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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Becky Top 10 Horror of 2016

For the last 10 days I have been participating in Library Reads’ #LibFaves16 countdown of the top 10 books you read this year.  Library workers all over the country have been using the hashtag to countdown their favorite 2016 titles. You can click here whether you are on Twitter or not to see everything, or wait until the organizers compile it all nicely for you.

I decided that my participation would be the most helpful to all of you out there working with leisure readers if I focused on my favorite Horror reads of 2016. I have used the last 10 days to promote what horror from 2016 I think is most worthy of inclusion in your library collections.

Since I went all in for Booklist and reviewed a ton of horror in 2016, I have seen quite a bit. Not all of these titles were assigned by Booklist by the way. A few I reviewed on my own and for some I solicited the title from the author or publisher myself and then submitted a review to Booklist.

I do want to make a very big plug for Booklist here. They truly care about helping library workers help genre readers. They appreciate that I am a horror expert, and my editor, Rebecca Vnuk and the Publisher, Bill Ott, defer to me often when it comes to horror. If there is a title that they have not received an ARC for, but I think it needs to be in the magazine so library workers know about it, they let me solicit it myself and review it.

As the person either ordering for your horror collections and/or helping readers as they come to the desk, don’t underestimate how important this behind the scenes step is to making your job easier. If they only allowed reviews of titles they have been sent or if I didn’t alert them to titles that would be great for libraries if only they let me review it, you would not have known about many great books including my #9 and #2 titles (the #2 title even made the Booklist Horror Top Ten for all of 2016).

By the way, this is why I only review for Booklist. If I didn’t think they cared about helping you help readers, I would stop immediately. I only do it to help all of you.

Finally, before I get to my Top 10 I want to remind all of you that if you want to see every book I reviewed in 2016, simply click on the Reviews tag to bring every review up in reverse chronological order, or go to my Horror Reviews Index to see everything gathered in one place, alphabetical by author.

Okay, now here is the list as I unveiled it on #LibFaves16 from 12/12/16 thru today, with links to my full reviews.

10. The Sleepless by Nuzo Onoh
9.  I Am Providence by Nick Mamatas
8.  Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt
7.  The Women in the Walls by Amy Lukavics
6.  Two, single author, short story collections. I read many horror, single author, story collections this year and I thought it was best to combine them into one. And yes, I know this is cheating, but since I am the only one in the library world doing this, I figured I can sneak in 1 extra title. Hey, it’s all to help you help patrons.
      6.1 Swift to Chase by Laird Barron
      6.2 A Long December by Richard Chizmar
5. Pressure by Brian Keene
4. Haven by Tom Deady (the best horror debut novel I read this year, hands down)
3. Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror, edited by Ellen Datlow (my top horror anthology of the year (again, I read many)
2. Children of the Dark by Jonathan Janz
1. The Fireman by Joe Hill

A final comment about The Fireman. I finished the ARC of this book on January 1, 2016. It was the first book I read in 2016 and it is one of the best books I read all year. It has stayed with me in so many ways. I know I gush often about my Joe Hill love a lot on this blog and even in my book, but even if you do not like horror yourself, try this book. It is a genre-mashup and not 100% only horror, but it has all of the appeal factors that horror readers love.

Thanks for reading along with me in 2016. RA for All: Horror is taking the next few weeks off. If you are interested in the best books I read in 2016 across all genres, I will be posting those on RA for All on 12/19 which is the last work day of the year for that blog.

I will be back during the second week of January to preview what is shaping up to be an ever MORE EXCITING 2017 with lots of great horror content and information for all of you. I already have 3, 2017 horror titles waiting to be reviewed.


Friday, December 16, 2016

Horror Review Index Update December 2016

Here are the most recent reviews I have added to the Index.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Horror Sure Bets Best for Libraries

It's December and that means it is time for everyone to start talking about their favorite books of the year.

Tomorrow, I am also presenting the year end "Best Books" webinar for PLA and in that presentation I talk about the importance of including genre lists in your best lists.

As the library world's horror expert, I am here to help you identify the best horror for libraries all year long, so expect to see my personal top 10 of the year soon, but today, I wanted to point you to my two favorite lists for public libraries to use to identify some of the best, sure bet horror titles of the year.

Wait, why did I say best and sure bet? Yes I did. But how are they different? Well, that is the crux of my presentation tomorrow, but very quickly, the resources I will be sharing with you today take into consideration what the reader thinks of as best-- not just the "experts." Sure bets are "proven winners," and nothing says proven winner more actual reader approval.

I have two specific, reader driven horror best lists that sure be used as horror sure bets lists by you as you help leisure readers ad make purchasing decisions.

The first one is obviously reader driven, The Goodreads Choice Awards for Horror. Click here for the winner and the finalists. These are horror titles that real readers, all across the country, read and loved this year. This list needs to be used as a horror collection development tool for your library. These are proven winners that made it through multiple rounds of voting, titles that will go over well in any public library in America.

The second resource is not overtly reader driven. It is the NPR Best Books Concierge. This list is a favorite of mine because it puts all of the best books into a single pile and then allows the user of the list to customize the results-- thus making the results list reader driven.

I also enjoy how they filters are not just genre labels, but rather, based on actual reader tastes.  So, if you click on "the dark side," you get a list of all of the NPR staff's best books that could appeal to your horror fans.

This filter expands the definition of "horror," yes, but that can only help you to see the genre's reach into other areas (including nonfiction). And when you think more widely about what "horror" is, you will able to develop better collections and serve more potential horror readers.

Everyone wins.

Check back next week for more year in review posts here on the horror blog.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Horror Review Index Update

Here are the most recent reviews I have added to the index:

Monday, October 31, 2016

31 Days of Horror: Day 31 : The Problem With Major Publishers and Horror [aka Becky Has Another Huge Rant]

Those of you who regularly read RA for All know that I have been channeling my professional frustrations into my popular Call to Action posts.  They generally run on Mondays and you can read the archive here; however, due to my increased work load during this Halloween season, they have been on hiatus.

That hiatus has come with a price because between the lack of an outlet through those posts AND my annual anger build up with the big five publishers and their dismissal of horror as not worth their time, I am ready for a full blown rant today on Halloween-- my final day of the blog-a-thon.

Hold on to your hats. Here we go...

Look at this screen shot from the Penguin Random House’s main page.  What the what? Where is the horror? This is their main recommendation engine. Will they not even consider recommending any to me?  I don’t know why because I know they have published horror books. For example, Slade House by David Mitchell. It came out last year, it is set during Halloween, it sold well, and it is widely consider an excellent horror option for a wide audience. I wrote this review in Booklist. I would guess that at least 90% of public libraries in America have this book in their collection. They could even use that newer title to build off of other horror titles they have in their stable-- like House of Leaves-- another modern classic.

