It’s the right time of year for scary stories. There are gruesome decorations on lawns, loud spook houses full of chainsaws and screaming teens, and the holidays are right around the corner. Let’s face it — horrible traffic, high credit card bills and family gatherings are way more frightening than the supernatural. Horror doesn’t have to be limited to October, however. People like a pretend scare for all kinds of reasons. It’s a great escape if you can handle it. After reading The Shining in high school, I actually felt a sense of relief. Why was I so worried about Algebra and the prom? The people in that novel had real problems! Fayetteville Public Library is chock-full of books about otherworldly beings, and there’s enough variety to make the average person forget everyday troubles, at least until the end of the last chapter.
If the thought of reading the Twilight saga makes you throw up in your mouth a little bit, never fear — there’s plenty of fang fiction out there. In fact, when I searched the library catalog for any books about vampires, I got 1,247 items. That being said, it’s tough to find a really scary vampire tale these days. There are more sexy (Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series), chivalrous (the Bite Me, Your Grace series by Brooklyn Ann) and shirtless (Lynsay Sands’ Argeneau Family series) vampires than you can shake a stake at (sorry). Funny vamps are the property of Charlaine Harris (think Sookie Stackhouse), Michelle Rowen (Immortality Bites) and Mary Janice Davidson (her Undead series has hilarious titles). To get a good fright out of vampire reading, you might have to go old school with some Stephen King (‘Salem’s Lot) or Richard Matheson (I am Legend.) If you prefer your vampires repellent instead of sparkle-pretty, check out Midnight Mass by F. Paul Wilson or Simon Clark’s Vampyrrhic series.
Zombie (shudder) fiction has also surged in popularity over the last few years, thanks in part to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Seth Grahame-Smith. To overcome a lifelong fear of zombies, perhaps break yourself in by reading some of the Dan Shamble, Zombie P.I. books by Kevin J. Anderson. They give a humorous and perfectly rational scientific slant to corpse reanimation. Further on in the humor vein, there’s always Apocalypse Cow by Michael Logan or Jailbait Zombie by Mario Acevedo. Zombies have also not escaped the romantic horror hero cliché. If that doesn’t strike you as downright unsanitary, take a look at A Darker Shade of Dead by Bianca D’Arc, Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion or Hungry for Your Love: an Anthology of Zombie Romance, edited by Lori Perkins. For end-of-the-world apocalyptic scenarios try Max Brooks’ World War Z, or Frail by Joan Turner. Also, just because zombies don’t really have brains of the working variety doesn’t mean they can’t be literary, as the Shakespeare Undead series by Lori Handeland proves.
Ghosts still have a presence in scary fiction, and they’re all over the place — harder to categorize, I suppose, since they’re not tangible. The library is full of horror anthologies, but for ghost stories only try Ghosts: Recent Hauntings edited by Paula Guran or Collected Ghost Stories by Montague Rhodes James. A few full-length novels stand out, especially for tried-and-true terror. The classic, simply titled Ghost Story by Peter Straub will turn blood to ice. As for Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box, I was too chicken to read past the first chapter, and I’m a horror fanatic. Ghost, Interrupted by Sonia Singh is friendly and funny, Dead Things by Stephen Blackmoore is a crime novel, and Jaime Moyer’s Delia’s Shadow offers a bit of the historical novel along with the shivers.
Since werewolves are really and truly human most of the time, authors and the general reading public tend to have a soft spot for them. Even Stephen King’s (sorry to mention him again, but he is the Master of Horror) unwitting werewolf in Cycle of the Werewolf, which is absolutely terrifying, tries to only kill people who seem to deserve it. Glen Duncan’s The Last Werewolf features a forlorn werewolf protagonist. Anne Rice is working hard to make werewolves as appealing as she made vampires in The Wolf Gift chronicles, which so far includes The Wolf Gift and The Wolves of Midwinter. The Pack, by Jason Starr features a group of stay at home dads who like to howl at the full moon. Female lycanthropes that can kick some bad guy butt are the stars of Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty Norville series, Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld Tales series and Amanda Carlson’s Jessica McClain series. And—you knew this was coming—Terry Spear’s Heart of the Wolf series and Ashlyn Chase’s Flirting Under a Full Moon have romance covered for creatures of the lupine variety.