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6 More Horror Novels to Keep You Up All Night

Welcome to my third in a series of six horror recommendations for the Halloween season.

666: The devil’s number. Mwa-ha-ha-ha.

Almost as if I’d manically planned it that way from the start.

This time around, I have for you many diverse reads perfect for getting you out of any reading slump. Be advised that I can’t recommend any of these for anyone in the younger ages, unfortunately; at least not outright. Beelzebub knows I read things I probably wasn’t ready for before my time. Still, given the graphic nature of a lot of the content this time, keep in mind that these are all generally mature works, even if the short stories can be rather silly.

Wait no longer, horror fans. Krampus has come early, this year.

Sour Candy by Kealan Patrick Burke

100 pages of something seriously strange.

Surprisingly breezy, and deeply unsettling, Sour Candy explores the dynamic between a father and son who are anything but what they appear to be on the surface.

Age range: 18+

Content Warnings via The StoryGraph:

Graphic: Body horror, gaslighting

Moderate: Suicide, car accidents, child death

Minor: Domestic abuse

Based on triggers this might seem like a strange book to start off with, but: trust me. If you can stomach a two-hour read of twists, you can stomach Sour Candy. You might even get a craving for more, and check out more of Kealan Burke’s work – which I highly recommend.

This brief dip into Eldritch horror will have you turning pages to understand just what is wrong with this man’s son.

At such a short length, I really can’t say much more without giving too much away.

Brace yourself. This one leaves a reader feeling completely breathless.

Below by Laurel Hightower with Trevor Henderson (Illustrator)

A creature feature starring West Virginia’s favorite cryptid:

The Mothman.

Viscous and thrilling, the woman-led novella Below is not to be missed for those afraid of the wilderness and a smattering of blood and guts.

Age range: 18+

Content Warnings via The StoryGraph:

Graphic: Gore, death, body horror

Moderate: Gaslighting, misogyny, emotional abuse

Minor: Vomit

This read is jam-packed with high strangeness. You’ll feel your eyebrows rise over and over again across its 120 or so pages – the surprises come in non-stop succession, which is just the thing to get you started on Laurel Hightower, a truly great author to be following the career of right now.

Our protagonist, a recently divorced woman named Addy, and her new friend, a truck driver named Mads, are pulled into a seriously tense creature feature right from the beginning. Without giving too much away, Addy attempts to rescue Mads from peril, skirting down a rocky embankment – when she realizes they’ve fallen right into a terrifying trap. If you’re familiar with the horror movie The Descent, you’re going to mark this one as a must-read this spooky season.

Penpal by Dathan Auerbach

Creepypasta fans, this is a classic worth revisiting in its fully published form.

Penpal is more than a horror novel; it’s a dark and tense mystery that is genuinely so tragic as to be gut-wrenching.

Age range: 18+

Content Warnings via The StoryGraph:

Graphic: Stalking, child death, predation

Moderate: Kidnapping, car accidents, animal death

Minor: Violence

I still remember my first read of Penpal, all the way back in high school; it made me deeply paranoid, even though we didn’t even have a crawlspace. That’s how effective it is.

To this day, Dathan Auerbach, also known by his online alias 1000Vultures, is a top-tier indie horror craftsman in my eyes. Penpal is his debut novel, and in that way, is his roughest professional work; there’s something nice about starting at the beginning, still.

Emotional, creative, and deeply scary, this 220+ page novel is not at all for the faint of heart, though this one more so leads up to an insane twist. The greatest heft of the novel comes from a building sense of dread and suspense that might give you a stomach ache. The deep sense of grief I felt in the base of my belly makes this book one of the most difficult yet most rewarding recommendations I have on the docket this year. You can still peruse the original version of this novel as its Reddit post version to this day on r/nosleep.

We Are Where the Nightmares Go & Other Stories by C. Robert Cargill

These short stories are funny, fantastic, and totally spooky.

We Are Where the Nightmares Go is a book for those of you who love a bite-sized scare and know brevity really is the soul of wit.

Age range: 18+

Content Warnings via The StoryGraph:

Graphic: Gore, violence, murder

Moderate: Demons, killer clowns

Minor: Body horror

Now for something completely different.

This collection has a story about zombie dinosaurs. What more needs to be said?

If any story squicks you out, another good thing about an anthology is that you’re able to skip forward.

Books of Blood: 1-3 by Clive Barker

Incredibly iconic and deviously written, Clive Barker is still one of the great kings of horror, forty years later.

The first three out of six volumes of classic horror tales; fantastical and twisted.

Age range: 18+

Content Warnings via The StoryGraph:

Graphic: Gore, violence, sexual assault

Moderate: Murder, child abuse

Minor: Gross-out, animal death

Sixteen supernatural stories with immaculately gruesome scenarios; one can tell from the start that splatterpunk is Barker’s wheelhouse, an innovator of the space.

Typical of multi-storied works, this collection can be divisive; you either love or hate volume one, and inversely, you’ll either love or hate volume three. The pros of volume one: yucky and very satisfying prose. The pros of volume three: more female-led stories and a more refined style.

I won’t go so far as to criticize Barker’s fixation on sexual violence as a means of depicting horror scenes, but this is a trait of his work to keep in mind if that is not your cup of tea in the slightest. If you can work with it, you will be rewarded with one of the best anthology horror collections of the 80s.

The Between by Tananarive Due

Mental torment pushes a father to the edge of his sanity.

Black-centered and a perfect blood-pumping thriller that confronts the horror of living in an unsafe place where time feels borrowed.

Age range: 18+

Content Warnings via The StoryGraph:

Graphic: Racial slurs, racism, death, grief

Moderate: Infidelity, animal death, violence

Minor: Child abuse, homophobia, suicidal thoughts

Harrowing and profound, this novel is a great pick for anyone looking for a black-centered horror novel that doesn’t hold back.

Fans of Stephen King or Dean Koontz will feel well at home following this 300-page journey.

Internalized racial trauma, racial anxiety, and intergenerational grief are the backbone of this novel, holding it high above any middle-of-the-road horror romp. The Between is suspenseful, thrilling, and deeply complex.

When a black social worker’s wife is elected the first African-American judge in their county, they receive racist hate mail that sends him spiraling into horrifying nightmares and awakens deep-seated anxiety that has been following him ever since childhood. Reality blurs as the real-life dangers of their violent stalker and the terrifying world that awaits him in sleep become one.

Tananarive Due is an author to admire for her incredible skill with the written word and her ability to weave a complicated narrative that never meanders or slows down. Towing the line between speculative fiction and horror, her artistic and personal bravery in this debut novel from 1995 are on full display.

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