Instead of promoting that title, I got this email targeted to librarians promoting classic horror titles.  Come on. Give me something fresh and new. We are not stupid, we know about Frankenstein and Dracula. But thanks for insulting our intelligence and our desire to read and suggest modern titles.

This makes me so angry. I don’t mean to only pick on Penguin Random House. It is all 5 of the big publishers. Why do they hate us? More importantly, why do they ignore us?

Some may argue that the big five have imprints that do horror. That’s fine, but why didn’t they give those imprints the spot light leading up to Halloween?

Okay, maybe the answer is they need to focus promoting on the main pages on the newest hottest books. Fine. But what about the library marketing teams? The ones who say they are looking out for us. Really? Hmmm. I don’t think so.

Macmillan’s library team is consider one of the best. So they should be helping us get ready with lists of their awesome new horror titles. Since June of this year year they have had two, big selling, 100%, super scary, horror titles [neither of which they marketed as horror by the way] Pressure by Brian Keene [marketed as a SF thriller] and The Motion of Puppets by Keith Donohue [marketed as “a suspenseful tale of romance and enchantment”]. But have I seen anything about those two titles leading up to Halloween?

No. Here are the posts they had leading up to Halloween:

Really? Thanks for not helping. In the days leading up to Halloween our biggest requests at libraries are for scary books. You are the library marketing team. You should know that.  I shouldn’t have to tell you. So I get animals, cookbooks, and writers? Yeah, that makes sense. *sigh*


Now it comes back to me.

One of the reasons why I have to work so hard is because they ignore all of our horror readers and their needs. I have met the library marketing people from major publishers, multiple times. They always forget who I am. After their memory is refreshed-- you know I am the one covering your books all over the place only because I care about helping readers-- they ask how they can help me. I say, help by promoting your horror titles better. They respond by offering to throw books at me. I DON'T WANT YOUR FREE BOOKS. I want your help promoting horror. 

Part of the reason they always forget me is that I refuse to suck up to them. I won’t gush over getting free books. They will not get my respect until they stop thinking all library workers want are boxes of free books delivered to our doorsteps. What we want is to help readers. Help us help ALL of our readers.

I am a reviewer of horror for Booklist; my reviews are signed so they know who I am if they cared. I am THE library world’s most visible horror expert. I get 500,000 views a month [on average] on RA for All where I actively publish my regular Booklist horror reviews there. I have proven I can get the word out about their horror titles even when they don’t care. I’m sorry, is our library money not good enough for you?

I gave Slade House, Pressure, and The Motion of Puppets all great reviews!!! Macmillan quoted my star review on the page for The Motion of Puppets and for Pressure too! So they saw them. I did a spotlight interview of Brian Keene in Booklist and Pressure made the Top 10 Horror of the year in that same issue. I did the interview with Keene not through any help from Macmillan but only because Keene is a nice guy. I contacted him because I knew he had things to share with library workers. I even donated the money I was paid for that interview to Keene’s favorite charity as a thank you to him for his time. I did not profit from it in any way. I just wanted to connect horror writers with readers.

WHY AM I DOING MORE TO HELP THEIR HORROR AUTHORS THAN THEY ARE???

On the other hand, there are the horror authors. They know I am there to help them. They know that I put horror titles on library shelves. 

The Horror Writer’s Association-- the group representing the authors-- is honoring me as the FIRST EVER librarian special guest of honor at Stoker Con 2017. They are having an entire Librarians' Day to court all of us. This is a big deal. I am on a poster with George R R Martin. This is not a small thing.

The Horror Writers are flying me to California and putting me up in a hotel to help them get horror titles in readers’ hands. But the publishers.....they could care less. I don’t exist to them. And guess what, that means that by extension any of you who help horror readers don’t matter either. And forget your readers themselves. They might as well not exist.

The small presses are constantly reaching out to me. They want to know what I think. They want to know how they can work with library patrons who want horror. They want to get their books in your hands. They want to share their stories. And, their first instinct is NOT to send me piles of books. Their first instinct is to ask how libraries order books, what our patrons want, and if I can help them put the right books on library shelves.

If I didn’t have a platform that could help match books with readers, I wouldn’t be this upset. But my blog and my reviews in Booklist and my 2x a year horror column in Library Journal have proven that I help sell books. I have heard directly from authors that this is the case. Here is an example of a Tweet from author Brian Kirk whose debut We Are Monsters appeared in my 2015 Library Journal column. That is the tip of the iceberg on the thank yous I have received from authors for simply reviewing their books.



The hate that the major publishers have for horror-- and by extension-- its readers, runs so deep that they actively ignore me-- the person who could be their biggest ally, a person who has proven results putting horror books in readers’ hands, a person who accounts for many of the sales of their horror titles to libraries.

Thankfully I am devoted to you, the library workers and library patrons, and I ignore the obvious slight to work to find you the nest books for your readers. But if we only had a tiny bit of help from the major publishers, our job would be a lot easier.

Thank you for letting me rant. Unforntuatley, they all ignore me, so they won’t see this. Horror doesn’t matter to them even though we all know how busy we have been trying to find enough books for our readers this month. 

Now I am going to get ready to celebrate Halloween with my Bernie Sanders and Billie Joe Armstrong dressed kids, attend my last ever elementary school Halloween parade, and host a party for the kids and their friends later tonight.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday. It was a pleasure to share this month with you and help you to help your scariest readers.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

31 Days of Horror: Day 30-- Halloween Eve Odds and Ends

I always save the post for the 30th as a catch all of all of the things I could not fit into the planned posts.

So here are a few odds and ends for this Halloween Eve:

Saturday, October 29, 2016

31 Days of Horror: Day 29-- Why I Love Horror the Extended Format Edition

Over the years of doing this blog-a-thon, I have chosen to focus on asking the people who create horror tales to share what they love about the genre so much. I have found that these posts have been extremely helpful at showing library workers more about why readers love horror than my essays and reviews. I now have a large collection of these posts from a variety of writers; writers who entice readers into their wicked worlds; writers who love horror so much they dedicate their careers to it; writers who are also fans of the genre themselves.

You can access all of the the Why I Love Horror posts using this link and see for yourself. Not only do you get a good sense of the appeal of the genre by reading them, but also you get a huge list of other authors who these writers like and admire. There are more reading suggestions in these posts than you could ever have time to suggest, and that is a good problem to have.

