18th Jun2020

Ten Pretty Underrated Horror Novels You Should Read

by Chris Cummings

Who doesn’t love a creepy novel once in a while, eh? I mean, I know I do. Horror is in my blood and has been for a long, long time, and so it’s only natural that I’m a fan of horror fiction too. I’ve read it for decades, beginning with my childhood, spent reading Point Horror books with titles like The Babysitter, Trick or Treat and The Funhouse. As I’ve gotten older (and older) I’ve sought out horror books that had something unique about them, or that sounded up my alley. I tend to like horror novels with a cinematic and comic style, books that I can almost SEE on a screen as I read. That’s the sweet spot.

So, I thought it might be cool to highlight ten horror novels, most of them fairly recent, that you should check out if you haven’t yet. I’ve mixed up the list, giving a variety of subgenres from ghosts to demons, from werewolves to exorcisms. Check it out:

10. Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

Set in 1990, Meddling Kids tells the story of a group of misfits who were part of a teenage detective club at the end of the 70s, and come back together years later to solve some cases that went unsolved in their childhood. It’s a Scooby-Doo mystery, a Famous Five case, a blend of Stranger Things and Stephen King’s IT, with dashes of Nancy Drew thrown in for good measure. It’s nostalgic and creepy and funny. I was completely besotted with this book, and Cantero managed to make something that could have been written off as a mere “cash in on nostalgia” into a smart, thoughtful and brilliantly told story.

9. Breathers by S.G Browne

Something a little on the funny side of horror is always good, and you can’t really compile a list of horror novels without having a zombie or two in there somewhere, right? Breathers is a love story, kinda, about zombies who fall for one another. It sounds silly, and maybe it is, but it’s also kind of touching, has plenty of gore, and a splash of humour to keep things entertaining throughout. A rom-com with zoms, it’s one I had a lot of fun with, and if you’re not really a horror person then this would be a good stepping-in point. Charming.

8. Hater by David Moody

This book simply hasn’t received the love it so deserves. I first read Hater years ago, and have delved back into it a few times since. A story of a world suddenly gone mad, with violent bursts blowing up everywhere, and people turning from normal and decent people into psychotic and vicious murderers within seconds. We spend our time with Danny, who is trying to keep his family safe as the world outside his home is flooding with people turning to Haters. It isn’t based on race, gender, sexuality or age, and anyone seemingly can become one of them. Yikes! It’s a frantic and fantastic story that has apparently been picked up for a movie, so we’ll see if that happens. Until then… read this one. It’s great.

7. My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

The first of two Hendrix books to make this list. It might be odd, due to just how many great horror novels are out there, but when I was compiling the list I wanted to include a variety of themes, and this had to make the cut. A whimsical nostalgic read, it feels like you’ve grabbed a mix-tape, a bag of space raiders and a panda pop and jumped in the 1980s again. It’s a blast, a tale of friendship and exorcism (obviously) told in a charming and breezy way by one of the modern unique voices in the genre. I love it.

6. Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky

Chbosky’s first novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, is a huge bestseller across the globe with a movie remake, which is also smashing, to boot. It’s odd, then, that he followed that up many years later with a horror novel about a young kid who goes missing into the woods near his home, and when he returns days later, he has a voice giving him instructions… and not necessarily the good kind. It’s a haunting, eerie and atmospheric book packed with that creepy feeling that resonates as somewhat nostalgic. A departure from his debut, yes, but a damn good novel either way. I think maybe Chbosky’s found his new calling.

5. The Boatman’s Daughter by Andy Davidson

Set in the deep south, this bayou tale is a real mishmash of fantastical prose and wonderfully dark southern-gothic storytelling. Bringing sacrifice and witches into the equation, as a woman tries to fight back against a demented preacher, this is the sort of eerie swamp-song that you need in your life.

4. Mongrels by Stephen Graham Jones

A werewolf coming-of-age story (there aren’t enough of those, quite frankly, these days) about a young lad who is trying to find his place in the world, all while harnessing this unlocked power of the monster beneath. It’s a story of family, of struggle, or heritage and hardship, and Jones’ writing is both poetic and raw, giving this a real emotion to it. It’s a fantastic book, and one that is more on the gloomy and sad side of things rather than pure-horror. It isn’t all-fists-and-teeth gore, but it’s a damn good, and underrated, novel.

3. Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series has spanned eleven books to date, starting with Sandman Slim in 2007, with the most recent addition, Hollywood Dead, released in 2018. It’s a demonic, gory, violent, funny and ultra-cool series of books about a half-human/half-angel guy called James Stark who claws his way out of hell to seek revenge against the mother-bleepers who put him there, and took his life apart in the process. It’s fantastic, and never short of shocks, twists and blasts of craziness to keep you enthralled. I don’t hear enough people talking about this series, and it’s a crying shame.

2. Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Joe Hill, son of legendary horror icon Stephen King, has been knocking out fantastic comic-horror for a long while now, but his debut (so not especially VERY recent, I admit) is still my favourite of his work. His 2007 haunting story of a retired metal singer who collects haunted artifacts and winds up haunted by a dead man’s suit is absolutely terrifying in places, and reads like a dream. I mean… a very bad dream that makes you feel a little bit damp in the trouser department, but still… a dream. Going on to write other great stuff like Horns, NOS4R2 and Strange Weather, Hill has become one of those authors I always look out for. This one, if you haven’t read it, is well worth your time.

1. Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix

Now, this is a personal list with a whole pile of personal choices. There are SO many horror novels out there but Grady Hendrix is one of my favourite modern horror authors, and Horrorstor, his novel that looks like an IKEA catalogue about a haunted flatpack furniture store, tops the list. I just love it. I’ve read it on a number of occasions and the whole tone, bursts of humour, genuinely unsettling plot, and original and unique location, gives it something special. I feel like this is a must-read for horror lovers, a top notch ghost tale with a modern and contemporary twist. Hendrix has recently released “The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires” which has been getting rave reviews from horror lovers, so I shall have to check that out soon, and perhaps you should too.

Thanks for reading. Do you have any horror novel recommendations up your sleeve? Let us know!

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