So by now you’ve probably heard the rumours. Halloween has been cancelled. There will be no trick-or-treating this year, no fancy dress parties, no haunted houses, or scary movie marathons. No season of horror at all.
But here at Turnaround we say: stuff that nonsense! The only thing you need to make a success of Halloween is to scare yourself silly. And no better way to do with with a really good book. Better yet, you can expect no noisy kids to come knocking and interrupt you, and leave your hallway stinking of dogs-droppings.
So lets get started, with some truly haunted reads from us book nerds at Turnaround.
The Earth Wire and Scar City by Joel Lane
(Influx Press, 9781910312575 & 9781910312612, £9.99 each)
I’ve been really looking forward to reading these cult classics, reissued by Influx Press this October. Joel Lane has been described as ‘one of the UK’s foremost writers of dark, unsettling fiction, a frank explorer of sexuality and the transgressive aspects of human nature’, which is right up my street this time of year. The Earth Wire, first published in the ’90s (like so much good horror!) is a collection of short stories that examines the means and the cost of survival. Scar City is an intense, haunting collection set in the urban wilds of Birmingham.
The Haunted by Bentley Little
(Berkley, 9780593199978, £8.99)
I’ve been scaring myself silly recently with haunted house stories – rereading Shirley Jackson, watching Bly Manor on Netflix, and reading a load of haunted house longform articles. It’s a whole genre! I may as well continue scaring myself with this novel by an author Stephen King has called “The horror poet laureate.”
Julian and Claire Perry and their two children, Megan and James, have made the move to a bigger, nicer home in their city’s historic district. But something isn’t right. The neighbours seem reluctant to visit. Claire can’t shake the feeling that someone is watching her. Megan receives increasingly menacing and obscene texts. And James is having terrible dreams. No wonder, considering what he’s seen in the corner of the basement, staring at him and shuffling closer ever so slowly. It’s a pity no one warned them about the house. Now it’s too late. Because the darkness at the bottom of the stairs is rising…
Fist of the Spider Woman: Tales of Fear and Queer Desire edited by Amber Dawn
(Arsenal Pulp Press, 9781551522517, £14.99)
I pick this one every year, but I’ll say it again: Queer erotica! Vampires! Horny ghosts! Terror! Women reclaiming their own fear! This is a short story collection that explores the relationship between queer fear and queer desire while subverting longstanding horror tropes. And it features iconic queer writers like Amber Dawn, Michelle Tea, Fiona Zedde, and Courtney Trouble, among others.
Mordew by Alex Pheby
(Galley Beggar Press, 9781913111021, £14.99)
Generally speaking, fantasy tends to make me think more of Christmas than Halloween. I assume this is the fault of Harry Potter, with all those feasts and castles and snow. Mordew, however, is dark enough to overcome such a semi-primal association. The sinister Master of Mordew draws his magic from the decaying corpse of God, which lies broken and buried in the catacombs beneath the miserable city. But young Nathan Treeve has a power even greater. Indentured to the Master to support his struggling family, and slowly realising the extent of his power, Nathan battles through the city where God was murdered, and indifference and cruelty reign.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Ian Reid
(Text Publishing Press, 9781911231363, £8.99)
More ‘oh no people are weird’ than ghosts and ghouls, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a horror novel in the sense of Stephen King’s Misery, but with fewer hobbling incidents. (I assume. I’m not finished yet – no spoilers please, hobbling or otherwise). This metafictional mystery joins Jake and his girlfriend on a visit to his parents’ remote property, where their perfectly fine relationship begins to unravel after an awkward dinner. Jake ultimately leaves her stranded in the snow at a spooky abandoned high school, whereupon reality really starts to disintegrate. The book’s also recently been turned into a Netflix film by Charlie Kaufman, for a bonus horrifying content experience.
Sex and Horror: The Art of Fernando Carcupino by Fernando Carcupino
(Korero Press, 9781912740031, £22.99)
A bit of a pivot here from my other two picks, it has to be said. We’ve gone from psychological spook to pinup gore with this technicolour visual book. The third instalment in the bestselling Sex and Horror series of ‘fumetti sexy’ art, comic artist Fernando Carcupino’s pinup paintings are collected here in a deliciously bloody, outrageous volume.