However, my posts are almost only from those who write novels [with a few librarians thrown in], but earlier this week, over at Paste Magazine they had this wonderful Why I Love Horror-esque post:
Our Favorite Storytellers Reveal their Most Chilling Halloween Scary Stories & Lore--
Paul Bae, Vera Brosgol, Cullen Bunn, Mike Dougherty, Aaron Mahnke, Terry Miles, Nicolas Pesce and Ti West Unleash their Spookiest Tales
What is so great about this collection of creepy storytellers is that it also includes movie directors, graphic novelists, even podcast creators.

I am posting it here today so you see it now, but I also want it to be a part of the entire Why I Love Horror archive here on the blog.

So check out the Paste post and the Why I Love Horror archive now because over the next three days, you are going to be tested as the hordes of horror hungry readers begin to shamble into your library, desperate for a scary read this weekend.

Friday, October 28, 2016

31 Days of Horror: Day 28-- Where to Begin?

Where should I start if I want to understand horror? 

This is a question I get all of the time from library workers. First, thank you to those who ask. It means you are trying to serve your patrons better. Well done.

Second, there are two ways to go about it:

  1. You can read ABOUT horror. A great place to start is by reading my book and this blog. In particular, in my book I have a chapter on the appeal of horror and one on the current state of horror fiction. Reading about horror also means reading reviews. Between the annotations in my book and the reviews here on the blog, I have hundreds of titles for you to read about in order to get a sense of the genre. But there are many other places to go.  For example, Academic Librarian and horror fiction expert J T Glover recently had this post on the best places to find critical reviews of horror. All of the sites he lists there are also a great place to begin as you read about horror.
  2. You can try a horror book out for yourself. Now, I know this is not always the best option for every library worker. Many of you have shared your stories of trying to read a horror novel and scaring yourself so badly that it was detrimental to your health. For you, please stick with option 1. However, for the rest of you, many of you have told me you just don’t know where to begin. So I am going to help you get started.
Tor.com has a great series of essays called, Where to Begin. Here they take major speculative fiction authors and explain why people like these authors and break down their major books. [Actually, these essays work for numbers 1 and 2 above.] Currently they have an essay on where to start with Joe Hill, Peter Straub, and even Weird Westerns (which are a hot trend).

In my book, I list the aforementioned Joe Hill and Jonathan Maberry as the reigning kings of horror, so I often also start people with them.  In fact, we talked about where to begin with horror at length in the horror boot camp I led for ARRT back in August. Click here for the notes which also include slide access. There are many great “start with authors” listed there.

But when push comes to shove and someone corners me asking for one book to understand why people want to be scared by a book because they cannot ever imagine liking a book that terrifies them, I tell them to read Bird Box by Josh Malerman.

I have yet to have an unsatisfied customer.

Finally, if you are one of my horror fan, library worker, readers I urge you to use this post as a primer to try out a genre you are scared of. That’s right, you are not off the hook either. Click here for an RA for ALL post about why it is important for all of us to get out there and read something we are scared of.

Back tomorrow and Sunday with a bunch of odds and ends posts leading up to a huge, no holds barred rant prepared to run on Monday-- Halloween. You will want to come back for that.

Party safely this weekend. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

31 Days of Horror: Day 27-- A Horror Loving Librarian in a Non-Horror Loving Town?

Today I am featuring a librarian I met on my travels this fall, Linda B. Adams [bio below]. She is a horror reader and writer who takes her RA responsibilities very seriously.  Below she talks about her love of horror, her feelings about providing the best RA Service to her patrons as possible [regardless of their personal reading preferences], and not assuming that readers aren’t willing to try something new...especially in October.

This piece is short, but packed full of general RA service and great horror authors who are perfect suggestions for public library patrons.

Before we get to Linda, this is a reminder that October is almost over. Halloween will be here in a few short days. Please, I hope you have tried to suggest at least 1 horror book this season or, even better, opened your mind to trying something yourself.

Now here is Linda...

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If, according to T.S. Eliot, April is the cruelest month, October is the coolest month.  At least for me.  As a horror aficionado, it’s the month that fits my soul.  I grew up reading H.P. Lovecraft, Gahan Wilson, and Richard Matheson and graduated into the darkness of Richard Laymon and Jack Ketchum.  Always, of course, my reading was seasoned with a healthy dose of Stephen King.

As a reader and writer, it made sense for me to end up working in a library.  As a book lover, one of the best parts of my job is RA.  Clearly my tastes run to the weird, macabre, and horrific.  Even more clearly, that’s not necessarily what my patrons are looking for when they ask for book recommendations.  Still, what we want is the same thing—a book that pulls us in and makes us a different person than who we were before we read that book.  We come to the written word—fiction or nonfiction—for the experience.

Most of the time when I do RA I suggest books that I’ve never read and often don’t plan to.  Because it’s not about me and it’s not about what I’ve read.  What it is about is the business of books, which happens to be the business I’m in.  We ‘sell’ our product best when we give the customer what he or she came in looking for.  And if we do our job right, that person will be a repeat customer.

I work in a library whose adult patronage is not much interested in the horror genre.  However, once in a while I’ll recommend a Robert McCammon or a Joe Lansdale.  And my heart soars.

Now here it is October.  The time when even the most faint-hearted of readers is looking for something that will put some ice in their blood.  As librarians, one of our jobs is to stretch the minds of our patrons.  To help them discover new authors and new worlds.  In October, I can say, “Have you tried Dan Simmons?  Or Simon Clark?  How about Douglas Clegg?”  And then I gently suggest they keep the lights on and the doors locked.

---------------------------------------

Linda B. Adams is the Director of the Reading Room Association of Gouverneur, NY and a member of the Horror Writers Association.  When she’s not at the library, she’s usually writing, teaching writing, or reading.  You can find her on Twitter @lindabwriter. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

31 Days of Horror: Day 26: Review of The Sleepless

This is the third and final installment of my series on African Horror. I will end with a review. I hope this is helpful to my primarily Western audience, so that you can see how easy it is to suggest this diverse title to a wide range of horror readers. Please click here and here for the other posts in my African Horror series.

