What makes a great horror book?
Do you like to read a book that almost seems to jump out of a dark corner and yell “boo” at you? Whether it’s a story about an evil spirit or a serial killer on the loose, a horror story will try to scare you to death, so to speak. In the case of Gothic romances, horror and a romantic relationship will be combined. Modern horror authors include Stephen King, writer of many novels that have been the basis of movies, Clive Barker, the creator of ‘Hellraiser’ and Anne Rice who has set several of her novels in her birthplace of New Orleans.
Beyond a major case of the willies, an effective horror novel can also result in nocturnal disturbances, such as sleeping with one eye open or not sleeping at all.
5 things to look for when choosing a horror story to read.
- Decide if you want to be frightened by a completely fictional monster or one that could possibly exist in real life. In other words, will a werewolf make you sleep with the lights on or is an ax-wielding lunatic much more frightening to you?
- Does the story go along with the scary stuff. You’ll be more likely to keep reading if the book is more than just non-stop gore.
- Find a book with a hero or heroine that you can identify with. The main character should have what it takes to avoid becoming a victim; that is he or she should not be TSTL (too stupid to live).
- Think about sub-genres, especially if you normally read a different type of book. For example if you enjoy erotica, erotic romance or urban fantasy, you might look for authors who include some of these elements in their horror novels.
- Pick a time period and style. You can choose from historical horror stories, either those that were written many years ago or are set in the past, as well as contemporary or even futuristic novels.
5 great horror books
Horror stories have been around for hundreds of years and have evolved into different trends, including Gothic stories as well as less subtle tales involving monsters, vampires, zombies or even frightening characters who are still alive, such as murderers or other dangerous sociopathic human beings.
- The Monk, from 1796, by Matthew Lewis is a Gothic tale that combines controversy, romance and horror.
- Ann Radcliffe, The Mysteries of Udolpho, 1794 is a classic example of a Gothic horror story.
- Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, from 1886 is a story where the frightening character is very much alive, rather than being a ghost, vampire or other manifestation of the afterlife.
- Psycho, published in 1959, and written by Robert Bloch, is an example of a psychological thriller.
- The Turn of the Screw, 1898, and written by Henry James, the story is another in the same vein and vague enough to allow the reader to fill in the blanks regarding the nature of the horror