It's October, and fall has definitely arrived in Kansas City. Days are cooler, leaves are falling, the haunted houses are open for business down in the Bottoms. If your idea of a perfect evening is to curl up in front of the fire with a good book, take a look at these classic horror stories to get in the Halloween mood.
Psycho (Robert Bloch) –Norman Bates is a pop-culture icon as well known to most people as the slightly strange uncle that shows up every so often for Christmas dinner - or at least, Anthony Perkins is that familiar. If you haven't made Norman's acquaintance on the printed page, it's high time to do so. Although the phrase 'gripping page-turner' is one of the worst book review phrases of all time, it's still a good description that can still be applied to Psycho some 50 years after its publication. Hey, we all go a little crazy at times.
Dracula (Bram Stoker) –Stoker spent years researching vampire folklore before creating what was seen simply as a good adventure story when it was published in 1897. It took the movies to turn the Count into a legend that inspired a whole world of vampires. Dracula isn't necessarily an easy read – like all Victorian-era novels, the style and the language seem odd to modern readers – but it's still a 'must read' for horror enthusiasts. Dracula proves that vampires do not sparkle.
The Haunting of Hill House (Shirley Jackson) – Jackson's little book proves that horror stories don't have to be about blood, gore, and giant scary monsters. In fact, there's nary a monster to be seen…but you know there's something there. Maybe it's just around the corner, or behind that closed door. Or maybe it's lurking over your shoulder…
I Am Legend (Richard Matheson) – When Legend was first published in 1954, it was marketed as science fiction; after all, the events were set in the dim, dark future of 1976. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, though, it can be seen that Matheson's little novella had an impact on the horror genre far beyond the limits of the book itself. Legend is one of the first books to abandon Gothic vampire traditions in favor of a scientific explanation (which also has greatly influenced the modern zombie culture), and modern horror titans like George A. Romero and Stephen King have listed Matheson as an influence in their own work. Set aside an evening for this one…to read alone, in a quiet house.
It (Stephen King) – No list of horror classics would be complete without a mention of Stephen King, although narrowing it down to just one novel is a challenge. And to some readers, It will be a challenge; in contrast to the short, tightly written Hill House or Legend, It clocks in at over 1000 pages. King is sometimes criticized for being unnecessarily verbose, but the intricacy of the story along with the sheer number of major characters keeps the story moving. Forget the 'killer clown terrorizes a small town' stuff – It goes far beyond that simplification.
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