Today I have a review of The Sleepless by Nuzo Onoh.  In the interest of full disclosure, I did receive an e-ARC of this title from the author in exchange for an honest review. Here is the plot description via Goodreads:
An innocent boy is lured to his death by the one person that should have protected him. Someone knows the truth about his disappearance; his little sister, Obele, a child that hears a secret voice which tells her terrible things no child should know about. Obele knows too much and must be killed. Her salvation lies in the hands of her new friends, a group of giggling little girls she meets at an abandoned "cursed house." Except their friendship comes with a terrible price. And suddenly, Obele starts to ask herself who exactly...or rather, what exactly are her new friends. Worse, how can she free the tormented ghost of her dead brother, trapped by a witchdoctor's curse? Set amidst the Biafran War, "The Sleepless" follows one child's struggles against both the natural and supernatural forces that threaten to end her life before the deadly enemy bombs can do so. And perhaps, death from the skies is a better option than the terrifying alternative. "The Sleepless" - Another chilling tale about the restless and vengeful dead by the Queen of African Horror, Nuzo Onoh."
The seamless blending of a true life, horrific situation with supernatural “monsters" is the biggest appeal here.  As Onoh writes here, she has lives through the real life horror of the Biafran War and domestic abuse. She draws on her personal experiences with real life horrific events and writes about them with skill; however, it is in how she incorporates the supernatural monsters into the story where this book shines as Horror. The monsters-- real and otherworldly-- bring the fear in equal measures, so much so that as a reader, you start to believe that the supernatural threats are just as real as the human created ones.  As a result, the novel is permeated by an intense sense of dread that never lets up. [This is huge praise for a horror novel for those of you new to the genre.]

Much of this success is the result of Onoh’s ability to capture the place, Africa, and it’s dangers so effortlessly. Yes the woods have wild animals, but they also contain witches, ghosts, and ghouls that can and will insert themselves into the human world. Many writers have grown up in places where this folklore was a part of their every day life [the Southern Gothic tradition is an example], but not all can capture it for the outsider as well as she did here. It took me a while after completing this book to stop looking for witches around every corner.... in the Chicago suburbs! Talk about feeling the fear.

The pacing is also brisk. The novel covers about two years of actual time and a lot happens, but Onoh clearly knew where she wanted this story to go and moves the reader along swiftly, keeping the blood, the fear, and the plot twists coming. You will want to read this book in as few sittings as possible.

The characters here-- both good and evil-- are well developed. In the case of the protagonist this is wonderful, as we easily fall into her plight and want to follow her on her difficult journey. But writing a sympathetic, well developed protagonist is one thing, here Onoh is also able to craft terrifyingly realistic bad guys-- like Obele’s father-- with enough detail that they move beyond stereotype.

I also appreciated learning about the Biafran War by reading this novel. Although I had heard of this  war and knew a few surface details about it, I gained a larger understanding of its importance and devastating influence. So for that reason alone, many readers may want to read this novel.

I do want to mention that this book has two very big limiters-- the obviously mentioned violence against children, but more importantly, the book opens with a visceral scene involving a dead cat. If I have learned nothing else over my 16+ years of working with readers it is that when you kill a cat or a dog, people get angry. So I am passing that info on to help make your hand selling of this title easier.

Three Words That Describe This Book: Intense Dread, Fast Paced, Strong Characters

Readalikes: I already spent the last 2 days, here and here, writing about other African horror authors so I am not going to list any of those readalikes in this post.

Rather, I want to focus on readalikes that are a little more familiar to you.

Here are some books that also feature child narrators and monsters which are seamlessly integrated into  a true horror situation, making the terror feel all the more real:

Here are some other female horror writers who incorporate ancient evil into their terrifying horror novels:
If you are looking for other books that use a real life war as the backdrop to a horror novel, I would suggest:
Finally, if you are interested in a horror writer who draws off of African myths and themes but in a more familiar America setting, you NEED to read the work of Tananarive Due. I wrote about her work here on the blog back in 2011. Personally, I am a big fan of the African Immortals series which begins with My Soul to Keep.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

31 Days of Horror: Day 25-- Guest Post on African Horror with the Queen of the Subgenre-- Nuzo Onoh

For part 2 of my 3 days series on African horror, I asked Nuzo Onoh to talk about herself, her own works, her devotion to publishing and promoting African horror, and the writers she loves.

I have to say, this is one of my best author guest posts as Onoh is not only a good writer, but she is also very smart and thoughtful.

I know every library worker will learn  something from this post and that makes me very excited.

****************************************************

Tell us about Yourself 
My name is Nuzo Onoh and I write a horror subgenre I refer to as African horror. Re-defining the term, "African Horror", has been my passion as a writer. I’ve been championing the term as a bona-fide horror subgenre, just like Scandinavian, Korean, Japanese horror, etc, rather than a negative condition of the continent as mostly portrayed by the popular media. I have written three African Horror books to date - The Reluctant Dead (28th June, 2014) Unhallowed Graves (28th June 2015) and The Sleepless (28th June 2016). I’ve also featured in multiple radio/tv/print/online interviews discussing the unique freshness of African Horror and I feel very honoured that the world’s longest running magazine of cult entertainment, Starburst Magazine, featured their first African Horror author, my humble self, in both their online and print magazine. (issue 427)


As a child, I grew up with ghost stories told during the tales by moonlight sessions. We kids would gather around my uncle who’d tell us stories about scary ghosts. Other storytellers at the moonlight tales would tell us different stories, nice stories about animals and wicked stepmothers, but I wasn’t interested. My uncle’s ghost stories were the main thrill for me. Moreover, since we Igbos bury our dead in our homes and not in cemeteries, I grew up surrounded by the graves of my immediate family in our back garden. The graves-stones were our play-pen. The brutal war between my people, the Biafrans and the Nigerians, also exposed me to death on a daily basis. Consequently, by the time I was old enough to read my first novel, my fascination in the supernatural, especially ghosts, was firmly entrenched. Amos Tutuola’s ghost book, The Palmwine Drinkard (1952), introduced me to the written world of ghosts, replacing the oral ghost story-telling tradition I had hitherto known. When eventually I stumbled across Stephen King’s The Shinning (1977) years later, I was totally hooked on ghost stories. Film-wise, I would watch Ju on (The Grudge), Insidious, The Sixth Sense, A Christmas Carol or see Sadako crawl out of the television in The Ring any day over most horror films. So it goes without saying that when I decided to write my African Horror books, it would all be about ghosts, African ghosts with unfinished business.


Sadly, due to the uniqueness of my works, agents and traditional publishers have been reluctant to take the chance with such unchartered waters so I’ve been publishing my books under my own
imprint, Canaan-Star Publishing UK and vigorously promoting the genre. Today, I’m proud to say that my perseverance is yielding dividends and African Horror is now gaining more recognition in horror circles worldwide. These days, I’m being called upon by radio stations to discuss current news topics from the African continent especially those that relate to issues featured in my books. Otherwise, I spend my days trying to get my teenager to engage in conversation with me or if all else fails (as it inevitably does with taciturn teenagers), try to get my cat, Tinkerbell, to become the first talking cat in the world.


