Grady Hendrix

Top 5 recent horror reads

I have always loved thrillers, mystery and horror books. But lately, it seems that I can’t devour the stories fast enough. My Audible library is teeming audiobooks from Valancourt Books and my pre-order list for this summer’s releases is maaaybe just a little too long.

But what else do I have to do with my time but consume stories? Nothing! Absolutely nothing!

And there’s certainly been a lot of crud that I’ve read. That’s for sure. But instead of talking about everything I’ve recently read, here are the shining lights from the last six months.

Top 5 Horror/Thrillers from the first six months of 2020 in no particular order because I hate ranking things:

1. I’ve gone on about this book already, so I’ll keep it short. But When Darkness Loves Us by Elizabeth Engstrom is a dark and twisted pair of novellas from Valancourt Books’ Paperbacks From Hell series. 

It’s been said in many reviews, but it’s a sin that Engstrom’s name is not mentioned more in the list of great horror writers. “When Darkness Loves Us” is a visceral and stomach-churning tale of revenge. And “Beauty Is” is the magical realism horror that tackles misogyny that we all need. 

2. So I wrote an entire short story about my love for Christopher Pike’s The Midnight Club. Magically it was deleted, and I will hate WordPress forever for it. But this is another one I’ll keep to the point.

This was my first foray into Pike’s work. I love me some early teen horror. So I really was expecting a ghoulish tale of ghosts and children up to no good (probably me just associating the title with the Midnight Society). 

Instead I was slapped in the face with a poignant story about reincarnation and accepting death. This probably shouldn’t be classified as a horror novel. There are no ghosts. There are no mysterious figures arriving to deliver punishment. Just a group of four young adults in a hospice coming to terms about the end of their lives.

I felt out ugly sobbed at the end of this book. It really just hit me in all the right places. It’s been announced that Mike Flannagan is going to be directing an adaption for Netflix. Given how he handled the themes of death in The Haunting of Hill House, I couldn’t pick a better man for the job. 

3. I struggle with anthology novels. The stories are often forgettable, surrounded by one of two memorable pieces. I’ve read a small handful this year so far, and not many of them were impressive. The one that stood head-and-shoulders above the rest was Stephen Graham Jones’ After the People Lights Have Gone Off.

First of all: THAT TITLE! 

But more importantly, Jones has a wonderful style that’s vividly descriptive. I read it via audiobook, but I bet reading it physically is something entirely more visceral (remind me to buy my physical copy). Because I don’t have the book and I read the physical book a month ago. I can’t name my favourite stories. And that, kids, is quality content! 

4. There’s something slightly shameful about admitting how much I loved revisiting Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews. It’s been very difficult getting to the reason why

Is it because it’s salacious? Are stories by women more inherently less worth-while if they tackle themes of sex, guilt and desire? God knows. But if loving Flowers in the Attic is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

If you’ve been living under a rock your entire life, Flowers in the Attic follows the tragic story of the four Dollanganger siblings. Following the death of their father, their mother moves them into her parents home. Only the children are soon locked up in a room to be kept as a secret. They’re promised their release will be in a matter of days. But the nightmare emerges when the children’s stay turns from days into months and into years. 

It’s wild in the best sense of the word. But it’s more than just a story about incest. It’s about Cathy and the horrible women in her life. Gillian Flynn’s piece on the book sums it up better than I ever could. If you like her stories, you’ll certainly love the Dollangangers and their secrets. 

5. And finally. The pièce de résistance. The book I haven’t shut up about in months: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Vampire Slaying.

It’s always intimidating starting a book you’ve been looking forward to for so long. Even if the author has impressed you time and time again, there’s always a chance that the next book will be the disappointment. 

So when my copy of Grady Hendrix’s latest novel arrived (over a month late, mind), I almost didn’t want to pick it up. But holy shit am I glad I did. Hendrix has a way of taking the most camp-sounding plots and turning them into something so worthwhile and meaningful. 

Patricia is a good housewife in her town in South Carolina. She tries her best to be the good wife and mother to her family. But she’s also a member of a true-crime-loving book club. When a new neighbour moves in, Patricia is suspicious of the man. And while she’s adamant that something more is going on, the rest of her town, including her book club, turn on her. 

