(This 15-day series was originally posted to Kobo’s Writing Life blog. Now that the series has run its course, I’m reposting it here, one day at a time, in case my regular readers missed it the first time around. Enjoy!)
October’s here and with it the Halloween season. No other time of year, save perhaps Christmas, brings up such a sense of nostalgia for me as Halloween, with its memories of October nights beneath the silvery light of a chill New England moon. Trick or treating. Hayrides. Scarecrows. Jack o’ lanterns. And of course, my favorite, ghost stories.
I fell in love with tales of horror and the supernatural back in those early days and that love has stayed with me in the decades since. When Kobo came to me in my professional capacity as a horror/urban fantasy writer and asked me to share my thoughts on some of the truly great horror fiction available on the market today, I jumped at the chance. For the next fifteen days, right up through Halloween, we’re going to do exactly that.
Let me state up front that I’m not going to focus on the big guns that we all know and love – writers like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Anne Rice, Peter Straub – you don’t need me to point you in their direction. Nor will I focus on the classics put forth by luminaries such as Poe, Stoker, Shelley, or Lovecraft; again, you can find those easily enough on your own. Instead I’m going to be pointing you toward books that you might have overlooked or possibly never even heard about. Some will be brand new and some will go back a few years, but all will be worth your time and attention.
Enough chatter – let’s get to it!
SUMMER OF NIGHT
It’s the summer of 1960 and in the small town of Elm Haven, Illinois, five twelve-year-old boys are forging the powerful bonds that a lifetime of change will not break. From sunset bike rides to shaded hiding places in the woods, the boys’ days are marked by all of the secrets and silences of an idyllic middle-childhood. But amid the sundrenched cornfields their loyalty will be pitilessly tested. When a long-silent bell peals in the middle of the night, the townsfolk know it marks the end of their carefree days. From the depths of the Old Central School, a hulking fortress tinged with the mahogany scent of coffins, an invisible evil is rising. Strange and horrifying events begin to overtake everyday life, spreading terror through the once idyllic town. Determined to exorcize this ancient plague, Mike, Duane, Dale, Harlen, and Kevin must wage a war of blood—against an arcane abomination who owns the night…
SUMMER OF NIGHT is one of my favorite horror novels and as such, I simply had to start this series off with it. Simmons captures the very essence of what it is like to be a boy of that age, with the seemingly endless days of summer stretching out ahead of you, and then masterfully ups the tension with every turn of the page as the five friends discover that something evil is lurking in the school they only recently left behind. It is a story of friendship, sacrifice, and courage that is too good to be missed.
THE TURTLE BOY
Kealan Patrick Burke
School is out and summer has begun. For eleven year old Timmy Quinn and his best friend Pete Marshall, the dreary town of Delaware, Ohio becomes a place of magic, hidden treasure and discovery.
But on the day they encounter a strange young boy sitting on the bank of Myers Pond, a pond playground rumor says may hide turtles the size of Buicks, everything changes.
For it soon becomes apparent that dark secrets abound in the little community, secrets which come cupped in the hands of the dead, and in a heartbeat, Timmy and Pete’s summer of wonder becomes a season of terror, betrayal and murder.
I was first introduced to the work of Kealan Patrick Burke back in 2005 when this fantastic little novella won the Bram Stoker Award in the long fiction category after being released in hardcover from Necessary Evil Press. This newly released ebook edition reproduces the original text and is the first in a series of novellas known as the Timothy Quinn Quintet. This edition is available at a remarkable price (Free!) and should be on every horror fan’s shelf.
If you find that you enjoyed THE TURTLE BOY, you can also grab all four novellas (The Turtle Boy, The Hides, Vessels, and Peregrin’s Tale) under one cover in Burke’s STAGE WHISPERS for the very respectable price of $4.99.
Join me tomorrow for two different approaches to vampire fiction!
Joseph Nassise is the author of more than twenty novels, including the internationally bestselling Templar Chronicles series, the Great Undead War series, and the Jeremiah Hunt trilogy. He is a former president of the Horror Writers Association, the world’s largest organization of professional horror writers, and a multiple Bram Stoker Award and International Horror Guild Award nominee.
You can find him online at Shades of Reality.