So, what exactly is African Horror? 
Africa has a cesspool of terrifying supernatural entities which very few cultures can rival in their sheer volume and malevolence. Coupled with the intense superstitious beliefs of the various tribes, it becomes apparent that African Horror as a genre, has a lot to offer. African Horror is therefore in my view, horror stories about any of the myriad of African supernatural entities, superstitions and practices, set in Africa with African protagonists in the main, depicting core African culture within a supernatural horror context. As is the case with most regional works of horror, I’ve adopted a thematic approach in my books. Africa is an immense continent with a diverse culture which can only be truly appreciated with this type of approach. I have opted to write about ghosts, since in my culture, the Igbo culture, the supernatural is accepted as a part of everyday living. Most of my writing is themed around supernatural vengeance from beyond the grave by ghosts with unfinished business. There is a strong moral element to my stories. Karma plays an important role, with ghostly vengeance for wrong-doings featuring frequently in the tales. Like the Japanese onryō or Vengeful Ghost, African ghosts become more powerful in death than in life and need the intervention of diviners or “witchdoctors” for exorcism rites. Unlike Western ghosts who can be benign, funny, mischievous or plain stupid, there’s nothing funny about African ghosts. These are ghosts with a mission, deadly or benign. These are ghosts shrouded in deep culture and mystery. They’re powerful, vengeful, wise, omnipotent and dangerous. They’re a new type of ghost horror fans are yet to come across unless they’re Africans. My books explore Igbo myths, superstitions and lore amidst hauntings, possessions, manifestations and supernatural occurrences. All the stories are set in Igboland, Old Biafra, in
present day Nigeria. I’ve tried to show how burial customs, deaths, Christianity, colonization and superstitions have affected African/Igbo beliefs in the afterlife, reincarnation and haunting.


Why do you love horror? 
Horror adds excitement to my life, brings in the thrill and oompff that’s otherwise absent in my daily existence unless a special occasion or unexpected event brings it into my experience. Like the highs sought by addicts, I live for that special shiver of anticipation the sight of a good horror book or film brings. I’m like a child who can’t wait to see what Santa’s left under the tree. The wonderful thing is getting lost in this mysterious, terrifying dark world, praying everything turns out alright in the end, even as you know you’ll derive immense satisfaction if it doesn’t. My everyday life always seems so mundane after I emerge from my fantasy world of horror. Yet, it always seems safer, saner, nicer and purer at the same time and that’s what I think keeps me returning to horror, knowing that my very ordinary life is infinitely better than the exciting terrors in the pages and screens of horror-world.


What’s your writing style? 
When I write, I write as if I’m the reader. I write the way I like to read, no frills, no unnecessary scenes, boring long-winded backstory, dump-in-bin secondary characters…I just get on with the story and let my characters tell it the way they want. I’ve always been an impatient reader who likes to know what’s happening without being bored with excessive descriptive narratives and long-winded conversations between very minor characters who do nothing to drive the story. I want to know everything… everything, no matter how terrible or harrowing. Don’t treat me with kid’s gloves. Give it to me as it is. So, I guess my writing style reflects my reading style, fast, direct, no holds barred. I sprinkle my work with Igbo words, which my readers find easy to understand as they follow the storyline. It makes it authentically African. I also try to highlight the unique culture, superstitions and beliefs of the Igbo tribe within the supernatural narrative that’s the hallmark of my work. Ritual murders of innocent children by evil witchdoctors, children accused of witchcraft, widows forced to drink “corpse water” used in washing the putrid corpses of their husbands, malevolent
haunting by the ghosts of people buried in bad forests, unhallowed grounds …these are just some of the harrowing themes in your books. Why do you write such disturbing works?


My personal life has been a brutal one with lots of deaths, abuse and violence. I pull on my experiences when writing my stories, experiences which my readers find unbelievable and disturbing. But I write them because like bad junk, I have to get them out of my head. My writing is therefore in most cases, a personal exorcism for me, even as I weave in the horror elements of ghostly manifestations into the narrative. There are also aspects of my African culture I object to even as I love so much of my heritage. I choose to address them in my books. Fantasy gives us the freedom to say things we would never otherwise say, hang out the dirty linen without worrying about nosy neighbor spying and bitching about it, reach for the stars and Nirvana with or without the world rooting for you. Fantasy is the ultimate release, unchained freedom and in my world of horror, I am finally free in a way I could never hope to be in my ordinary real life. There’s a lot of badness and goodness in this world. I’ve experienced both and in my writing, I share them with the world in the hope that it might make a perpetrator think twice and a survivor, rejoice.


Tell us about your books
My first African Horror book was The Reluctant Dead, published on 28th June 2014, incidentally, a date I have chosen to publish all my books. The Reluctant Dead is a collection of six short ghost stories. It was my gentle introduction to African Horror and showcased the uniqueness of the new horror subgenre. In it we see the ghost of a spurned wife return to wreak terrible vengeance on her husband and his mistress and we follow the travails of a young boy who is a night-flyer, trying to break a century-long curse on his bloodline by an angry ghost. These are just a couple of the stories in the book. I followed it up with Unhallowed Graves, published 28th June 2015. This is a collection of three Novellas, long stories, which goes in-depth into the dark terrors of my culture. It features my first white protagonist, a scornful diplomat, who is forced to confront the terrible secrets to The Night Market run by the dead after his wife buys him an unexpected gift from the market. Unhallowed Graves has so far proved the most popular work I’ve done to date. My latest book is a full novel, The Sleepless, published 28th June 2016. One of my reviewers said that she started dreaming of demons possessing her child after reading the book, that was how harrowing it was for her. I held nothing back when writing The Sleepless. It is African Horror unchained, starting with the gruesome ritual murder of a disabled child. I am working on my fourth African Horror novel due out 28th June 2017. The working title will be either “Disturbed” or Iwe (Fury). I am also working on an anthology piece for an American publisher also due out next year.


Finally, tell us about your favourite authors/books 

The Palmwine Drinkard by Amos Tutuola. Now a modern African classic, this book is like no other except maybe, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts by the same author! It’s fantastical, crazy, weird, hilarious, imaginative…I can’t say enough about this book, which incidentally was my very first introduction to horror. Discover ghosts as you’ve never seen them before; read dialogue that just blows your mind with its novelty. Some literary snobs initially slammed the book for the unbelievable grammatical errors that litter the narrative till they came to realise that this was precisely what made the book special, authentic, different and like no other, ever!

Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield. Another modern classic, a war story depicting the tragic heroism of the three hundred Spartans that sacrificed their lives to save Western democracy from Islamization. This book is so haunting that it stays with you for the rest of your life. The narrative voice is powerful, lyrical, masterful… truly unforgettable. So many scenes leave your skin with goose pimples while the tears just flow heedlessly. I have read this book four times and each time, I discover something new, the goose pimples still come and my tears still flow.

The Godfather by Mario Puzo. I think almost the whole world have read this book J. If they haven’t then they are missing a ride of a lifetime! This medium is not enough to say all the reasons why I love this amazing book. All I can say is, “this book is THE GREATEST!”

