can transition from one to the other.
From a man who suffocated under a pile of cloaks thrown as gifts from his admirers in the 7th century BC to twins who died at the exact same time in 2011, each extraordinary death is illustrated in a glowing, muted palette of golds, greys, and soft textures. Cecilia Ruiz’s unique, geometric-inspired drawings are reminiscent of icons both religious and digital. From the wryly humorous tone to the recurring hunting motif, this is a gorgeously conceived and executed meditation on the transiency of our stay in this mortal coil – perfect for the time of year when the veil between worlds thins.
My Pretty Vampire by Katie Skelly
(Fantagraphics, 9781683961949, £13.99)
While being held captive by her brother Marcel, pretty vampire Clover dreams of the living girl she used to be. Marcel fears his sister will be hunted by the outside world if let free – or so he says. But impetuous, sensual, strong-willed Clover will not be kept so easily. This is the story of her trying to escape, told in beautiful, rich colours by acclaimed cartoonist Katie Skelly. Her art is powerfully graphic while at the same time maintaining an organic sensuality that matches the emotional sincerity of the characters.
“With My Pretty Vampire, rising star Katie Skelly has a book that matches up her exquisite colour sense, delightfully lurid sense of humour, eye for style and aesthetics and acidly satirical, feminist take on gothic/horror tropes.” — High-Low Comics
This is a new take on vampires, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Plight of the Living Dead by Matt Simon
(Penguin Books, 9780143131410, £12.99)
This is a non-fiction title that definitely deserves a ‘horror’ tag – purely for how it describes, in often gory detail, the titular ‘real-life zombies’ and how they’re created by parasites all over the world. Zombifying fungi, kamikaze crickets, and parasitic wasps that turn their prey into the perfect, still-living nests for their eggs – it all makes for some truly gruesome reading, in the best way. Matt Simon also meditates on how no two organisms can experience reality in exactly the same way and the philosophical implications of that and more – all with humour, the odd pop-culture reference, and some really great footnotes.
Mammon by Micheal Hague
(Dark Horse, h/b, £16.99, 9781506707136)
No Halloween reading list would be complete with about a bunch more vampires, enter Michael Hague’s Mammon, an illustrated horror story that starts with an invitation to an ancient Romanian castle, and ends at the gates of Hell. Previously having illustrated the likes of The Hobbit and Hans Christian Andersen tales, Hague’s story reads more like a collage of Renaissance oil paintings than your average comic book, setting itself apart in both tone and style in a fascinating demonstration of what can be done with the graphic novel form. For sure, horror never looked so good, and if you are looking for something properly ghoulish and quite unique to read this month, pick up Mammon.
Realm of the Damned: Signum Draconis by Alec Worley and Pye Parr
(Werewolf Press, 9780993415821, p/b, £16.99)
Our Graphic Novel of the Month for September, Alec Worley and Pye Parr’s Realm of the Damned is the blood-drenched heavy metal horror prequel to the first instalment back in 2016. Combining medieval myth with modern rock culture, Signum Draconis takes place in a grimdark Transylvania where Athena, a pagan vampire queen, must drive the demon hordes from her home. Gory and gorgeous in equal measure, Realm of the Damned is like a heavy metal poster than got up and started walking. Read our review here and be sure to check out this gruesome animated preview.
FrightFest Guide to Ghost Movies by Axelle Carolyn
(FAB Press, 9781903254974, p/b, £16.99)
I will admit, I am too much of a scaredy-cat to watch horror movies. But for those of you who aren’t wimps and want something to give you nightmares for days this Halloween, consider The FrightFest Guide to Ghost Movies. Covering 120 years of the ghost movie genre, and reviewing the 200 most memorable of them all, it’s got all the blockbuster hits, plus more niche indie horror and hidden gems that you might not have heard of. Plus, each comes with a bunch of anecdotes and analyses from award-winning horror film director Axelle Carolyn. Knock yourself out.
