Michael Koryta recommends 6 books for spooky season
The best-selling author recommends works by Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, and more
Michael Koryta, the best-selling author of 16 crime thrillers, writes horror fiction under the pseudonym Scott Carson. His latest Carson novel, Where They Wait, is a Halloween-worthy tale that has inspired him to name his own seasonal favorites.
Salem's Lot by Stephen King (1975).
I could have selected any of a dozen by our modern master of horror, but Salem's Lot has that perfect October feel to me, pairing classic vampire scares with an insightful, beautifully written study of small-town life. It has the slow-burn creep of autumn, beautiful at the start, but with the promise of a shiver just ahead. Buy it here.
Ghost Story by Peter Straub (1979).
The aging men of the Chowder Society gather to tell stories and answer "What's the worst thing you've ever done?" Their chilling stories are skillfully interwoven, and Straub's blending of past and present horror is seamless. Buy it here.
The Night Country by Stewart O'Nan (2003).
O'Nan dazzles by capturing the everyday and the human heart, so this tale — narrated by the ghost of a teen who died in a car wreck on Halloween night — might seem like a departure. What makes it work is how precisely he maintains that insight into the everyday and the human heart. O'Nan writes of autumn in New England: "It's the best time of year up here, the only season you want from us, our pastoral past — witch hunts and woodsmoke, the quaintly named dead in mossy churchyards." Buy it here.
The Auctioneer by Joan Samson (1975).
A forgotten classic, Samson's story of a New Hampshire farm family attempting to stand up to the forces that threaten to crush their way of life is a gem of both horror fiction and allegory. Buy it here.
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill (2007).
Here's your setup: "Aging rock star buys a ghost on eBay." That already promises fun, but what might surprise you is the sheer quality of Joe Hill's writing. The fierce intellect and emotional insight of Hill's debut made a promise that each subsequent work has delivered on. He's a marvelous storyteller. Buy it here.
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (1962).
The writer of The October Country must be on this list. I'll go with this classic novel of two 13-year-old friends facing down the nightmarish traveling circus that arrives in their hometown. Buy it here.
This article was first published in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more like it, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.