Spook Lights by Eden Royce. This book is amazing and unique as it’s also an emerging genre, Southern Gothic Horror, depicting the Gullah culture and written by a native Gullah writer. I love this book because there are many similarities between the Gullah culture and the Igbo culture that I write about, not to mention the graceful and lyrical prose that is the hallmark of Eden Royce’s works. An absolutely brilliant read.

Monday, October 24, 2016

31 Days of Horror: Day 24-- Trend Alert: African Horror

Today marks the beginning of a 3 day series on the very hot trend of African Horror. While this trend is still emerging in America, it has already begun to move into the mainstream as a popular subgenre of British horror thanks in large part to the work of Nigerian-British author, BBC contributor, and lawyer, Nuzo Onoh. Onoh is not only one of the most heralded writers of African horror, she is also its biggest promoter. She has made it her goal to educate the world on this thriving and vibrant subgenre.

We will hear from Onoh herself in a guest post written to you, the American library worker, tomorrow, but for today, I wanted to give you a very quick primer on African horror, point you to a few resources to explore on your own, and give you authors to check out.

 Let’s start with a primer. What is African horror? Well, in 2015, Onoh had this wonderful top 10 list explaining what African horror is and also, very importantly, is not
1. African Horror is not a reference to AIDS, famine or Ebola, just as Indian Horror is not a reference to rapes or honour killings. African Horror is a literary genre in its own right, a sub-genre of horror that has existed for centuries, albeit without a formal title till my book, The Reluctant Dead, began spearheading the term, African Horror. 
2. African Horror encompasses several horror sub-genres like supernatural horror, psychological horror, demonic/occultic horror, sci-fi horror (popularised by Nnedi Okoroafor) slasher/gore/splatter horror and paranormal romance to mention a few. My books are focused on African supernatural horror, specifically, ghosts and hauntings. 
3. Just like the old Japanese Kaidan tradition, African Horror stories are geographically targeted, depicting the core traditions, beliefs and superstitions of a particular village/tribe within a horror context. Thus, my books, The Reluctant Dead and Unhallowed Graves will resonate with anyone familiar with The Ring or The Grudge. 
4. African Horror is usually steeped in the moral values of individual tribes, with most stories reinforcing these values and the dire consequences of ignoring or abandoning them. Thus, in Unhallowed Graves, we witness the terrible events that befall a grieving mother who goes against the village traditions and attempts to resurrect her son buried in Ajo-ofia, the unhallowed burial ground of people deemed to have died an unclean or bad death. 
5. African Horror has a strong cinema presence in Nollywood films, a Nigerian film industry that produces popular drama, depicting terrifying supernatural events within an Igbo/African setting. 
6. Amos Tutuola, the famous author of The Palm-wine Drinkard and My Life in the bush of Ghosts, is the father of African Horror. His books are considered modern classics today and have been translated into several languages. 
7. Africans respect, fear, revere or abhor their Medicine men. Some cultures refer to them as Juju-men, Root-healers, Voodoo-men or witchdoctors. By whatever name they go, they all boil down to one thing - powerful men (and at times, very rarely, women) whose actions, good or bad, always impact on the daily lives of their people. No African Horror story is ever complete without reference to these powerful and controversial Medicine-men. 
8. The Gullah culture of the American South has very strong ties to African culture and their horror stories are very similar to African horror. Today, Eden Royce, author of the book, Spook Lights and one of the few people that still speak the Gullah language, is spear-heading the Southern Gothic Horror, steeped in Gullah beliefs and culture. People that love Southern Gothic Horror will enjoy African Horror too. 
9. African Horror stories are not Folktales, contrary to popular conception. These days, modern African Horror is written in prose and style similar to mainstream horror, which readers from all over the globe can relate to. My last book, The Reluctant Dead, enjoyed wide readership from fans worldwide, proving that true horror does indeed cross all boundaries. My latest book, Unhallowed Graves, follows in the same style, while retaining its distinct African voice. 
10. Finally, African Horror books and films are out there for anyone interested in discovering the terrifying tales from our mysterious continent. Unfortunately, due to the unsatisfactory classification of literary works, one is likely to find African horror books under "Multicultural" rather than under "Horror". Hopefully, in the near future, an overhaul of the classification system will see more horror works by Africans writers and non-African writers writing African Horror, classified under their rightful category - Horror.
In that list, Onoh mentions the late, Amos Tutuola whose works can be found in many American public libraries, but I would bet you don’t have a horror sticker on them.  Back then, we classified these books as African “Mythology,” but they are horror-- loud and proud. Yes, Tutuola’s works, like many African horror writers use the monster from folklore as a starting point, but so do Western authors.  How soon we forget that the entire concept of a zombie began in Haitian culture. Yes, it has evolved from that kind of zombie in the last few decades, but that is where it began. Yet, we do not call zombie tales “mythology.”

Also, since humans have lived on the African continent far longer than here in America, they have a huge number of awesome monsters in their storytelling tradition to draw off of.

In fact, I would like to argue in this post today that if you have a typical American horror fan, especially one who has “read it all,” your best place to take that reader is to the rich and vibrant history of African horror and its awesomely terrifying world of monsters. 

Click here for a list from Mental Floss on 11 legendary [and terrifying] monsters from all across Africa with an attribution to their country of origin. This is just a glimpse into the source material for an entire continent of horror fiction inspiration.


Please do not worry about a white person from a typical American suburb not being able to relate to these African tales. That is a cop out. If your reader is a horror fan already, that is all of the necessary background he or she will need to fall right into these stories and love the terror that follows. It all is based on the same appeal factors. It is just the monsters themselves who are a little different.


I should also point out that I am mostly writing about African horror written by authors from Nigeria and South Africa because their work is the most easily found in English.

