Surely nobody knows the horror genre better than the horrors themselves!
From the 1920s through the ’50s, Universal Pictures’ horror films ruled the silver screen, giving us classic portrayals of iconic monsters from Count Dracula to the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Whether you’ve seen the films or not, you know the creatures—the sinister predator, the curious monster, the transformed traveler, the cursed immortal, the mad scientist, and the tragic experiment.
So if you want a stack of books to sustain you through the rest of the Spooky Season, we’ve got recommendations directly from the Monsters…
The Invisible Man’s Picks Are Out of Sight!
The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Full disclosure: the “Invisible Man” in Ralph Ellison’s novel isn’t transparent. He’s invisible because of racism. Despite the false advertising of the novel’s title I found this a compelling read. The narrator never tells us his name—a sense of secrecy I find admirable. The novel also makes it clear that human society is made up of shambling heaps who think of themselves as people, when in reality only a special few have the wisdom to retreat to brightly lit caves like the one the narrator assembles. If I were him I’d stay in my lair until the plans for the Reign of Terror are completely ready.
Memoirs of an Invisible Man by H.F. Saint
This novel took my own exploits and retold them as though they were taking place in the 1980s. Personally I’d recommend the original, but I suppose if you need all of your fictional flights to more closely reflect your own life experience this will be a good read for you. There was also a movie with Chevy Chase.
The Nobody by Jeff Lemire
This is a book of those Sunday strips that children fawn over, though I can’t imagine a child enjoying this. It takes my story and transports it to a town in the wilds of Canada! It does a fine job, although these Canadians are certainly kinder than anyone I met in the English countryside.
Dive Into These Books with the Creature from the Black Lagoon!
Saga of the Swamp Thing by Alan Moore (Author), John Totleben and Steve Bissette (Illustrators)
Alan Moore understands that love can bloom between a denizen of the Swamp and a human girl. I don’t understand why he devoted so much time to all the occult nonsense, but Abbie Arcane is a wonderful creation, and worthy of Swamp Thing’s adoration. And while it’s completely outside of the scope of your understanding, it is cute of a human to try to interpret The Green.
Hellboy Omnibus Volume 1: Seed of Destruction by Mike Mignola (Author, Illustrator), John Byrne (Author), Mark Chiarello (Illustrator), Dave Stewart (Illustrator)
My boy Abe Sapien!
There are other characters too I guess.
Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water: Creating a Fairy Tale for Troubled Times by Gina McIntyre
This book made me cry.
The Mummy Will Resurrect Your Library!
The Jewel of the Seven Stars by Bram Stoker
How can I help but cheer this tale? While Queen Tera may have overstepped herself in claiming leadership, I can only empathize with another soul who has slipped the bonds of the Lord of Death and attempted to live anew in this hateful modern world. But once again, Britons must blunder into our sacred rites. What can they know of our vast civilization? What can they understand, being creatures of Isfet—the Chaos that lies beyond our borders? Several mortal men, one a man who studies my glorious lands, and another young man who pants after the first’s daughter, seek to transport the soul of Queen Tera to a new body. And yet, wouldn’t this Queen (I confess, I have not heard tell of her) be filled with joy in the fields of Iaru? And how do they intend to reunite the Queen’s Ren, Sheut, Ib, Ba, and Ka? How would the warmth of the Ka be rekindled?
The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers
Again with these British meddlers! The Anubis Gates is about another horde from the land of Isfet who seek to free themselves from the Scales of Death. (Why can’t these people find their own paths???) At least this Tim Powers reckons with the truth of Deity, and show Anubis and Ra their proper role in the cosmos. But then the British adventurers, impressed by our magic as they should well be, travel back to my own time! (He gets some of it right.) But then one of these Britons boards Ra’s sunboat? How is he worthy? Surely the great lords of the west will reproach him very, very, very, very, very, very, very, (very!!!), much.
The Mummy by Anne Rice
At last! Anne Rice treats these defilers exactly as they deserve: each man who disturbs another’s house of rest comes to a quick end himself. A certain man named Ramses returns to life through the aid of a potion, and, finding himself in a strange city, is entranced by the daughter of the man who desecrated his own tomb. He was a servant of a Queen named Cleopatra—I do not know her—and being a loyal and worthy servant he attempts to revive her. This does not go well. Cleopatra is ill-suited to a foreign time, and, having been wrested from Iaru, acts erratically, even threatening the woman who has sheltered her servant. She vows vengeance on this poor Ramses in fact, blaming him for not reviving her love, a man named Marc Anthony, who is also unfamiliar to me. Will Ramses save his love from his Queen? I shall leave the book’s surprises to the next reader.
The Wolf Man Goes Wild for the Written Word!
The Neverending Story by Michael Ende
This book tells the tragic tale of G’mork, a vicious wolf who is murdered simply for doing what he must: run his prey into the ground and never rest until the tendons are snapping between his teeth and the blood is spurting hot and beautiful in the thick fur of his untouched throat. I am meant to believe that a child kills this warrior? I am meant to cheer for this man-cub? I still feel that it’s my duty to recommend the book—it’s important to expose this type of anti-wolf dreck.
