Books of Blood (all of 'em)
The Damnation Game
The Great and Secret Show
The Inhuman Condiition
In the Flesh
Clive Barker revolutionized horror in the early '80's with the Books of Blood. His is a unique talent. Wildly gruesome, fantastically imaginitive, to read Barker is to plunge into an all-absorbing other world.
Blatty, William Peter
Two terrific novels about the devil. I grew up in an agnostic household, so I didn't have the background to be creeped out by demonic possession. But The Exorcist got me anyway. And Legion, the sequel, is just as wonderful in its own way. Everybody's seen the movie version of The Exorcist. But do yourself a favor and see "Exorcist III." It's based on Legion, it's written and directed by Blatty, and it's just fantastic. Oh, and my opinion on that movie has nothing to do with the fact that I'm madly in love with Brad Dourif. Seriously.
The Halloween Tree
The October Country
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Yes, he's a science fiction god, but Bradbury is a horror god too. He knows how to reach into your subconscious, root out the things that scared the crap out of you as a kid, and stick them in your face.
Brite, Poppy Z
Although she no longer writes in the genre, Ms. Brite was a horror goddess of the '90's. People are divided on her florid style and neo-gothic decadent atmosphere. I get a kick out of it.
Alone with the Horrors
The Darkest Part of the Woods
The Hungry Moon
This is just a sampling of the wonderful work of horror master Ramsey Campbell. The first time I ever literally got a chill up my spine, I was reading Campbell. If this doesn't creep you out, there's something wrong with your creep bone.
Card, Orson Scott
Card mostly writes science fiction, but he's also a master of quiet horror. These two character-driven, supernatural/psychological novels are vastly different, but they share a common soulful, melancholy chill. Just for the record, I hate this man's politics. But he's a helluva good writer.
Chambers, Robert W.
The King in Yellow
Are you a fan of the Ringu movies? Well, this is where that idea got its genesis. This novel, written in 1895, chronicles the tales of an evil book that drives anyone who reads it mad, usually destroying their lives in horrid and exotic ways. If you're into exploring the roots of modern horror, don't overlook this book.
The Nightmare Chronicles
The Halloween Man
My two favorite books by prolific horror writer Douglas Clegg. Anything you pick up by him is pretty much guaranteed to be a good read.
Ralph, or, What's Eating Folks in Fatchakulla County
Howlingly funny black comedy about a mysterious predator chowing down on people in a small Southern county. This is a lost gem. So far as I know, this is the only book that Ned Crabb ever wrote, which makes me want to cry.
The Longest Single Note
Excellent, imaginitive and diverse collection of short fiction from a British writer of the fantastic. Seriously good stuff.
Crowther, Peter, and Lovegrove, James
Do I ever love this novel. It's like Something Wicked This Way Comes on acid. Wild good fun. You'll be laughing one minute and cringing the next.
Danielewski, Mark Z.
House of Leaves
This freaky, surreal tale of a house that expands, contracts, and distorts reality seemingly at will just plain creeped me out. Its crazy-bizarre story structure and typography put my head on backwards, but I enjoyed every minute of it.
The Church of Dead Girls
Dobyns is a poet, and a writer of mainstream literary novels as well as mysteries. However, this nasty little tale of horror and serial murder is my favorite of his books. Unique and disturbing.
My Soul to Keep
The Living Blood
The Good House
Chilling supernatural stories made real with rich characters and racial introspection. This is some of the most interesting and imaginitive stuff I've come across in a long time.
The Dark Country
Etchison's style is beautiful, poetic, and surreal. Nobody writes short stories like he does. Sometimes you'll find yourself reading a story over again thinking "what exactly just happened?" But it's always worth it.
The Bureau of Lost Souls
This fine British writer produces character-driven, tightly plotted, bizarre and wonderful tales of horror. Dude also writes a darn good mystery.
Gates, R. Patrick
Gates is a fantastic writer, but I've gotta warn ya, this is some strong stuff. For the hardcore horror/gore fan only. But this isn't just gratuitous slash--the man tells an excellent story.
Grant, Charles L.
The Black Carousel
For Fear of the Night
Charles L. Grant was one of the finest horror writers who ever lived. An absolute master of quiet, gothic horror, nobody could give you the creeps like he could. He was also a top-notch editor--he was responsible for the Shadows books, which are among the best horror anthology series you'll ever read.