You can click here to read about a brand new anthology of African horror writers with 10 authors you can read right now, including Onoh. Here is the table of contents with links to the authors’ Goodreads pages [where applicable]. The links will lead you to more authors and more story compilations by the very best African horror authors today:
“Daughter Dearest” by Chioma Odukwe – A woman who has just lost her husband finds herself in danger of losing her daughter as well and goes to desperate lengths to keep her in this unusual zombie story.
“Shame” by Nerine Dorman – A biracial couple try to find acceptance during South Africa’s post-apartheid transition period but find themselves confronted with a devastating horror instead. 
“Sleep Papa, Sleep” by Suyi Davies Okungbowa – A mistake made during a taboo trade leaves a young man in modern Lagos desperate to rid himself of something terrifying from beyond the grave. 
“Blood and Fire” by Sawaleh – Religious corruption in one of Africa’s largest Megachurches provokes an ancient and unspeakable horror that seeks to punish, corrupt and feed. 
“Koi-Koi” by Raymond Elenwoke – One of Nigeria’s most prevalent and persistent urban legends is given an origin story in this frightening interpretation of the Lady Koi-Koi mythos. 
“Eaters Of Flesh” by Ezeiyoke Chukwunonso  – A young university student is confronted by mysterious events involving his parents that threaten his sanity and his life. 
“Afin” by Edwin Okolo – Twisting the Snow White fairy tale in surprising ways and transposing it to pre-colonial Nigeria, the court of a king is thrown into disarray when his older wives pit themselves against his youngest. 
“Hadiza” by Nuzo Onoh – A man’s greed and lust lead him to divorce his faithful and loyal wife, an action that has dire consequences in this Nollywood-Horror style tale.
“The Wild Dogs” by Mandisi Nkomo – A Swedish woman volunteers to help fight a strange disease consuming Cape Town and comes faces to face with monstrous inhumanity. 
“Udu” by Damilare Falowo – A village girl and her newborn child are thrown into a cursed forest to die but in the forest she finds vengeful things that are worse than death. 
with an Introduction by Wole Talabi
I wanted to end by reminding you that there are some bigger name African writers of dark speculative fiction who you have in your libraries and who take the time to promote their lesser known colleagues including Lauren Beukes, Sarah Lotz, and Nnedi Okorafor. [Not surprisingly, 2 out of those 3 are white.] Let’s start with the known authors, and begin to branch out from there. You don’t want to miss out on this trend. Take advantage of its spike in popularity to grab some new reads for your patrons.
Tomorrow, Onoh, the true expert, will be here with a guest post, and then Wednesday, I will have a review of her latest novel, The Sleepless, which has already garnered heaps of praise across Great Britain. 

Sunday, October 23, 2016

31 Days of Horror: Day 23-- A Bevy of Best Lists

One of the best things about this time of year is that it is the only time of year that everyone and their sister [uncle, cousin, step brother's, best friend’s girlfriend, etc...] is out there posting their horror “best lists.”

Of course I love that I am getting an assist in helping you help horror readers, but there is a larger reason why I love this.  What is "horror" is such a personal thing.  What scares one person may not make another feel any terror. The more people we have compiling lists of what they find to be the "scariest" or "best" horror books, the more readers we can help.

The more people we have compiling their “best” horror lists, the more voices we have in the conversation, the more readers we can help. When we all add our voices of what we love more about horror, we represent a wider range of readers.

So today, I am helping with two lists my husband found for me from one of his favorite sources for book [actually all pop culture] coverage-- Paste Magazine:

Almost all of the books on the second lists can be found in my book or here on the blog, so if a title looks interesting to you, use the search bar in the top right of the blog to find out more. 

If you have a great list you found or made, please leave the link in the comments. Let’s all work together to help every reader.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

31 Days of Horror: Day 22-- Scary Book Display Contest from Booklist

Today I am passing on a contest from Booklist to win a free subscription or a box of books! And all you have to do is take a picture of the awesome display you probably already have up at your library.

It is all only through Facebook. Details here and below:


You know book displays are a great way to get crafty with your class or engage your patrons right as they come in the door. Show us what you're scaring up for Halloween this year!


First place: a free subscription to Booklist, including 22 issues a year, 4 issues of Book Links, and all the digital content that goes along with it!

Second place: a box of spooky books for adult readers

Third place: a box of spooky books for young readers

Then vote for your favorite photo by clicking on the vote button above. The winners are determined by popular vote so spread the word!


An example display made by the Booklist Staff

Friday, October 21, 2016

31 Days of Horror: Day 21-- Essay, "The Life and Afterlife of Horror Fiction"

I am not the only librarian out there who is serious about horror. This past summer I came across an essay by academic librarian, John Glover:
John Glover is a librarian at Virginia Commonwealth University, where he supports humanities research and instruction, contributes to various digital humanities projects, and studies quaint and curious volumes of forgotten lore. He has chapters forthcoming on Supernatural Horror in Literature and Laird Barron’s Old Leech stories. He also studies the research practices of writers, and last year he co-taught “Writing Researched Fiction” in VCU’s Department of English. He publishes fiction and literary essays as “J. T. Glover,” and his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Pseudopod, Thinking Horror, The Lovecraft eZine, and Nightscript, among other venues.
How did I know about it? Well because he quotes me and references my book [which by the way, can be bought as an eBook right now. You can start using it today and then use the archives of this blog to supplement it. I consider this blog the free update to the book-- shameless plug over].

Back to Mr. Glover. The essay is entitled, "The Life and After Life of Horror Fiction." From one of the opening paragraphs:

"If it weren’t for the rise of the web and its capacity to perpetuate both communities and content, the term “horror” would largely have fallen out of use by now to describe the genre. As things stand, however, I feel that we’re currently in the middle of two waves of fiction that could rightly be called “horror,” each as similar and distinct as the Gothic and the pulps. One of these waves is essentially the long tail of the last boom, and the other is a new formation built from literary fiction, a new attention to sociocultural concerns, and explicit engagement with the genre’s history. The coexistence of these two waves has caused anxiety in the field, not least because the word “horror” itself became anathema after the market crash of the mid-1990s. Many authors working today take a nuanced approach to writing horror—heavily informed by the lessons of the boom."
While my focus is on the readers of horror and how to match the books with them, Glover is more focused on the literature of horror itself.  This is a very insightful and interesting article that will give you a larger view picture of the current state of horror.

It also serves as a way to look at what we do-- matching readers with books-- from the other side of the equation. It may sound like semantics, but think about it. We, rightfully, start with the reader in front of us and then try to find the correct book for that reader. This is the correct way for us to have the RA interaction. But, sometimes it helps to step out of your focus for a second and take a look at things from the other side of the coin. Taking a moment to begin with the books themselves, gives you a chance to look with fresh eyes at the patron in front of you. It gives you a different perspective and makes you think.

So thanks to Glover for being the "Bizzaro Becky." Check out his essay. I promise you will learn something about the current state of horror fiction.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

31 Days of Horror: Day 20: Guest Post by Brian Matthews

It’s Day 2 of guest posts by authors you might not know about, making their case to you-- the library worker-- as to why your patrons might want to read their books.

I love these posts because the authors have not only opened up to you about themselves, their inspiration, and their writing, but they have also given you some wonderful book talking points to hand sell these titles.

Today it is Brian W. Matthews.

***************************************************************


Somewhere in the middle of nowhere, where longitude misses latitude by a narrow but vital margin, and where the air crackles with complex energies, a narrow dirt path runs the length of the world, unfolding like a long black tongue. 

