I love Halloween, always have and always will. When I was a kid I dressed as Dracula every year, in a white shirt, dark slacks, and a black cape with a red silk lining and a stiff, high collar that my mom had sewn for me. White make-up, plastic vampire teeth, and fake blood topped off the ensemble.
I donned that same costume, year after year, until I decided that I was ready to move on to more “mature” costumes, those that involved latex masks and gloves, fake tufts of hair, and plenty of eye-popping gore.
I miss my Dracula cape.
Despite my age (forty-five, and while my knees might beg to differ, I don’t feel it), I still grow nostalgic this time of year, and long for those days when the smell of burning wax and pumpkin, the sight of skeletons hanging in my classroom at school, and the crinkle of candy wrappers all combined to send me into a sugar-and-adrenaline-fueled frenzy.
Fall weather always brings it on. Although we don’t get much of in Austin, that first cold snap, however mild, is sure to send me running for the candy, costume, and seasonal decorations aisle at the local grocery store. And while those sights and smells don’t quite have the same Pavlovian effect they did when I was a child, I still find myself longing for a way to recapture that mix of excitement, joy, and fear once more.
Typically, that’s when I reach for a good Halloween novel. With the big day coming on, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite spooky Halloween reads, one of which will hopefully bring you chills and laughs this Halloween season, and maybe even bring back a little of that October magic we all enjoyed as children.
by Norman Partridge
Dark Harvest is one of my all-time favorite modern Halloween horror novels. Winner of a Bram Stoker and named one of the top 100 novels of 2006 by Publisher’s Weekly, it’s a helluva read. Definitely worth checking out… and be sure to pick up his short story collection, Johnny Halloween, as well.
by Ray Bradbury
A classic collection in every sense, The October Country consists of a number of Bradbury’s earlier works, many dating back to the early 40s. If you enjoy classic Bradbury, and classic horror stories that are less about gore and more about atmosphere and tension, these tales are sure to satisfy.
by Stephen King
Another classic horror collection, this anthology of King’s short stories from early in his career is no less frightening today than it was thirty years ago. Quite frankly, Night Shift scared the hell out of me when I first read it. One story in particular that I still can’t get out of my head is The Mangler, but you’ll also find Children of the Corn, Jerusalem’s Lot, and Sometimes They Come Back in this collection.
by Edgar Allen Poe
Anything by Poe. Anything. But particularly, The Fall of the House of Usher exemplifies the dark, atmospheric style that has made his work famous, unfortunately long after his tragic life and death.
by Richard Gleaves
I stumbled across Rise Headless and Ride recently, and I’m glad I did. Reimagining a classic horror tale for modern times is easy… but making it work? Well, that’s an altogether different task. However, Gleaves does in fact make this reboot work, and work well. He knows how to spin a yarn, how to get you to invest in his characters, and how to keep you in suspense. If you enjoyed Washington Irving’s classic tale as much as I did as a kid, pick this one up.
(Note: Includes The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving.)
by Charles Schultz, adapted by Kara McMahon and illustrated by Scott Jeralds
Yeah, it’s not scary… but it’s The Great Flippin’ Pumpkin! I recently picked this edition up for my kid, and it immediately transported me back to my youth. And yes, we have the cartoon on DVD, and yes, we watch it every single year, but nothing beats reading a story like this to a child. This is the 50th anniversary addition, and thankfully the publisher gave it the royal treatment. Skip the Kindle version and pick up the hardcover version instead. You’ll thank me later.
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Have a favorite Halloween read? I want to know about it! Post your favorites in the comments below.