I have always maintained that horror is a genre with very wide – indeed, almost limitless – parameters, and as editor of NEW FEARS (Titan Books) I wanted to illustrate that fact by showcasing an eclectic selection of stories that differ widely in terms of style, content and approach, but which each have an element of horror at their core. In my view horror can be found anywhere, and so here are five novels, which, although marketed as ‘literary’ fiction, I think horror fans would enjoy.
THE LITTLE STRANGER by Sarah Waters is ostensibly a ghost story, but it is also a story about a declining way of life and a changing society, about decay and regret, about betrayal and subterfuge and unrequited love and things left unsaid. The story unfolds slowly, almost elegantly, and yet as it does so it evokes a rising sense of unease, a suggestion that dark and terrible things are gradually rising to the surface. Is the ghost in the book real? I’ll leave that for you to decide. But real or not, THE LITTLE STRANGER is nevertheless an intensely creepy and compelling novel.
BEING DEAD by Jim Crace is many things: a love story, a thriller, a reflection on the passage of time and the frailty of existence, and a haunting and unflinching examination of brutal violence, death and decay. Both viscerally shocking and unbearably sad, it forces the reader to confront realities he or she would rather turn away from, the unpalatable truths at the heart of existence. Like all good horror stories it makes you squirm. But it also makes you think.
THE LIGHTHOUSE by Alison Moore is a disquieting tale of a lonely and socially awkward man who decides to put his broken marriage and equally broken childhood behind him by undertaking a walking holiday in Germany. However a series of misunderstandings causes a sense of menace and foreboding to build within the narrative – a characteristic of Moore’s writing – that in turn makes the reader’s stomach tighten and leads to a growing sense that something utterly appalling is about to happen. Moore’s prose is deceptively quiet and precise, but the escalating feeling of unease she invokes surpasses that to be found in most horror fiction. In the same vein I would urge you to seek out her short story ‘Small Animals’, which was published as a chapbook by Nightjar Press. Quite simply, it is one of the most terrifying stories I have ever read.
THE RAW SHARK TEXTS by Steven Hall can perhaps best be described as ‘Jaws’ for the modern age. By turns disorientating, witty and hugely inventive, it’s the tale of a man who, after waking up with amnesia, comes to believe he has unwittingly activated a conceptual shark called a Ludovician, which “feeds on human memories and the intrinsic sense of self”, and which is relentlessly pursuing him with the intention of utterly devouring everything that he was, is and ever will be. Although shot through with humour, THE RAW SHARK TEXTS is intrinsically a gut-churning, heart-thudding story of a man with a ferocious monster on his tail. A monster that, if it catches up with him, will devour him body and soul.
THE WOODWITCH by Stephen Gregory shares thematic similarities to Jim Crace’s BEING DEAD, in that it is a visceral tale about death and putrefaction. It is so visceral, in fact, and so powerfully evoked, that the stench of decay seems to emanate from every page, enveloping the reader in a fungal miasma of rot and damp. But just as decay permeates the lonely cabin and the surrounding forest in which the story is set, so it also permeates the very heart and soul of our protagonist, Andrew Pinkney. THE WOODWITCH is a real heart of darkness tale, which grows blacker and more disturbing with every turn of the page.
NEW FEARS is out now from Titan Books and can be bought by CLICKING HERE