The Silence of the Lambs
Yes, I am a Harris fan. Yes, I love Hannibal Lecter. Are you really surprised? Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs are two of the best serial killer novels ever. And Hannibal is absolutely hysterical social satire. I don't know if Harris will ever top that, but I'm really hoping he'll try.
Come Along With Me
The Haunting of Hill House
The Lottery and Other Stories
We Have Always Lived in the Castle
If all you've ever read by Shirley Jackson was "The Lottery" in your high school Engilsh class, you are definitely missing out. The Haunting of Hill House is quite possibly my favorite horror novel of all time. The opening paragraph is pure, chilling poetry.
That Symbiotic Fascination
OKAY, I'm tellin' you right up front, this is "how far can too far go" material. Reeeeally brutal, nasty stuff. I read both books awhile ago, and I'm still traumatized. However, it's also gorgeously written, and fiercely original. This Symbiotic Fascination is excellent, but the main reason to read it is so that Haunter makes sense. Haunter is a beautiful, transcendent, amazing book. And, um, it also made me want to hurl. But I survived, and I'm glad I read it.
Ultra-gruesome, wildly imaginitive serial killer novel set in the Soviet Union. This is just one of the most entertaining reads around. It's a cryin' shame that this author's novels arenot widely available in the US.
The Horror Show
Big Rock Beat
This pair of novels by rocker Greg Kihn are an absolute hoot. The first is a wild romp through the world early 60's "B" movie production (with zombies, murder, and black magic thrown in). The sequel is an equally entertaining trip through the music scene in 60's San Francisco. With, y'know, dead guys.
The Dead Zone
Four Past Midnight
The Green Mile
Nightmares and Dreamscapes
I am not ashamed to say that I am a huge fan of Big Steve. No, I don't love everything he writes (don't get me started about the last Dark Tower book) but let's face it, nobody does characterization like King. He can make you deeply empathize with a character in two pages, right before some horrendous beast rips her head off and plays basketball with it. And he always delivers the scares. Except when he tries to freak me out with rats. He's obviously creeped out by rats, but I love the little scaly-tailed boogers. Aw, ratties!
Kathe Koja wrote some of the strangest, most interesting horror fiction of the '90's. Her character-driven, surreal novels tend to make your head spin. Sometimes supernatural, sometimes psychological, all her work shares an eerie, eroticized uneasiness. Now she writes YA novels. Wah.
Lansdale, Joe R.
Writer of the Purple Rage
I've listed some of my favorites here, but I pretty much love everything the man writes. Lansdale ranges from from East Texas gothic to hard-core splatterpunk, and much more. I'm crazy about his crime fiction too.
Tanith Lee is best known for her fantasy, but she also writes some excellent neo-gothic horror. Her three-book series about an anceint vampire clan is rich with sex and decadence.
Our Lady of Darkness
You may know him for his fantasy stories, but Fritz Leiber also wrote some fantastically spooky horror fiction. These two novels are a must-read for every serious horror fan.
The Stepford Wives
Ira Levin's multilayered, social-commentary based horror may be dated, but good writing doesn't go out of style. If you've just seen the movies, you've missed a lot.
The Nightmare Factory
Surreal, creepy, and ultra-disturbing short fiction. Not much makes my skin crawl anymore, but Thomas Ligotti still does it for me.
Lovecraft, H. P.
Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos
At the Mountains of Madness
The Colour Out of Space
If you've never heard of H. P. Lovecraft, you've clearly lived most of your life in a barn. H.P.L. was the granddaddy of the elder gods, the papa of Chtulhu, and the master of unpronouncable names and lots of adverbs--especially "unspeakable," "unnamable,' and "unknowable." You either dig his purple prose or you don't. I always have.
Renfield: A Gospel of Dracula
YES, this is the same Tim Lucas who puts out the excellentVideo Watchdog magazine. Turns out that Tim's a helluva novelist. These are two totally different books. Throat Sprockets is a sort of "King in Yellow" story about a weird fetish film that seems to obsess and corrupt anyone who sees it. Renfield is just what it sounds like--the missing tale of Dracula's Renfield, told on long-lost wax cylinder recordings by Dr. John Seward. Both novels are brilliant and wonderful. Don't miss them.
This beautiful, gruesome and erotic tale of a succubus and the people she destroys won the Bram Stoker award, and deservedly so.
