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by David Carroll

First appeared in Severed Head#15, 1997

Ten horror novels that excited me (and which perhaps overly reveal my leanings towards pop gothic and the verbose):

The Dark is Rising, by Susan Cooper

Undeserving of being lost among the recent insane glut of children's horror (no disrespect to the Creepers series, which is really rather good, he says quickly) is this dark fantasy of a boy caught in that ever-popular struggle between good and evil. Part of a series with a fluffy beginning and a disappointing end, the middle three books are intelligent and gripping.

'salem's Lot, by Stephen King

King has recently returned to form after an extended bout of struggling to find relevance, but I still have a soft spot for the early stuff. Not his best by any means (The Shining, Different Seasons, Night Shift and Misery come to mind), 'salem's Lot scared the shit out of me at a tender age -- what more needs to be said?

The Vampire Lestat, by Anne Rice

Anne Rice is another writer who has trouble stopping when she's ahead, but this book captures the essence of her best work. A story of the undead in love with life, told with energy and exuberance and an amazing eye for detail. I liked The Witching Hour as well, but I guess the energy was starting to wane a little...

Sabella, by Tanith Lee

Another early favourite. Fantasy, science fiction or horror? It doesn't matter because Tanith Lee goes for realism in creating all three.

The Monk, by Matthew Lewis

Other people have mentioned this, and it's just as good as they said it was. So let me plug Margaret Davis' 1995 stage adaptation instead -- a superb production (and a lot better than the movie).

The Shaft, by David J Schow

This novel captures something about the modern condition, whatever that is, that stirs the soul -- certainly enough so that you forget that the central monster is rather boring. Wonderful stuff (and The Kill Riff is pretty funky as well).

The Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris

Yet another writer with a passion for detail -- and then some. Red Dragon deserves the credit as the seminal work (and the ripples are still being felt today), but this is the book that did it for me. Hannibal is a little more florid, but is still good stuff.

The Hunger, by Whitley Strieber

Did I mention I had something about vampires? I got over it, but not before I read this book. The character of Miriam seems to me the quintessence of the alien within us -- she shares our form but our concerns are justifiably beneath her. As the song said, 'we'll make great pets'.

Imajica, by Clive Barker

After distinguishing himself as a playwright, short story writer and director, the novel has seemed strangely out of Barker's range; his longer works have never risen much above simply being good. Except for Imajica. This one delivers the scope promised by Weaveworld and Secret Show -- and then expands upon it, and then does it again.

Song of Kali, by Dan Simmons

Kali obviously brings out the best in people -- just look at Poppy Z Brite and Steven Spielberg. And while this list isn't trying to measure quality in any objective way, let me finish by saying that I reckon Song of Kali is perhaps the supernatural novel of the modern age. Many authors have told us there are ancient horrors living side by side with humanity -- Dan Simmons shows us how it's done.


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