Blackwood by Hannah Eaton
(9781908434715, Myriad Editions, £18.99)
From the author of the acclaimed Naming Monsters, you can’t go wrong this witchy season with Hannah Eaton’s latest graphic novel. In the ancient woods beside Blackwood two people are murdered 65 years apart, both with a pitchfork staked in their necks. Police investigations go nowhere, and instead it falls to ninety-year old Peg and her great-grandson to get to the bottom of things. Simmering with superstition and disquieting British insularism, Blackwood is an occultly murder mystery set in a town with plenty of secrets. Perfect reading for a rainy autumnal day, or a quiet Halloween night.
Boy Parts by Eliza Clark
(Influx Press, 9781910312636, £9.99)
What? You mean that book about the nice twenty-something photographer from Newcastle? Don’t be fooled, dear reader, Boy Parts is a modern American Psycho, and with a more monstrously fascinating protagonist to boot. Described as a “pitch-black comedy” exploring the taboo regions of sexuality, performance, and gender, Eliza Clark’s incredible debut (and now a Books Are My Bag Reader’s Choice nom) made me laugh-out-loud then sick up a little in my mouth. Read this if you look at Normal People and think, that’s nice, but can I have something way more ‘effed up, murderous, and weird?
Realm of the Damned: Terror Aeternum by Alec Worley & Pye Parr
(Werewolf Press, 9781527260320, £16.99)
Your favourite vampire, demon, metal-head, blood-drenched horror fest reaches its epic conclusion in Terror Aeternum. And now with a gun-toting Val Helsing! Rendered in striking duotone (so that the blood runs all the more red), Alec Worley and Pye Parr’s Realm of the Damned takes the Black Metal mythology and transforms it into about the most sacrilegious comics series you’ll find on the stands. Check out what we made of past instalments and then pick up Terror Aeternum for yourselves!
The Little Ghost Who Was A Quilt by Riel Nason & Byron Eggenschwiler
(Tundra, 9780735264472, £15.99)
I thought I’d start with a cute picture book before delving into my more customary horror and dread. The Little Ghost Who Was A Quilt is about, well, a little ghost who was a quilt. Which is odd, because his parents are both perfectly light and airy curtains. Spooking around isn’t something the little ghost gets to do a lot, because he is way too heavy (being a quilt and all). So he’s left to stare mournfully out of the window while his family and friends do the real ghosting. But then on Halloween, the little ghost’s life changes completely…
While certainly a lovely uplifting story, it’s the pictures that make this one for me. The opening page with the lonely little ghost staring out of the window, lovingly rendered in Eggenschwiler’s dark colours, is a particular favourite. Simply wonderful spooky stuff all round.
Four by Four by Sara Mesa, translated by Katie Whittemore
(Open Letter, 9781948830140, £14.50)
Translated from the Spanish, the novel is set entirely at Wybrany College, a school where privileged people send their kids to keep them safe from whatever apocalyptic thing is happening outside (Yeah, I know). The book is split into two parts, both trying to unravel the mystery of the school’s deeply sinister “programme”. “Special scholarship” kids disappear, their classmates none the wiser. The ever-escalating situation in part 1 is glimpsed through short, sharp chapters, each never more than a few hundred words. In part 2 a substitute teacher infiltrates the school, their diary an unsettling look at a place isolated from society. All this results in a deeply unsettling investigation into personal freedom, power, and monsters that gradually slides into unimaginable horror.
Probing at some of the most fundamental questions about our own humanity, Four by Four is a formidable novel perfect for a spooky night.
Real Life by Adeline Dieudonné, translated by Roland Glasser
(World Editions, 9781912987016, £11.99)
The house of the young narrator has four bedrooms. One for her, one for her brother, one for her parents, and one for the carcasses her father collects. When the narrator’s brother stops smiling after witnessing a brutal accident, she makes it her mission to go back to their lives before. Even if it means learning to defy reality itself.
Less genre fiction and more horror in the “this book will haunt you for a long time” way, Real Life is a disturbing deconstruction of abusive families and lifelong trauma. Told in sparse, simple prose, the book walks an ever-thinning line between hope and despair, rooted in a relentless realism that even the child perspective of the teenage narrator cannot fully obscure.
The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, Volume 1 edited by Paula Guran
(Pyr, 9781645060253, £16.99)
This all-star anthology collects the very best of 2020’s dark fantasy and horror both supernatural and everyday, from newcomers and legends alike. Featuring Ken Liu (The Grace of Kings, The Paper Menagerie), Carmen Maria Machado (Her Body and Other Parties — one of my favourite books of recent years), and Maria Dahvana Headley (The Mere Wife, Beowulf — which I’m eagerly awaiting the 2021 UK release of) and 22 more, this is sure to be a seriously good, seriously spooky addition to my bookshelf.
