Two years ago, in our Halloween post, we listed our scariest books and asked our readers to share theirs. So here are some of the responses that we got. Now you can join the conversation:
Sandy Gardner: The scariest book I ever read, hands down, was “On the Beach.” I think the writer was Nevil Shute, but I’m not sure. The whole scenario, about a nuclear war and its aftermath, scared me for years. I still get shivers when I think about it. The reason, I think, was that it was so real– especially during that time, the Cold War.
Mo Walsh: I found “River of Darkness” by Rennie Airth so scarey because it was so realistic. The novel starts with the murder of a household in a small village in post-WWI England. We quickly learn who the killer is (though the detective does not yet know) and follow him as he stalks his next victims. The tension between the killer spiraling out of control and the detective’s methodical investigation kept me figuratively on the edge of my chair, shouting “Hurry up! Think faster! He’s going to kill them!” It’s heightened by the killer’s psychopathology: he’s a born killer whose instincts finally find free reign when he’s trained by the Army in how to kill efficiently. Serial killers have always been with us.
Jeanne at the Bristol Public Library: I’ve been posting some of our favorite spooky books at the library
bookblog, but honestly I sort of quit reading horror after having the dickens scared out of me by Richard Matheson’s Legend of Hell House aka Hell House aka Richard Matheson’s Hell House. I didn’t think it was all that scary while reading it but it gave me terrible nightmares. The other one that creeped me out was Helter Skelter. The randomness of it all, I guess.
Thelma Straw: I’m with those of you who named Red Dragon… whenever I start a new novel with a creepy killer, I reread bits of it to get myself in gear to write that sort of thing – As a person, I am generally peaceful and calm-thinking, but I seem to always write about a really creepy scary psychopath!
Librarian Shannon Jensen: As a reader of thrillers, suspense, horror and supernatural fantasy, I always assumed that I’ve read so much graphic violence, murder and mayhem that over the course of my reading career I had become jaded to it. That was, until I read SHADOW MAN by Cody McFadyen. At first I though it was just going to be another run-of-the-mill thriller, I’ve read thousands of them. But this one had me glancing over at the door to make sure it was locked and doing a round of the house’s windows to make sure they were all secure. When a patron comes into my library telling me they want something scary, it’s the first book I go for. We’ve replaced it three times since it was published because it goes out that often.
Pat Brown: The scariest book I ever read had to be Phantoms by Dean Koontz. Reading it, I had no idea what was going on which is what scares me. The first time I read Salem’s Lot by King I was so unnerved I couldn’t read it at night (I lived alone then) up until the moment I knew the monster was a vampire. After that it no longer bothered me and I not only finished it, but read it a couple more times.
Lorraine Gelly: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I still think of the daughter putting her watch in her shoe. For some reason that always seemed to stay with me.
Lisa: Shirley Jackson’s “The Haunting of Hill House”.
“…silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”
I get goosebumps just thinking of it. My goodness, I love her. Brilliant.
Chris Colter: Most likely it was a function of my age at the time (11 years old), but a novelization of
George Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” rocked my socks more than any horror/suspense novel before or since. Stephen King’s “Pet Sematary” also got to me, but I was a bit older and not quite so impressionable when I read it.
Janet McCord: Patricia Cornwell’s first Kay Scarpetta book, “Postmortem” was the first book I ever read that gave me nightmares. I was living in Virginia at the time, not too far south of Richmond where the book was set and to know that it was based on a real case I suppose, made it all the more real and frightening to me. I was never one to seek out or enjoy graphic crime or hard-boiled mysteries but this one gripped me because Cornwell is such a good writer. It was my first “serial killer” book and it was very scary. Right now I’m reading “Dracula” for the first time and I wasn’t expecting how atmospheric and chilling it is. I’m completely repulsed by the descriptions of the insanity of the character Renfrew. It’s making more of an impression on me than I thought it would!
Red Dragon convinced me never to read another Thomas Harris and I haven’t. Helter Skelter was so scary because it was true!
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Still gives me the creeps just thinking about it. It’s the only book of hers I’ve never reread.