No Saints in Kansas by Amy Brashear
(Soho Press, 9781616959340, p/b, £9.99)
There are two types of fears, right? Irrational and rational. Or; totally stupid and not totally stupid. Some examples of the former that may or may not be taken from my real life: wasps, the VHS cover for the Jim Carrey film The Mask, the actual Jim Carrey film The Mask, badgers (I just don’t trust them and their murderous little teeth). An example of the second type of fear, on the other hand, could be ‘being brutally murdered’. No Saints in Kansas runs with that kind of terror, fictionalising the aftermath of the real-life murder of the Clutter family (as in, In Cold Blood) as a teenager tries to clear Nancy Clutter’s boyfriend of the act.
Anthony Bourdain’s Hungry Ghosts by Anthony Bourdain & Joel Rose
(Berger Books, 9781506706696, h/b, £12.50)
Oh, Tony Bourdain. The original kitchen rockstar, he of zero reservations and myriad sweary one-liners. Despite the TV shows and years of culinary exploration, he was still first and foremost a writer at heart. Hungry Ghosts, his comic with Joel Rose, follows a circle of international chefs as they play the Samurai Game ‘100 Candles’, where each person tells a story of unspeakable horror, blows out a candle, and hopes that the spirits they invoke won’t come for them in the dark. Fair warning; on a recent flight to Australia the mere concept of this book gave me a nightmare in which I was violently impaled on a samurai sword, so enter at your own peril.
Things to Do When You’re Goth in the Country by Chavisa Woods
(Seven Stories, 9781609807450, h/b, £16.99)
If you, like me, have spent a significant portion of your life in the middle of nowhere, and are also queer like weird and/or queer like queer, then have I got the book for you. I took Things to Do When You’re Goth in the Country halfway around the world just so I could read it surrounded by cane fields and rivers, and it was probably one of the better decisions I have made this year. It’s unsettling and strange, and treats the outsider experience with realism and tenderness; perfect for embracing your inner and outer bizzaro-ness this spooky season.
We Were Witches by Ariel Gore
(Feminist Press, 9781558614338, p/b, £16.99)
Infused with magic and witchcraft this is the story of a young, queer, single mother determined to raise herself and her baby daughter out of poverty (via education), whilst writing an underground feminist classic. Inspired by a host of witches and goddesses and feasting on the subcultural feminist influences of Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, bell hooks, Tillie Olsen and Kathy Acker. Ariel rewrites her life in order to find a place to fit in and make her story count, but she also retells classic fairy tales such as Sleeping Beauty and Rapunzel to expose the rot at the core.
Eights Ghosts by Mark Haddon, Jeanette Winterson, Andrew Michael Hurley, Sarah Perry, Stuart Evers, Kate Clanchy, Kamila Shamsie & Max Porter
(September Publishing, 9781910463864, p/b, £8.99)
What happens when eight of the UK’s most exciting writers get to stay after hours at their favourite, rumoured-to-be-haunted English Heritage site? A series of extraordinary new ghost stories, imbued with history and atmosphere… Eight Ghosts is what happens! Sarah Perry chooses Audley End, Max Porter goes for Eltham Palace, Kate Clanchy picks Housesteads Roman Fort, Stuart Evers selects Dover Castle, Mark Haddon plumps for York Cold War Bunker, Andrew Michael Hurley decides on Carlisle Castle, Kamila Shamsie opts for Kenilworth Castle and Jeanette Winterson elects Pendennis Castle. Each tale is a masterclass in superbly spooky fiction, reinvigorating classic tropes and bringing the ghost story bang up to date.
The Stone Tide by Gareth E. Rees
(Influx Press, 9781910312070, p/b, £8.99)
Losing his fight with – and desperate to escape – the decrepit Victorian house that seems to have a mind of its own, Gareth Rees takes to the byways of Hastings and East Sussex, convinced he is following in the footsteps of previous inhabitants Aleister Crowley, John Logie Baird, author Robert Tressel, and the Piltdown Man hoaxer Charles Dawson. Gareth’s coastal ramblings start to evoke memories of his best friend’s Mike’s death – from a fall whilst scaling the castle at St. Andrews – and when his guilt over Mike’s death and his growing obsession with occult forces combine with local legends and self-made myths of humongous eels and possessed seagulls, his sanity crumbles. Incredibly written and suffused with arcane references, this novel is an extraordinary example of psychogeographic fiction as well as a profound meditation on the supernatural, grief, history, and the sometimes destructive power of imagination.
And if you enjoyed our Halloween reads round-up, check out what we were (sweatily) reading in the summer!