Gothic Tales of Haunted Futures edited by S.M. Beiko
(Renegade Arts Entertainment, 9781989754030, £17.99)
17 original graphic stories by a wide variety of authors are featured here, collected and edited by S.M. Beiko, who also edited the successful Gothic Tales of Haunted Love in 2018. This anthology runs the gamut from a trans vampiric romance in cyber-goth Paris to a love story between a non-binary chaplain of a haunted spaceship and the ship’s AI, to a future-Edo Japanese tale of lovers connecting though 50 years apart. Promising to span time and space in search of truly gothic romance, this is a collection I am very much looking forward to.
The Silent Invasion Vol. 3: Abductions! by Michael Cherkas and Larry Hancock
(NBM, 9781681122557, £14.99)
A private detective protects a paranoid lawyer from alien abductions, sinister government agents, and mad scientists in the third volume of this indie cult classic by Cherkas and Hancock. The bold, noir-ish graphic style combines with enough secret agents and aliens to build a spooky, suspenseful atmosphere that may not be traditional Halloween – but what’s scarier than the unexplained, unchecked governmental power, or the ever-present spectre of McCarthyism? Nothing, that’s what I say.
Archie vs. Predator II by Alex de Campi et al
(Archie Comics, 9781645769835, £16.99)
The sequel to one of Archie’s most insane crossovers ever. Having encountered one of movies’ most memorable monsters which left most of their friends dead and Archie now a human/predator hybrid; Archie, Betty and Veronica head back to Riverdale only to find it’s not how they remember. And up in space, the Predators are planning their next attack. Original series writer Alex De Campi teams up with Archie’s resident horror master Robert Hack (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) to bring another crazy spin on the world of Riverdale whilst adding a fun spin on Predator lore.
Hellsing Deluxe Volume 1 by Kohta Hirano
(Dark Horse, 9781506715537, £41.99)
One of the most iconic manga series of the 2000s makes its return to print in an oversized deluxe edition in the style of the recent Berserk re-releases. With supernatural horrors haunting the streets and preying upon humanity, the shadowy Hellsing Organization fights back against hell’s minions. And Hellsing has a secret weapon in their arsenal: the vampire lord Alucard, whose terrifying powers are needed more than ever as an army of the undead marches on London beneath the banner of the swastika! A unique spin on the vampire genre and a legendary entry in the horror genre, this is a release that will appeal to both original fans and those who missed Hellsing the first time round. It has been too long since we’ve seen Alucard and Seras Victoria defend England from the supernatural.
Soul Eater Perfect Edition 1 by Atsushi Ohkubo
(Square Enix Manga, 9781646090013, £16.99)
Fancy reading a horror comic with a shonen manga twist? Then this the series for you. Maka, a Weapon Meister at the Death Weapon Meister Academy (DWMA), has but one goal in life — to successfully evolve her living-scythe partner, Soul Eater, into a Death Scythe, the ultimate weapon of Death. To accomplish this, Soul must consume 99 tainted human souls, in addition to the soul of a witch. It sounds simple enough, but with devious creatures and unearthly monsters getting in the way at every turn (to say nothing of interpersonal relationships), it’s much easier said than done! Soul Eater was one of the most entertaining manga series to come out in the 2000s which added something new to the shonen genre. With colour pages, deluxe format and some swanky new cover art, this Perfect Edition provides the perfect excuse to revisit it.
The Tomb of Dracula: The Complete Collection Vol. 4 by Marv Wolfman, Steve Englehart, Gene Colan, & Doug Moench
(Marvel, 9781302924041, £37.50)
In my eyes the definitive comic interpretation of Dracula, Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan’s iconic run continues in this new reprint. Dracula heads to America which brings him into conflicts that lead him into reluctant team-ups with his nemesis Blade. In addition to clashing with his usual foes vampire hunters Quincy Harker, Rachel van Helsing and Frank Drake; Dracula must also content with Doctor Strange and even The Silver Surfer. This series is an historical fixture in Marvel history and is also the perfect showcase of just how artistically talented Gene Colan was. Vampire fans need this on their shelves.
As booksellers across the UK re-open their doors they need your help to stay afloat.
If anything you’ve read about on our blog catches your eye, consider ordering from your local bookshop. Find yours here. #ChooseBookshops