Days are shorter, shadows longer: Halloween approaches. We're dedicating this issue of Printers Row Journal to all sorts of tricks and treats — monsters and murder, witches and spies. Since a remake of Stephen King's “Carrie” opened in movie theaters Friday, let's kick it off with five classic collections of stories not by the master of horror. No disrespect to King; I just assume you've already read his work (and if not, get to it already). The fun in horror is that the stories only work if the reader fills in the gaps with her own emotional response. Get ready to play along.
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"Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural" edited by Phyllis Cerf Wagner and Herbert Wise
First published in 1944, "Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural" deserves a place in every well-rounded library. It's a collection of 52 stories by a cast of heavy-hitters: Balzac, Poe, James, Wharton, Hemingway, Hardy, Wells, Faulkner, Hawthorne, Dickens, Kipling, Lovecraft and more. Modern Library chose pitch-perfect art for the dust jacket; Henry Fuseli's "Nightmare" says it all.
"Casting the Runes and Other Ghost Stories" by M.R. James
M.R. James, a scholar who served as provost of both King's College and Eton from 1905-1936, wrote ghost stories to read to friends at Christmastime. A hundred years later, his voice still sounds from the page as his characters go about their seemingly mundane lives — a relatively new construct in horror at the time — only to be interrupted by the supernatural.
"Shirley Jackson: Novels and Stories"
Everyone reads "The Lottery" in school now, but you're missing out if you stop there. This volume collects "The Haunting of Hill House" and "We Have Always Lived in the Castle" along with short stories. These works are less about ghosts than the punishing psychological effects of isolation: "Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within." Haunting indeed.
"The October Country" by Ray Bradbury
What would Halloween be without Waukegan native Ray Bradbury? No one evokes the season quite like him: "That country where hills are fog and rivers are mist ... and whose people passing at night on the empty walks sound like rain." Follow Bradbury through his mirrored mazes and sideshow spectacles — always familiar, always unsettling.
"20th Century Ghosts" by Joe Hill
Let's conclude this list with a nod to an author whom Stephen King has truly, um, influenced: his son Joe Hill. Hill's latest book, "NOS4A2" winks at his father's legacy, but this 2007 collection is all his: smart, dark, funny and creepy as all "Twilight Zone."
Jennifer Day is editor of Printers Row Journal.