Stephen King is solely responsible for my lifelong fear of clowns – I suspect I’m not alone in that. I was in 7th grade when the miniseries “It” first aired, and as if Pennywise wasn’t terrifying enough, my dad thought it’d be funny to put a clown place mat on my pillow for me to find when I went to bed after the last part aired. It’s amazing I turned out so well-adjusted…
But so, if you’re like me, and the mere thought of Stephen King’s clown sends you into paroxysms of terror, you’re probably not a huge horror fan. I do like books, however, that toe the line between horror and just a well-told, unsettling read that never quite lets you get comfortable. Here are three of those – “scary” reads for the non-horror fans.
3. Broken Monsters, by Lauren Beukes — This TERRIFIC novel is more crime than horror, but with plenty of plot to keep fans of both genres satisfied. It’s about a serial killer in Detroit who makes rather nasty “sculptures” out of his victims, but without giving anything away, there is a definite element of supernatural here, too. On the whole, it’s a novel that is just so incredibly well-written and interesting – covering everything from the notion of the broken American dream, to new media, to the purpose of art. The last 100 or so pages of this novel are, in a word, trippy. I loved it – one of my favorite novels of 2014.
2. House of Leaves, by Mark Danielewski — To me, this is the perfect autumn novel – though, it’s less a novel and more an experience. It’s a multi-layered story that’s part David Foster Wallace and part Vladimir Nabokov. Ostensibly, it’s about a house that’s bigger on the inside than on the outside, and a mysterious labyrinth inside said strange house. But over the course of the 700 heavily footnoted pages, it’s funny, frightening, and just one the more inventive novels you’ll ever read. It really is a singular reading experience.
1. Night Film, by Marissa Peshl — About an avant-garde horror film director, this novel does a terrific job of playing tricks on its reader based on its reader’s own feelings about black magic, the occult, and horror films. How much you let yourself believe (or don’t) is a key to understanding some of the secrets of this story – which is also about an investigative journalist who is looking into the suicide of the director’s daughter. I definitely lost a little sleep because of this novel – both because it’s a hard-to-put down, fast-paced thriller and also because parts sure made me want to keep a nightlight on.