Unfortunately, I’m going to be missing Hallowe’en this year, as I will be in
on a business trip. If truth be told, I’m not actually a big Hallowe’en fan. I find all the trick or treating a little artificial, something that we’ve copied from Dubai where it’s far more traditional. Me, I’m much more of a Bonfire Night kind of guy. Give me a cold, crisp November night with a smoky, blazing fire, a pile of fireworks and a charred sausage in a bun and I’m happy. Mini-Falaise, on the other hand, simply adores Hallowe’en, combining as it does three of her favourite things – dressing up, free sweets and staying up late. Fortunately for her, Mrs F and Old Man Falaise have stepped into the breach, meaning that South West London will be plagued by a tiny child beggar dressed as a sorcerer next Monday evening. So please give generously, her dentist needs the money. America
In compensation for my absence from the festivities (or infant carnage, depending on your point of view), I thought I would respond to The Broke and the Bookish's request for a list of top Hallowe’en reads. So, in time-honoured fashion, in no particular order, here are ten books to read whilst listening to Thriller and munching on your Faginesque cut of your child’s ill-gotten edible gains.
1. Dracula by Bram Stoker. Do I really need to say more? I’ve foamed at the mouth about vampire books before during Top Ten Tuesdays but it’s worth saying again. Step away from the Twilight books and walk towards the light (or dark?). Read this, it’s the real thing. In general, other vampire novels, bar none, are either pale imitations or freakish mutations with no place on a civilised bookshelf. I’ll make one exception for some of Anne Rice’s books.
2. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Whilst we are on the ur-books of the gothic horror genre, may I take this opportunity to recommend this. In the same way as Michael Jackson was not like all the other boys, Frankenstein the novel is not like the Frankenstein movies. It’s a far sadder and richer story and well worth the read, despite Victor’s self-indulgent bleatings.
3. The Historian by Elisabeth Kostova. Having just had a pop at vampire books, I’m now contradicting myself by recommending one! Nevertheless, despite being massively overhyped and trailing off towards the end, this is worth a look. Lots of fashionable elements such as academic mysteries that need to be pieced together, parallel historical and modern storylines, cool locations and, yes, vampires.
4. The Omen by David Seltzer. As I’ve already said, I am not a horror fan and so I found the first two Omen films quite creepy enough thank you as a teenager. And, guess what. The book is better.
5. The Complete Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe (duh). Do you see what I did there? I wasn’t going to pick one story over any of the others. Fantastic. In actual fact, I think I like The Purloined Letter best but that’s not one of his gothic stories. In any event, you really should read him if you haven’t already done so.
6. The Tattoo Murder Case by Akimitsu Takagi. This is more a detective story than a horror/gothic story but there are some very creepy elements to this classic Japanese crime novel. I don’t want to give anything away but if you like crime fiction or you like novels that feature
and Japanese culture, this may be for you. Japan
7. The Dark is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper. Hallowe’en is considered by some to be linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain and Arthurian and Celtic mythology and folkore is central to the quite brilliant The Dark is Rising sequence. Nominally children’s books, they are capable of being enjoyed by all ages. Not at all creepy but I wanted to lever them in here somehow! Please, please, please go and read them (or, if you are sniffy about children’s literature, go and buy them for any child in your life.).
8. Witches and Jesuits: Shakespeare’s Macbeth by Garry Wills. Hallowe’en wouldn’t be Hallowe’en without a few witches around the place and there can be few more famous literary witches than the “Double, double toil and trouble” crew from Macbeth. Witches and Jesuits is a fascinating study of the theological politics of
in the early 1600s and sets the Scottish play in the context of the religious and political issues of the time, showing how this backdrop would have given the play huge power when it was first performed. England
9. The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft. This is actually a short story but it forms the foundation of his Cthulhu mythos output and all the other Cthulhu mythos stories by, inter alia, Robert Howard and August Derleth. This is proper weird horror. Forget slasher novels and things that go bump in the night, this is existential terror, madness and the end of the world type fiction.
10. Theatre of Blood. To finish on a lighter note, here is a film for Hallowe’en night. A comedy-horror flick, this stars Vincent Price as Edward Lionheart, a hammy thespian who, tiring of being scorned by the critics, decides to murder them one by one in parodies of Shakespeare’s more gruesome scenes. It’s high camp, very funny and has some quite disturbing moments. It’s also a great role call of 1970s English acting talent. A little bit odd but very amusing.