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Thursday, November 30, 2017

What's the Scariest Book You've Ever Read?

I know that Halloween is over and we're supposed to be focused on giving thanks at this point and shopping for Christmas, but allow me one more horror-filled post. 

What's the scariest book you've ever read?

Talk about a tough question!  

If you piled up all the scary books I've read over the years and put them on a scale, I'd wager that I've literally read a ton of horror books. It takes a lot to actually scare me though.  More often, I get intrigued and engaged to a point where I can't stop turning pages.  

As a kid, when I was first reading books like Peter Benchley's JAWS and Stephen King's The Shining, I'd get nightmares from what I read.  Then the next day, I'd be back to reading them to find out what was happening to these poor characters! 

I remember reading Shirley Jackson's story The Lottery and really feeling creeped out.  The same with Richard Matheson's short story Duel.  After that one, I thought every semi-truck on the highway was being driven by an insane murderer.  

As I got older though, scaring me to the point of nightmares got a lot harder. The exception is a book that was first published in 1979, but that I didn't read until about ten years ago.  That book is Peter Straub's Ghost Story.  

It starts with these words:

What was the worst thing you've ever done?

I won't tell you that, but I'll tell you the worst thing that ever happened to me... the most dreadful thing...

What spills out from there is a tale of four men in a small town called Milburn, New York.  They've gathered back together because of something they did when they were younger.  It's something they thought was behind them but all the evidence points now to the contrary.

There are two reasons I wanted to bring this book up in a blog post. 

1.  It's scary.  Very scary.  The final showdown between our main characters and the antagonist filled me with so much dread that I didn't want to read further even as my hand was turning the pages.

2.  It's possibly the most original take I've ever read on the idea of what a "ghost" actually is.  So much so, that it inspired me to write my own "ghost story" book, but not using Mr. Straub's idea.  Instead, his book inspired me to jump far outside the normal box people usually write ghost stories in.  When another book inspires you, then it's done more than its job! 

Since I read Ghost Story, I've read one other book that's scared the pants off me, but I'll write about that in another post at another time.  For now, if you've never read Ghost Story, you should pick it up.  I'd be highly surprised if you didn't love it.

And while you're perusing the horror titles over at Amazon, why not pick up my book The Wash.  It will be like a horror drive-in double feature, not that I'm comparing my writing in any way to Peter Straub's.  At this particular drive in, my book is definitely the "B" movie in that billing.  It's still fun though!


Lisanne Harrington said...

I call foul! Not telling us straight out what your second scariest read was...

I think the scariest one for me was Bentley Little's "The Mailman." Like you, it takes a lot to scare me, but this one really creeped me out. More than a year since I read it and I still think about it often.

Running a close second is Jack Ketchum and Lucky McGee's "The Woman." Really turned my stomach.

I don't care much for Peter Straub but I'll have to try "Ghost Story."

Cary said...

I've only read two Straub books all the way through. Ghost Story and Koko. I've tried reading others and just can't get into them, but this one really got to me.