Friday, May 16, 2008

The Ten Best Horror Novels Of All Time!

More accurately, my ten favorites. They represent only my personal opinion, and would vary in my own mind from day to day. But I don’t think you’d be disappointed in any of them, if your taste runs to such things. A few notes: Horror is a field that has thrived on the short story, and collections and anthologies are omitted here. Boy's Life and Last Call would probably rank higher if I considered them pure horror novels. This list originally appeared on my other site, but since it was so popular, and fits the subject matter here, I am re-printing it here. I want to periodically up-date the list as I reconsider selections.

1. Ghost Story, by Peter Straub – Peter Straub is not the modern master of the horror story (that’s Stephen King), but he did write the best horror novel. Ghost Story is a masterful book, with ominous foreshadowing, and indelible, believable, characters. Still creepy, and my all-time favorite.
2. Salem’s Lot, by Stephen King – I read a lot of horror, so it’s difficult for anything to get under my skin, particularly if I’ve read it before. I’ve read Salem’s Lot many times, as well as listening to it on audiodisc, and it gets to me every time.
3. Dracula, by Bram Stoker – The Moby Dick of horror novels, everybody knows about it, few have ever read it. It is well worth the effort. It is still vivid, and an interesting use of the epistolary technique (the novel is written as a series of letters and diary entries). Far and away Stoker’s best work.
4. The Shining, by Stephen King – The second King novel I read, the first to grab me and make me a lifelong fan. The best haunted house story ever written.
5. Boy’s Life, by Robert R. McCammon – More of a magic realist novel with some horror elements, I love it in part because it is set in the part of the country in which I grew up and when I grew up. Read it.
6. Summer Of Night, by Dan Simmons – Before he became successful (and a little pretentious) Simmons was a novelist in the Stephen King style. This is his best horror novel.
7. Last Call, by Tim Powers – Like Boy’s Life, more of a fantasy novel with horror elements, but one of the best things I’ve ever read. Powers gift is so great, by the time you reach the end, you’re convinced what happened has to be real.
8. It, by Stephen King – King intended this to be the ultimate horror novel, with every fright of childhood present. He didn’t completely succeed, but still good enough for eighth on the list.
9. The Haunting Of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson – The second-best (by a narrow margin) haunted house novel.
10. Our Lady of Darkness, by Fritz Leiber – A very Jamesian horror novel, one of the few really good ones in a contemporary urban setting.

For those who are wondering, I’ll try to clarify why there are no recent books on the list. Basically, in my tortured mind, for a book to be rated that highly, it must be something that lingers in my mind, something that I can go back and re-read and still love. I've read a lot of good stuff in the last year by Brian Keene, Edward Lee, Simon Clark, and others, but I've got to let them marinate in my head before I'm ready to compare them to the classics.


Anonymous said...

If I were to make such a list, the top two would be Pet Sematary by King and The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum. Few books have evoked such a response from me as those two.

KentAllard said...

Both are very good books. It's amazing how taste varies. I posted this on the old, now defunct board and was surprised to find many people hated the titles on my list. Different strokes, I guess.

Fred Trigger said...

Maybe you can help me out, as I didnt read "The Shining" I only saw the movie. What the heck was up with the ending? I didnt get it. You know, where the camera zooms into the picture from the early 1900's and Jack Nicholsons character is in it. I've watched the movie multiple times and I still cant figure out what it means.

KentAllard said...

I can't give a very satisfactory answer. The photograph was not in the book (the hotel was destroyed at the end of the book), and it's never explained. Even more confusingly, an epilogue in the original script suggests that the Nicholson character had been alone in the hotel, his wife and son had not joined him at his new job. There is a suggestion he was somehow absorbed into the hotel's essence, and ended up in the photo, but who knows?

Changes in the Jack Torrance character are the principle reason a lot of Stephen King fans don't like that version. For my money, although I like several of Kubrick's films, and he was a great visual artist, his human characters often came off somewhat flat.