We’re cheating slightly this month by starting off with four books released not in November but on Halloween, which is close enough for us and it’d be a real shame not to highlight them. Blame publishers for thinking 31 October is a great date to release books. As always, this is not an exhaustive list. If you think there’s a book we’ve caused grave injustice to by leaving off, leave a comment or get in touch.
Starve Acre by Andrew Michael Hurley
The book I’ve probably been most excited about this year, Starve Acre is the third novel from Andrew Michael Hurley and concludes the folk horror trio that started with The Loney in 2014. It’s an exquisite novel (you can find out just how exquisite in my review) about grief over the death of a child and how the parents attempt to cope. This is folk horror, so yes, there are some supernatural and occult goings-on, but this is Hurley, so their treatment is subtle – gently disturbing rather than horrifying. You can read even more about the way Hurley approached this novel in my interview with him.
The Reddening by Adam Nevill
One of the other more highly anticipated books of the year, The Reddening is the new folk horror novel from Adam Nevill, who you will almost certainly be familiar with already. And if you’re not, you’ll definitely be familiar with The Ritual, Nevill’s 2011 novel which is now a popular film on Netflix (read our recent essay on the use of folklore in The Ritual). The Reddening is set in the south of Devon (the coastal region of England that Nevill himself calls home) and is a tale of unearthed prehistoric horrors, leaning more heavily on the horror than the folk.
Women’s Weird: Strange Stories by Women edited by Melissa Edmundson
If you’ve read our review of this new collection from Handheld Press, likely, you’ve already bought it. In Women’s Weird, editor Melissa Edmundson intends to fill a gap in the weird fiction bookshelf where women are unjustly absent. The stories range from 1890-1940 and show an evolution from more traditional gothic-flavoured ghost stories evolving into the weird, exhibiting increasingly unknowable and unspeakable dreads. As well as fulfilling its ambition to showcase women’s contribution to weird fiction, this is also an excellent collection of stories.
The Lost Ones by Anita Frank
Speaking of more traditional gothic-flavoured ghost stories (in a good way), The Lost Ones is Anita Frank’s debut novel and, as revealed in a recent interview, has been a lifetime in the making. It is set during the Great War in a haunted country mansion full of secrets, where the supernatural goings-on gradually reveal the house’s tragic history. The novel is inspired by the house that Frank grew up in, which itself was the home to numerous tragedies, and she and her family witnessed more than enough ghosts to fuel this chilling novel.
Into Bones like Oil by Kaaron Warren
The third book on this list which I have already reviewed, Into Bones like Oil is a strange novella by Australian author Kaaron Warren. I wasn’t overly familiar with Warren before but probably should have been, given that she’s published a great deal of fiction in the past and won the Shirley Jackson Award for another of her novellas, Sky. Into Bones like Oil is about the troubled and sleep-challenged residents of a rooming house who are visited nightly by the ghosts of an old shipwreck on the beach nearby. This isn’t a book that has remained with me in any profound way, but maybe this is a reflection of its dream-like qualities, a story your mind never gets a firm grip on.
Old House of Fear by Russell Kirk
Originally published in 1961, Old House of Fear was the first novel by founding father of the American conservative movement, Russell Kirk, and shows, perhaps, a different side to Kirk’s character. Set in the Outer Hebrides, this thrilling gothic adventure involves a fog-shrouded island housing an isolated ancient castle (itself housing ghosts and secrets) and a gang of evildoers, corrupted by the malign influence of the occult and… Marxism. Perhaps we could have seen that coming. This, however, is just the sort of story to lose yourself in on a cold winter’s night.
Dark Enchantment by Dorothy Macardle
Another old novel brought back into being. Dark Enchantment was first published in 1953 (as a Bantam Gothic Novel) and is by Dorothy Macardle, who is best known for The Irish Republic which, according to Wikipedia, is “one of the more frequently cited narrative accounts of the Irish War of Independence and its aftermath”. Dark Enchantment is set in the fictional village of St. Jacques in Provence, France, and the young Irish woman Juliet Firth hears talk of witchery and murder while on her recuperative stay in the alps. Having never read Dark Enchantment I’m not too sure how strongly I can recommend it. The Macmillan Dictionary of Irish Literature writes that “all of Macardle’s mystical mysteries are entertaining, but… seemingly supernatural events often evoke very melodramatic reactions.” How true that holds for Dark Enchantment, I don’t know, but I think it’s worth finding out.
Masks in Horror Cinema: Eyes Without Faces by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
For the academics amongst you, here is a new entry, with quite a striking cover, in the University of Wales Press’ Horror Studies series. Masks in Horror Cinema, by Australian film critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, explores the mask as a motif in horror cinema, showing how masks have been used historically across cultures and how those uses and meanings have fed into their application in films. This book’s sure to deepen your understanding of classics of mask-based horror, from Bava’s Demons to the blank stare of Michael Myers in Halloween.