Autumn is my favorite time of year. The crisp weather, the leaves turning, the light getting slantier–this is the perfect time to settle in with a spooky story, which happens to be my favorite kind of story. And even though Halloween is tomorrow, it’s not too late to get your spook on. Here are few of my favorite Halloween-appropriate reads from the past couple of months:
The Fisherman by John Langan
After having suffered tragic losses, Abe and Dan take to fishing for consolation. Following a hard winter, Dan suggests fishing at a new place Abe has never heard of: Dutchman’s Creek. On the way there, they stop at a diner for breakfast, where they hear from the cook a long, strange, and unbelievable story about the place. This novel has the story-within-a-story format, not one of my favorite conceits, but it works here because of the old-fashioned style of the storytelling: part Washington Irving, part Herman Melville, part H. P. Lovecraft. Needless to say, Abe and Dan don’t heed the warnings and go on to Dutchman’s Creek, where they encounter something terrible.
The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle
Pepper is committed against his will to a mental hospital after being arrested. There, he discovers that some kind of monster–a man with the head of a bison–is stalking the patients, coming down through the ceiling in the middle of the night. But all is not as it seems on the surface. The staff are aware of the monster and even protect him. Perhaps he isn’t a monster at all, but just a man, another one of them. This is not so much a horror story as an indictment of the bureaucratic New York City mental health system–although the horror really lies in Pepper’s situation, being confined to such a place for no apparent reason and with no immediate way to get out.
Pork Pie Hat by Peter Straub
A short Halloween story, also presented in the classic tale-within-a-tale format. The story was both spooky and different enough from the tried-and-true ghost story that it kept my interest.
Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones
One night, a young Native American boy sees his dead father in their house, in full dance regalia. As the boy keeps watch for his father over subsequent nights, he comes to realize that his father’s spirit is not benevolent. This was a beautifully written novella, almost like a long prose poem, that combines fantastic imagery with subtle but chilling horror.