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken
In the book The Neverending Story a boy is magically transported into the land of Fantastika, the very land he has been reading about. I don’t remember much about this because this was after the horrific murder of G’mork, but I came to think of it as I was reading The Wolves of Willoughby Chase: why can’t such a thing be possible? Why can’t I be transported, right now, to this beautiful land where wolves run under the moon and humans cower as they are meant to? I will say that I hoped, given the title, that the wolves took the manor in the end, and ruled over it; alas, the humans survive.
The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
Angela Carter, are you a werewolf? How could you get things so very right? There are two wolf stories in this wonderfully brutal collection. The first pulled howls from my throat as an unsuspecting werewolf is murdered by her kin. But the other, called “The Company of Wolves”, more than makes up for it. “You are always in danger in the forest, where no people are. Step between the portals of the great pines where the shaggy branches tangle about you, trapping the unwary traveller in nets as if the vegetation itself were in a plot with the wolves who live there, as though the wicked trees go fishing on behalf of their friends – step between the gateposts of the forest with the greatest trepidation and infinite precautions, for if you stray from the path for one instant, the wolves will eat you.”
Yes, by all means, trust that the path can protect you.
Frankenstein’s Creature (Or, the Modern Reader)
“The Golem” by Avram Davidson
Woe that ever I learned how to read, that I am now able to see into the sadness within men’s secret souls! And yet it is fiction that allows the soul to soar, to travel to lands real and fantastical, to attempt, even for a moment, to touch another’s mind! Woe that I was ever created! But as I crawl across the face of this Earth, a Man denied his Soul, I was pleased to discover a story entitled “The Golem” by Avram Davidson, which had certain similarities to my own pathetic tale, albeit with a jollier tone throughout than the story I have written in my own sweat and rage.
The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein by Peter Ackroyd
I hoped upon finding this book that it would contain the secrets of my Creator’s Mind—perhaps even, I dared to hope, the Method by which I could construct myself a Bride? Alas, it was yet another tale of amazement, plying my Creator’s Foul Name as an enticement to the reading public, ever rabid for a sordid story. This one gives the voice to his hopes and dreams for, me? And yet the Created bears little resemblance to me, being a slight, melancholic being, addicted to self-abuse and reveling in slaughter.
Frankenstein Dreams: A Connoisseur’s Collection of Victorian Science Fiction by Michael Sims
I’ll confess that upon passing my lights across the cover of this book, I was thrown into a rage! Wasn’t it I, Myself, who was Frankenstein’s greatest dream—turned nightmare through his hatred of me?!! But then I saw that the book was a collection of science fiction from the era named for Queen Victoria, and further that many good tales were contained therein, and my wrath cooled.
Get Sucked Into a Good Book with Count Dracula!
My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due
3 May. Think Coffee (The one on 6th Avenue)—arrived at 8:35 P. M., should have arrived before 8:15, but the 6 train was delayed. Again. To quench my thirst I had a “Spanish” coffee (Mem., ask Barista how to make)—as my preferred beverage is difficult to acquire on streets as full as those of Mannahatta. Despite the tardiness of the train was able to finish My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due. This thrilling tale follows one of my type from the far reaches of Abyssinia who goes among mortals using the name of David; he and I are kin in more than immortality, however, as he, too, has been bewitched by the beauty of a woman. David also writes about jazz. His notoriety threatens the secrecy of his unworldly brethren, however, and he must decide whether to gift his lady and their child with immortality. I’ll admit this tale left me shaken as, for myself, I could not decide whether David should bind Jessica to him or seek the company of other immortals. Our life is not an easy one.
Agyar by Steven Brust
7 July. The Venerable Reading Room of the New York Public Library/A Bench in Bryant Park—I had intended to read Steven Brust’s Agyar while sitting in the amber-hued dusk of the New York Public Library. My goal was foiled by a fiendish Librarian plot, when apparently those esteemed Ladies decided I was “disturbing the other readers” with my mirthful response upon reading of the exploits of one “Jack” Agyar, who takes the same delight in unspoiled white necks that I do. And why should he not? Why should I not? They are there for my pleasure. Having been banished from the Library, I repaired to a Bench beneath the stars. There I remained until the other side of night, and finished the book before the hateful rays of Dawn could touch me.
A squirrel stole my scone.
Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
20 October. Center for Fiction Café—In all of my centuries of travel, I have not yet been to Mexico City, but Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Certain Dark Things has kindled in me a fierce determination to embark on such a journey with haste. At first I was dismayed to see the importance given to the character of Domingo, a mortal—but even my unbeating heart warmed to him as I witnessed his faithful service of an immortal name Atl. I also appreciated the author’s dedication to showing how fraught relations can become between mortals and their betters—hopefully this wretched state of affairs won’t continue too much longer.
Originally published in October 2019