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Mark E. Murphy


Scary Books That Will Scare The S*** Out Of You

Posted: 10/24/2012 3:14 pm

I'm not big on overt gore, slasher stories or things that are overly sadistic or cruel. I didn't like Joyce Carol Oates' book Zombie, for example, because it put me inside the mind of a psycho for the entire novel--and it was like an overdose of psychosis. There's only so much of that sort of thing I can take.

These books kept me squarely on the side of the protagonist, which is what I like. At the end of the day, there simply has to be a little sweetness to go home to.

Mark Murphy is the author of The Shadow Man [Langdon Street Press, $14.95].

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  • It by Stephen King

    This book frightened me because it featured the thing I fear most of all--the evil that could be lurking about in an ordinary suburban neighborhood, a horror that slithers just beneath the thin veneer of everyday life. I knew people like the characters in this book. It would not take much for me to imagine how their lives could be transmuted into sheer terror by something that understood the nature of their innermost fears.

  • The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

    As creepy as the Academy Award-winning film based on this was, the novel was more disturbing--primarily because of the iconic villain Hannibal Lecter, who was far more frightening (and fascinating) than the killer featured in the story ever thought of being. His "psycho genius" was part of the inspiration for my own novel's villain.

  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

    A modern-day retelling of the Dracula myth, this beautifully constructed work was at once evocative and chilling. It reminded me of why vampires really frightened me as a child, in the pre-Twilight fashion, when they were beings molded out of an ancient evil, predatory creatures that lived among us like wolves in sheeps' clothing.

  • House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

    A cult favorite written in an unusual style which is both engrossing and disturbing. It's hard to describe--and hard to put down. You have to read it to understand.

  • Salem's Lot by Stephen King

    Another classic King tale featuring the scariest vampire I ever remember reading about. King says that modern-day vampires have been ruined because they are all "sparkly," and I agree with him. The vampire in "Salem's Lot" was more Nosferatu than Edward. And there were none of the ridiculous peri-pubescent teenage girl trappings that we read about today. This vampire was simply one of the Undead.

  • Summer of Night by Dan Simmons

    A book in some ways similar to King's classic It, this beautifully written novel is about a group of childhood friends in the summer of 1960 who must confront an ancient and pervasive evil. It reminded me of my own childhood--of the freedom of summer and the fears that went along with the summertime's quasi-independence.

  • Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

    Ray Bradbury is a poet cloaked in a novelist's garb, and I enjoy his descriptions, his dialogue and the way he weaves a tale. This story has a deliciously supernatural element--and, again, is about the evil that is hiding in the most seemingly innocuous places. Besides, circuses are inherently both strange and wonderful--and fraught with the aura of the unknown. How better to introduce that concept than with a tale such as this one