Sure. This is a book about a vampire and the group of housewives wanting to take him down. But it’s also about the silencing of women (particularly black women) within a community, class and the complexities of motherhood. 

Though don’t worry. There’s still plenty of gore and horrible scenes of disgusting rats!

I haven’t reread a book in years. But I think Hendrix’s last three novels have “reread” written all over them.

Horror I’m most looking forward to in 2020

I had every intention of watching a film and writing for Wicked Wednesday today. But I woke up with a bigger hangover than expected.

So 2020 is off to a very unique and special start. Eh. So here’s a rather-lazy list of things I’m looking forward to in 2020!

1. The franchises

Halloween 2018 was pretty perfect for me. I know it certainly wasn’t to everyone’s tastes, but it easily slid in at my #3 in the Halloween series. It’s perfectly fine as a stand-alone. But when I learnt there was to be two more sequels, I wasn’t going to complain. Give me more Jamie Lee Curtis as badass, grizzled Laurie Strode any day!

I absolutely love The Conjuring and its sequel. Both are great little pieces from James Wan. I have to be honest, the rest of the Conjuring Universe doesn’t really interest me. So I was really happy to see that a third instalment featuring Ed and Lorraine Warren was to be released in 2020. This time, director Michael Chaves tackling the true story of “the Devil made me do it” case. I only know a bit about the true story – but it’s certainly a promising bit of history to turn into a film.

2. Grady Hendrix brings us a world of vampires and old ladies

Over the last few years, Grady Hendrix has become a firm favourite of mine. His novels My Best Friend’s Exorcism and We Sold Our Souls are definitely a couple of my top horror novels. He does a great job of blending horror with campy fun in a way like no one else in print. Also, his nonfiction Paperbacks from Hell is a great read too!

His next novel, The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, sounds like it’s another wild ride. The book’s summary declares the story is Fried Green Tomatoes meets Dracula and that’s all I think anyone needs.

Also, do yourself a favour and follow Hendrix on Twitter. You won’t regret it.

3. Mike Flanagan returns to Netflix to haunt us

I was so pleased with the success of The Haunting of Hill House. While I was initially disappointed that it didn’t directly adapt Shirley Jackson’s work, I was so impressed with the show.

Season two doesn’t see us back with the Crain family, but in a world inspired by Henry James’s Turn of the Screw in The Haunting of Bly Manor. I suspect the adaption will be as loose as season one’s, but I’ll definitely be reading James’s work in preparation for what’s sure to be another excellent piece from Flanagan – who is time and time again proving himself a modern-day master.

4. Take a trip to Fear Street

R.L. Stine is a master of children’s horror with his Goosebumps series. But those a touch older will remember him for his Fear Street series, his stories featured teenagers in the town of Shadyside.

There’s to be three instalments based on these books, apparently all to be released in 2020. There aren’t a lot of details about which books will be the inspiration for the films, but it will be set in 1994. Hopefully the movies include some twisted cheerleaders and a bit of creepy phone calls – all the joys of being a teen.

5. The stand-alones

There are countless horror movies coming out in 2020. I imagine many of them will continue the success we saw in the past few years. Original, interesting stories with great acting.

To say exactly what I’m looking forward to most would be difficult, as many films later in the fear will not have trailers or full synopses yet. Also, I’m struggling to find out info about more small independents (that will come with FrightFest season, I hope!). But I’ll just throw in this mini-list:

6. Welcome to Lovecraft

It’s no secret that Locke & Key is my favourite graphic novel series. Netflix’s adaption cannot arrive soon enough. The cast looks pretty damn spot-on (especially when compared to the previous attempts), and all early teasers and stills looks magnificent. I really hope that this adaption will do the story justice. But I have very few worries. The show was developed by Joe Hill and Carlton Cuse (Lost) which is as solid of a team that you could hope for.

Locke & Key follows the Locke siblings after the brutal murder of their father. They, along with their mother, return to their father’s ancestral home where they begin to uncover secrets about both the house and their father’s past. It’s a wonderful blend of family drama, magic and horror. February 7th can’t come soon enough.


What are you looking forward to most this year? I personally can’t wait to see the end of the horror that is the current presidency. But that’s perhaps a chat for a different day.