Hallowreads: 13 Horror Favourites by Nigel Quinlan

My Heart is a Chainsaw Stephen Graham Jones
In this terrific homage to slasher horror, a teenage outcast Native American girl obsessed with horror films realises that a slasher killer has come to her town and tries to work out whether following the rules of the genre will help her survive (probably not, she reckons.) Big, brutal, bloody epic, the first in a gory trilogy, of which the third is due out next year.

Swift to Chase Laird Barron
One of the great purveyors of modern cosmic horror, this collection of stories is written with brutal energy, rich language and bitter emotion depicting hard-boiled characters facing elaborate and lurid horrors in physical and mental badlands. Harsh, unforgiving and utterly wild.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle Shirley Jackson
It’s a choice between this and the equally classic Haunting Of Hill House, but for me, the deliciously poisonous gothic fairytale of the two sisters in the large house, only survivors of the poisoning of the rest of their family, wins out on sheer wonderful weirdness. One of those books whose profound literary influence goes unnoticed until you read it and you realise it’s everywhere.

Holly Stephen King
A private investigator hunts a missing daughter while wrestling with revelations habit her own family. An adorable older couple are up to terrible things in their basement. King’s storytelling powers still hum smoothly along in this slow-building thriller.

The Changeling Victor LaValle.
A dark fairy tale set in modern New York. Apollo Kagwe tries to be the best father he can, but one day his wife Emma does something truly awful and disappears. Apollo sets out, determined to find her through all the strange and hidden corners of the city. Well written, atmospheric and very strong on character. Also, just made into a TV series.

Anno Dracula Kim Newman
What if Dracula won? With Vlad Tepes the new crown consort to Queen Victoria, all the vampires come out of the shadows and into society, good and bad, high and low. Someone with a silver knife is going around Whitechapel killing vampire prostitutes. An elder vampire and a secret agent track the murderer in this delightful tour of vampiredom from screen and page, crowded with historical and fictional characters, sly wit and sharp satire.

Clown In A Cornfield Adam Cesare
This is YA horror, and an absolute blast of a book, Scream updated with the meta taken down a few notches, but still clever and horrible and racked with tension and suspense and pure bloody gory fun. Rowdy teenagers are hunted by clowns through cornfields. I mean, obviously.

Coraline Neil Gaiman
Coraline Jones discovers a doorway to a neighbouring world that's a lot like her home, filled with people that are a lot like her family and neighbours, but which isn't or aren't. Her other mother and her other father might seem like they want to bring her joy and happiness and interesting things, but there's something off and wrong about everything. Spooky and creepy but also lovely and lively and oh-so-readable.

Koko Peter Straub
Ten years after they participate in an atrocity in Vietnam, four veterans reunite at the dedication of the War Memorial to talk about a fifth, Tim Underhill, who appears to be murdering people in South East Asia, and to decide whether to go over there to find him. A brilliant, complex, atmospheric hunt for a killer by a major horror author, but the polar opposite of the sort of forensics-driven investigating of Thomas Harris and Patricia Cornwall - this is gripping, rich and nightmarish.

The Last House on Needless Street Catriona Ward
This is a dazzling piece of craftsmanship, in voice, characterisation, plot, atmosphere, and a kind of dread that comes with emotional confusion as the reader doesn't know which of the characters it's safe to fall for, possibly all of them, in a psychological thriller filled with violence and terror. Once the initial disorientation of fractured perceptions and impossible points of view wears off, the pages keep turning because you HAVE to know. A genuinely brilliant piece of work.

Into The Drowning Deep Mira Grant
Killer mermaids and a bunch of people trapped on a ship. Honestly the best work of aquatic horror since the one with the shark. Savage and claustrophobic, as hungry things track their prey through tight spaces. If possible read the short prequel, Rolling In The Deep, first, if available, because it is utterly hair-raising.

Wylding Hall Elizabeth Hand
Perfectly crafted folk-rock horror novella. A fractious 70s fly band retire to a remote grand house deep in the countryside to record their next album. In the midst of rivalries and friendships. and the drink, drugs and sex, the obsessions of the lead singer attract the attentions of something best left undisturbed. Wonderful and evocative as well as genuinely creepy and disturbing. (Hand was been selected to write an official sequel to Shirley Jackson’s Haunting Of Hill House, due out later this year, and once you’ve read this you’ll understand why.)

The Anomaly Michael Rutger
A YouTube host who goes poking around the unexplained mysteries takes a trip with his crew down the Grand Canyon looking for a cave discovered by long-ago explorers, then lost. They find a cave and as is traditional with these sorts of things very soon begin to wish they hadn't. It's also a full on horror adventure with a sort of Fortean theme, albeit with a long, slow build-up that really does pay off, largely because he builds the setting brilliantly and makes you care about the characters.

Wakenhyrst Michelle Paver.
This is a shivery, chilling novel about murder and madness and religious obsession and hauntings and landscape. The story of a murderer, imprisoned in an insane asylum, rediscovered through his paintings after his death, as told through the eyes of his daughter and his own long-hidden journal, about how he became haunted by a devil from the fens.

Nigel Quinlan lives uncomfortably near Sheelagh na Gig bookshop and writes strange and sometimes spooky stuff for kids. Hunt him down and stalk him through the deeps of the internet at @Nigellicus.