Monday, 30 October 2017

Spooky reads for Halloween

In a previous post, I mentioned that as the nights grow darker, so does my taste in books. On those dark and stormy nights, I have a yarning to read something a bit gothic or books such as “Wuthering Heights” or “Jane Eyre”. Anything featuring wind-whipped moors or a dark, mysterious mansion seems suddenly tempting. Do autumn and the approaching Halloween affect your reading preferences? Do you have a favourite horror (or any other dark) novel or perhaps a favourite author whose work would be perfect for this time of year? In the spirit of Halloween, here's a little look of some of my favourite spooky, dark and mysterious reads.

I have never been a big fan of horror, although I did experience a brief eerie period in my teens when I read all the spooky books I could locate in the library of a small village. My favourite was Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” – and while it might not appear so very frightening to a modern reader, it is, after all, a classic and holds a special place in the dark corner of my heart.

Another classic that I’m fascinated by is Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”, which, with its witches and obscure prophesies, bloody murder and mist-shrouded castles seems like a perfect Halloween treat. Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble!

In this context, I must mention Robert R. McCammon and his excellent werewolf books, “The Wolf’s Hour” and “The Hunter from the Woods” (a collection of short stories/novellas rather than a novel) which may not be strictly horror, but work with historical fiction and lycanthrope lore to weave together stories that are a fascinating combination of adventure, action and even a bit of romance. They are gory and bloody but also rather dark and thoughtful. I’ve previously reviewed “The Wolf’s Hour”.

Another favourite of mine are the novels by Phil Rickman, whose work falls somewhere between mystery, horror and crime; in many of them, contemporary mysteries intertwine with mystical, mythological and historical elements. The writing creates an atmosphere that is hauntingly beautiful – and a bit creepy. His John Dee series is not contemporary but historical fiction steeped in mystery (my review of "The Bones of Avalon" here.)

A childhood favourite of mine, simply perfect for this time of year, is a series by an Estonian author Aino Pervik (illustrations by E. Walter). These books feature a witch, Emmeline, who lives alone on a rocky island, makes potions and gathers herbs, until she meets a sea captain called Trummi. I fear that even back when my parents read me these stories, I felt a certain affinity with the hermit witch... look, she even lives in a tree!

Last but not least – I used to love “The Witch’s Handbook” by Malcolm Bird when I was a child. Now this has become one of my daughter’s favourites, and our yearly tradition is to read it around Halloween. This is the book my daughter prefers over playing and other activities! Packed with hilarious illustrations and clever advice, this book is a must-have for anyone inspiring to become a witch.

This year, I’m also reading “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” to my daughter – and it happens to be quite appropriate (just look at the cover)!

As horror isn’t generally my preferred genre, I’ve written few horror stories. There are, however, a couple that come close. Almost exactly a year ago now, the weird tale “Entombed” I wrote with my DH appeared in the “666” horror anthology (also recommended Halloween reading material) - and quite recently, our werewolf novella, “Musta Susi” (“Black Wolf”), was published in the Finnish science fiction and fantasy magazine Portti. Since it sort of fits the theme of this post, here's the title page of our story. The illustrations are by Kari T. Leppänen, and I have to say I love them; they capture the mood of the story - and look at the detail on that ship!