Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: It's close to midnight and something evil's lurking in the dark.........

Unfortunately, I’m going to be missing Hallowe’en this year, as I will be in Dubai 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 America 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.

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 Japan and Japanese culture, this may be for you.

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 England 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.

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.


Red said...

Fantastic list and I love the "duh" comment after Poe cos really, duh, of course he's going to be on a list like this.

Beth D. said...

The first person I have seen to name Lovecraft!! Great list!

Beth ^_^

Alex (The Sleepless Reader) said...

I'm very glad you recommend The Historian! I've had it on the TBR for a while now but always put it off because of my vampire fatigue. There is hope for it!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Wonderful list! I just finished book 4 (The Grey King) in the Dark is Rising series. I've never read them before and have been making my way through the series. They are so good!

Ellie said...

I have Poe and Dracula on my list too. Thought about including The Historian but it wasn't in the slightest bit scary for me.

Kate said...

As a transplanted American in England, I have to say that I find bonfire night bizarre and slightly terrifying. Then again, my little city does it up in a big way, health and safety notwithstanding.

Fantastic list. I really must try to find a copy of Witches and Jesuits - sounds right up my alley.

Bev Hankins said...

Love Poe--he made my list too. And The Historian was great...long...but great! I really enjoyed Lovecraft when I was younger, but I just read The Call of Cthulhu for a challenge and was under-whelmed. It probably didn't help that I kept picturing green jello every time he mentioned the "gelatinous green immensity".

Here's my Top Ten: http://myreadersblock.blogspot.com/2011/10/hosted-by-broke-and-bookish-top-ten.html

KarenSi said...

Great list. If I had remembered to do this I think Dracula, Frankenstein and The Historian would have made mine too. All fantastic books. Frankenstein especially. It was just so sad too. I've got a collection of some of Poe's stories which I plan to read next. Looking forward to that.

Unknown said...

Love love triple love The Dark is Rising series! Made me want to visit Wales if I ever get to the UK!

On a side note, it's interesting that you mention the authenticity of trick-or-treating in the UK v. America. In my area (south suburbs of Chicago), trick-or-treating is actually going by the wayside, because we have a number of fundamentalist churches here that preach that celebrating Halloween is celebrating the Devil. The school where I teach stopped allowing kids to wear their costumes to school or do Halloween themed projects several years ago, because we had so many children who could not participate. I only wish they would bother to learn the history of the (secular) holiday before they started preaching! So I wanna come take Mini-Falaise trick-or-treating!