Martin, George R. R.
The Armageddon Rag
George R. R. Martin is an amazingly versatile writer. No two books are alike. Whether he's writing about vampires on a demonic paddlewheeler or a rock band destined to bring about the end of the world, it's utterly convincing and totally entertaining.
Wire Mesh Mothers
Welcome Back to the Night
Elizabeth Massie's emotinally wrenching horror is not to be missed. Her fiction gets under your skin and stays there.
I Am Legend
A Stir of Echoes
Richard Matheson: Collected Stories
Richard Matheson is one of the greatest American writers, period. If you've never read him, go stand in the corner for an hour, you naughty child. Then get thee to the bookstore.
Matheson, Richard Christian
Dystopia: Collected Stories
Richard Matheson's kid definitely got his dad's talent for writing horror. These stories are shocking, disturbing, and brilliant.
McCammon, Robert R.
The Wolf's Hour
One of the best and most prolific horror writers of the '80's, Robert R. McCammon stopped writing for a long stretch of time. Happily, he's started up again. Excellent characterization, fascinating, original plots, and gut-grabbing horror are his trademarks.
Blackwater (book series)
Candles Burning (with Tabitha King)
Michael McDowell is one of my favorite writers of all time. He was tragically taken from us far too soon. His supernatural Southern gothic tales speak to me in a way I can't even describe. And don't miss his historical crime novels. Guilded Needles is in my top ten favorite books.
Even More Nasty Stories
The Throne of Bones
Fans call McNaughton "The Secret Master of Horror," and with good reason. His short stories are jaw-droppingly good, gross, funny, weird, and wonderful. The Throne of Bones is my vary favorite. Who would think that ghouls could be so entertaining?
Ammie, Come Home
You may know her as a mystery writer, but Barbara Michaels also wrote some wonderful gothic horror. If this book doesn't give you the creeps, you might not have a pulse.
The Man with the Barb Wire Fists
Norm Partrige is just a kickass writer. Whether it's creepy horror, hardboiled detective stories, or alternate history cowpunk, you want to read it. Trust me.
Poe, Edgar Allan
Tales of Mystery and Imagination
I started reading Edgar Allan Poe when I was knee-high to a grave beetle. I love it all--the stories, the poems, and the essays. I have a big framed portrait of EAP on my wall, and my kids call him Uncle Eddie... .
There's nothing else out there quite like this novel. Scary, spiritual, and mind-bending, you'll need to read it at least twice to take it all in. Then it'll keep you up nights thinking about it.
The Kill Riff
This is my favorite novel by one of the original splatterpunks. It starts out twisted, and then just gets worse. Gruesome good fun.
Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus
If you've never read Frankenstein, do yourself a favor and pick it up. It's an amazingly inventive piece of science fiction, horror, and social commentary. And it was written by a teenage girl! Woot!
John Shirley is considered one of the godfathers of the splatterpunk movement, but his stories often tend toward the surreal. Not just gore, this is some brain-bending stuff.
Siddons, Anne Rivers
The House Next Door
An incredibly quiet, creepy entry in the haunted house genre. It's hard to decide what's more horrid--the yuppie familes involved, or what happens to them.
Skipp, John, and Spector, Craig
The Light at the End
These guys were the reigning horror gods of the '80's. Often classed as splatterpunks, their writing had a ragged, soulful edge that was totally unique.
Bed of Nails
It's Mounties vs. serial killers! How cool is that? And these aren't just ordinary serial killers. They're drooling, slavering, rabid, wildly creative serial killers! These books are sick, wrong, and stuffed with fascinating details. I love this whole series, but these three are my favorites.
I first read Dracula when I was about ten, and it rocked my world. I re-read it every few years, and I always find something new.
Smith, Clark Ashton
The Double Shadow
The Emperor of Dreams
The stories of Clark Ashton Smith are filled with ancient gods, ghouls, vampires, and barely-veiled necrophelia. Although he stopped writing in 1937, his stories are as decadently creepy now as they were 70 years ago.
The Delicate Dependency
This is my all-time favorite vampire novel. Gorgeously written in the French decadent style, it's complex, creepy, and full of surprises.
The Flesh Artist
Lucy Taylor's stories are unique and horrifying gems. She goes for the guts, and gets you every time. Don't miss her.