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Thursday, October 6, 2011

31 Days of Horror: Day 6-- American Horror Story

Last night a brand new horror televsion show premeired on FX, American Horror Story.  Click here for the official website.

American Horror Story revolves around the Harmons, a family of three who moved from Boston to Los Angeles as a means to reconcile past anguish. It is a sexual and violent show about how the house plays with the inhabitants and relfects their worst selves.  Here, every room in the house has a horrifying story to tell.

It was smart of the creators to start the series during October, but it was genius to do it 2 weeks before the current regining champion of horror on TV, The Walking Dead returns with a new season.

So today, everyone is talking about this fabulous new haunted house show. So what's a good RA librarian to do when surrounded by a popular TV show? Why suggest readlaike options of course.

Don't worry, I am here to rescue you today with some modern haunted house stories which fans of American Horror Story may enjoy.

In Chapter 5 of my new book, I go into the specific appeal of the ghost story in great detail, but here I will present a VERY brief overview.  A few things have to happen in every haunted house story, but the characteristic which American Horror Story most focuses on is the fact that the ghosts and their subsequent haunting are a reflection upon the complex internal feelings of the person seeing the spirits.  Guilt is the most common of these feelings.

This is not to say the the ghost is not real.  No, the spirits here are real and the havoc the wreak is not a figment of anyone's imagination, but in the ghost story, the characters that are being aggressively haunted always have dark secrets of their own, secrets they do not want to confront.  This is exactly what is happening in American Horror Story.

So from this quick analysis after the first episode, here are some books I would suggest to patrons as they walk in the door over the coming weeks looking for books like American Horror Story.  I have picked titles that both reflect the specifc appeal of the TV show and those that are great sure bets for fans of the modern haunted house tale.  Feel free to use my descriptions to book talk these titles to your patrons.

Nazareth Hill by Ramsey Campbell
As a young child, Amy sees a ghost through the window of Nazarill, a run-down building. Eight years later, after Amy’s father becomes the caretaker of the now renovated building, an older tenant dies. Before it is too late, Amy must convince everyone that his death is the work of a ghost out for revenge. Campbell has more recent titles, but this one is still among his most terrifying.

The Loveliest Dead by Ray Garton
In this despair-filled story of a full scale, terrifying haunting, a young couple and their surviving son relocate after the death of their 4-year-old son. What is supposed to be a fresh start becomes a nightmare as their backyard is infested with very ugly, child ghosts, one of whom looks just like their dead son. This is a slowly building tale which draws you in, grabs you, and propels you to the finish, head first.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
Jude Coyne is an aging rock-star, obsessed with the supernatural. He buys an old suit which is said to come with a ghost from an Internet auction site. Thinking it is a joke, Coyne buys it and ends up getting much more than he bargained for. The ghost has a personal vendetta against Coyne, and the two spend the novel in a struggle over his past mistakes and ultimately, his life. This is a title by the best young horror writer today and it is destined to become a classic.

Dark Hollow by Brian Keene
In this fast paced story of a haunted wood, Adam, a writer, is having marital problems. When walking through the woods near his home, Adam comes upon a woman in a sexual situation with a statue. As more women begin disappearing into the woods, the men are forced to confront the spirit responsible. This is a steamy novel filled with danger, dark places, and legends.

The Shining by Stephen King
Jack Torrance brings his family along on his new job as the winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel in the isolated Colorado mountains. In true King fashion, we find that this is not your ordinary hotel, as it is haunted by spirits which are trying to take over the family. The Shining is both the standard bearer of the modern ghost story and one of King’s best novels.

A Winter Haunting by Dan Simmons
“Forty-one years after I died, my friend Dale returned to the farm where I was murdered,” begins Simmons terrifying look into ghosts and madness. Although with Winter Haunting, Simmons returns to the characters of 1991’s Summer of Night, this novel stands on its own as an engrossing fright-fest with nods to the classics in the haunted house subgenre.

Ghost Story by Peter Straub
After an elderly man dies, strange things start happening in the small town of Millburn, New York. The events force the deceased man’s friends to come face-to-face with both a tragic event from their past and the ghosts currently marching upon their snow bound town.

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