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I love a good scare. As a kid, scary movies were never scary enough for me. TV shows like Twilight Zone intrigued me more than anything, and I’ve never been afraid of things that go bump in the night.


By the time I turned twelve, I was losing interest in the selection of kid/YA horror fiction, and that’s when I discovered the queen of creep herself: V.C. Andrews. My Sweet Audrina was one of the scariest books I ever read, and it creeped me out so much that I had to read it twice. Audrina has spent her entire life trying to live up to her deceased sister also named Audrina, and to make her father love her as much as he did his first daughter. Then she comes face-to-face with a terrifying secret - one that everyone knows except her. It was atmospheric, suspenseful, scary, and surprising. As soon as I was finished, I insisted on making a trip to the book store to purchase all of her other books. I can’t say my mom loved the idea of me reading the Flowers in the Attic series, but boy did I enjoy them. They were twisted and scary and I hadn’t read anything like it before.  


Details about V.C. Andrews’ life are sparse, but whatever went on in her head, she fundamentally understood what would keep her readers turning the pages. Today her books are written by ghost writers, and they continue to be published under her name, supposedly drawn from completed synopsis and outlines left behind when she died.

V.C. Andrews was a gateway to my full-fledged obsession with horror. Much to my good fortune, it turned out that my mom was into some of the big horror writers of the time. Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and John Saul are just a few that I recall seeing on her shelves, and I read them all!


The thing about Stephen King that I have always enjoyed is his ability to tap into the complexities of human nature. Yes there are monsters, but quite often, the monsters are human. From Annie Wilkes to Jack Torrance to Carrie White, his villains are never purely evil and his heroes are flawed, quirky and complicated. Readers genuinely worry about their survival. It’s also worth noting that both of Stephen King’s sons are following in his footsteps. Joe Hill has already published several well-received horror novels, and Owen King co-wrote last year’s hit Sleeping Beauties with his father.


Another of my favorite horror writers way pre-dates Stephen King. If you aren’t familiar with Shirley Jackson, she was credited with defining the horror genre.  She is best known for The Haunting of Hill House, which is considered to be the model for all other haunted house tales. It has been adapted to film twice already, and has recently been released as a television series airing on Netflix. She was so influential that she even spawned the Shirley Jackson Award, recognizing works of horror, psychological suspense, and the dark fantastic.


One of the most famous horror stories of all time is Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and I recently read Dracul, a prequel written by J.D. Barker - a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award - and Dacre Stoker, the great-grandnephew of Bram Stoker. Barker was specifically asked to co-author the novel, and he’s been compared to Dean Koontz and Thomas Harris.


This is the first prequel to be authorized by the estate, and based on early reviews, the authors have successfully captured Stoker’s original tone but with a contemporary voice.  When Stoker wrote the original manuscript for Dracula, it was 541 pages long. Sometime before publication, 101 pages from that manuscript disappeared, and nobody except for Stoker himself has ever laid eyes on them (as far as we know). To write Dracul, the authors used Stoker’s notes, journals and artifacts to try and imagine what those pages might have contained. What emerges is a terrifying yet enjoyable origin story of Dracula and his creator Bram Stoker.


The book is deservidly getting tons of buzz and has been optioned for film. It should also draw fresh attention to the Dracula story and introduce it to a whole new generation of readers.  


If vampires aren’t your thing, there are plenty of other recent horror offerings, including the spooky supernatural thriller We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix, Unbury Carol, a twisted take on the Sleeping Beauty story by Josh Malerman, or Alma Katsu’s The Hunger which is a supernatural retelling of the Donner Party.


Regardless of your preferences, if you want to be scared this Halloween season, there will definitely be a book for you!


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Happy Reading!

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