Along this path we walk hand-in-hand, under the fractal shadows of ancient trees just starting to lose their leaves. It stretches on and on, cluttered with small, dry bones and ghostly spider webs. For the month is October, Halloween is rapidly approaching, and the supernatural rules supreme.

I’ve always loved this time of year. As a child, I looked forward to Halloween, even more so than Christmas, because Halloween was when the television stations rolled out their stock of horror films. As much as I enjoyed the classic Universal monsters—Dracula, Frankenstein, the Mummy—I preferred William Castle’s movies, particularly those starring the incredible Vincent Price. I still remember sitting on the edge of the sofa, legs crossed, hands stuffed in my mouth, as Mr. Price fought an incredibly silly looking creature in The Tingler, or how he terrorized a houseful of unsuspecting guests in The House on Haunted Hill. What I enjoyed most about these movies, I think, was that they didn’t contain the traditional horror monsters—vampires, werewolves, ghosts. They looked beyond those tropes (old even back in the 1950s) to create new terrors, ones the public hadn’t seen. And because the public hadn’t seen them, because they hadn’t any experience with them, they didn’t know what to expect. These films created a whole new category of monsters to fear.

Then later, when I was a bit older, something wonderful happened: an uncle gave me a copy of James Herbert’s The Fog, a novel about a mysterious crack in the earth from which an eerie fog seeps, one that causes insanity in anyone who come into contact with it. I read it in two days. The story horrified me, and by the time I’d finished it, I was hooked. 

Horror movies were cool, but horror books were magic. And I knew where to find more of that magic.

The library.

I began checking out books: Shirley Jackson’s classic The Haunting of Hill House, Richard Matheson’s homage to the former, Hell House, Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby, a novel whose influence can be felt in my latest novel, The Conveyance. I loved how they frightened me and entertained me at the same time. I couldn’t get enough of them. These authors made up what I call the first Golden Age of horror writing.

Soon afterward, I discovered a new clutch of horror authors, and that discovery ultimately changed my life. (So much so that if I hadn’t, you wouldn’t be reading this.)

These newcomers, who could conceivably be called the old guard now, brought horror to the forefront of genre fiction: Stephen King, Clive Barker, Anne Rice, Dean Koontz, Robert McCammon, Richard Laymon, Ramsey Campbell. The list goes on. They inspired. They frightened. They brought terror into our backyards. They heralded, for me, the second Golden Age of horror writing. 

While each influenced me in small ways, I have to say that Clive Barker influenced me the most, followed closely by Stephen King. Barker prefers to create non-traditional horrors such as the Cenobites of his Hellbound Heart novella (and later in his Hellraiser movies) or Dr. Philip Decker, the lunatic murderer in Cabal. Then there is Mr. Hood, the mysterious warden of Holiday House in his children’s fairytale, The Thief of Always. Barker’s horrors have a more human element, often rising from the human condition, an approach I found compelling. King, on the other hand, approaches his novels in themes, over which he constructs solid stories, brick by bloody brick. Some of his best works touch on the broad themes that affect all of us, like the rise of peer pressure and the dangers it presents to the more fragile of our youth—Carrie; America’s infatuation with celebrity, sometimes bordering on psychotic obsession—Misery; and more recently, the unhealthy preoccupation the iGeneration has with its electronic gadgets—End of Watch. 

I strive to blend these approaches in my own writing, which began with two short stories that appeared in the science fiction anthology, Foreshadows: The Ghosts of Zero.  “Lament,” the first story I wrote for the collection, concerns itself with the consequences of behavior, and my belief that good deeds are rewarded, while evils are, at some point, always returned tenfold. The second story, “Graveduggery” (co-authored with fellow author, Jeff LaSala), had a predetermined plot, so I couldn’t control the theme, but it does contain what I feel is my best writing from those early years—a sequence that takes place in a fictional Nazi concentration camp in Poland. It was this piece that convinced me to reach for the brass ring and write a novel.

Released in 2012 by JournalStone, my debut novel, Forever Man, explored the theme of racism, and how preconceived notions about a person’s color can have disastrous consequences. In addition to this deeper theme, the story has the requisite-but-nontraditional monster, called a Fek, along with the associated carnage. But the creature isn’t the central plot point of the story. Rather, it is the human interaction and reaction to racism, it is a mother’s fear for her kidnapped child, and it is how a small group of innocents can ultimately defeat overwhelming evil that drives the story.

Revelation, the second book in the Forever Man series, addressed the recent surge in religious intolerance and how fanatical devotion to any one thought or belief can be perilous. Also filled with unusual creatures (including a nasty bit of fiction called the Cybell), Revelation also addressed a theme I would more fully explore in my next novel: child abuse.

To me, horror is much more than the ghostly bump in the night, or the muffled thump of a heartbeat coming from within a wall, or the creak of a footstep on the stairs when no one else is supposed to be home. Real horror, the kind that makes you squirm and want to close the book, is often about how people treat one another, the evils we can inflict on another human being, more often than not someone who is weaker, like a child. During my years as a child therapist, I saw too much of this abuse from an uncomfortably close perspective.

Which brings me to my latest work, The Conveyance. Couched in a creepy, small town setting, this was my boldest attempt to date to weave a story that blended mainstream fiction with the horror genre. In fact, the first third or so of the novel contains no outright horror, just a slow building of suspense as you learn about the characters and their strengths and weaknesses, along with the occasional hint about trouble simmering just beneath the surface of life’s pedestrian normality. As the story progresses, there is blood and loss and death, but the real horrors, the brutal twist-the-knife-in-your-gut moments, center around child abuse and the hazards of toxic love. While I am proud of all my works, this is the one of which I am proudest.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my tale. It has taken some time to tell, and we are nearing the end of this dark, desolate path. Fear not, for more horrors lurk on the horizon, tales told by what I am calling the third Golden Age of horror writing, tales told by the likes of Joe Hill and Jonathan Maberry and Sarah Pinborough and Caitlín R. Kiernan. Tales told by a wave of talented newcomers like Josh Malerman and Paul Temblay and, if you will pardon this moment of hubris, Yours Truly. If you haven’t heard of these people, visit your local library and look them up. Their stories will keep you awake, night after night.

I promise.

BIO: By day, Brian W. Matthews works as a financial planner, but after the sun goes down—in the deep dark of night—he scribes stories meant to entertain and, perhaps, terrify. When he isn’t developing investment portfolios or crafting tales of monsters and madmen, he tries valiantly to knock a little white ball over the rolling green hills of a golf course without hitting traps or trees. He can also be found lurking in the wilds of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, hunting and fishing and generally causing mayhem. Brian lives in southeast Michigan with his wife, daughter, and two step-daughters. 

Use these links to learn more about Brian W. Matthews: