13 Creepy Books For Halloween Written by Women


Sure, there are a few impressive male horror writers out there (I hear this Stephen King guy is a real up and comer), but most of the stories that truly give me waking nightmares are penned by women. Perhaps it’s because women already know the horror of living under the patriarchy, or because many women (though certainly not all) have bodies that do things like bleed and give birth to small screaming demons, but women-centric horror seems to be particularly brutal. Here are a few deliriously creepy books written by women (but you might want to keep the lights on).

Women have been writing horror for a long time, too. Cool goth teen Mary Shelley kick-started the modern horror genre with Frankenstein, which just so happened to also start our modern genre of science fiction (because everything you love was invented by teen girls). Shelley also learned how to write her name by tracing the letters on her mother’s grave, because she is more goth than you. Since that first story of reanimated corpses and irresponsible scientists, horror has evolved from Gothic novels of adventure and woe to creepy modern stories that will crawl under your skin and keep you up at night. Here are just some of the must-read horror stories by and about women:

1. ‘We Have Always Lived in the Castle’ by Shirley Jackson

Merricat Blackwood lives in a big house with her beloved sister and her confused uncle. Everyone else in their family is dead. As we get to know Merricat, our narrator, and her strange world of make-believe, we start to get the sneaking suspicion that something is a bit… off with the Blackwood family. Or perhaps very off. We Have Always Lived in the Castle is quite simply a masterpiece of creepy tension, culminating in a plot twist that will make you want to hide under the covers.

2. ‘White is for Witching’ by Helen Oyeyemi

The haunted house is a pretty standard horror trope. But in Helen Oyeyemi’s hands, the haunted house becomes a beautiful, emotional punch to the gut. White is for Witching is the story of the Silver family, who are trying to recover from a tragic loss. The daughter, Miranda, seems to be manifesting her grief by hearing women in the walls and developing a newfound appetite for chalk, until the dark night that she vanishes completely.

3. ‘Rebecca’ by Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca is about as classically creepy as you can get. At first glance, our heroine seems to be living in a romance novel: she’s a lowly orphan maid who’s been swept off her feet by dashing widower Maxim de Winter. Great, right? But once she arrives at Mr. de Winter’s enormous country estate, she begins to realise that the previous Mrs. de Winter might be threatening to destroy her marriage from beyond the grave.

4. ‘Thus Were Their Faces: Selected Short Stories’ by Silvina Ocampo

Possession in a house of sugar. A marble statue of a winged horse that speaks to a little girl. Arsonist children who lock up their own mothers. A little dog who can record dreams. I don’t know where Silvina Ocampo gets her bizarre, surrealist ideas, but her short stories are brilliant and creepy as hell.

5. ‘Frankenstein’ by Mary Shelley

You can’t talk about lady horror authors without talking about Mary. Frankenstein was not technically the first Gothic novel, but a lot of our horror tropes started with this one weird book. If you only know the Hollywood version, check out the original novel: it still holds up as the creepy, gut-wrenching story of one mad scientist who was also a terrible father to his corpse baby.

6. ‘And Then There Were None’ by Agatha Christie

Ten strangers, each with their own dark and complicated past, find themselves invited to the same island for an eccentric millionaire’s party. But surprise: there’s no party, and the guests keep dying, one by one, in all sorts of inventive ways that also just so happens to be written in a poem on the wall. And Then There Were None combines everything you love about the game Cluedo with everything you love about Saw, and it’s a must-read for all horror fans.

7. ‘The Fever’ by Megan Abbott

Deenie and Eli Nash are typical high school kids: Deenie the diligent student and Eli the hockey star and popular jock. But when Deenie’s best friend has some sort of seizure in the middle of class, the Nash family find themselves in the middle of a growing hysteria. There is some spreading contagion in this idyllic suburban town, and no one knows where it came from, or how to stop it.

8. ‘Bødy’ by Asa Nonami

The word “body” is already pretty horrifying. Asa Nonami’s Bødy takes it a step further, though, with thematically linked stories of straight up body horror. Each of the five stories focuses on someone’s perception of a body part, covering the buttocks, blood, face, hair and chin, and each story is more chilling than the next.

9. ‘Ghost Summer: Stories’ by Tananarive Due

Gracetown is a sleepy little town in rural Florida, so you know something creepy is about to go down. In Ghost SummerTananarive Due weaves together one novella and several short stories to tell us of both literal and figurative ghosts. Her stories look at the people affected by the strange and paranormal and, in at least one tale, even take on the monster’s perspective.

10. ‘How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend’ by Linda Addison

Don’t think poetry can be horrifying? Try reading Linda Addison. How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend includes both fiction and poetry, and both will give you the sneaking suspicion that someone is watching you from the crack in the closet door. Here you’ll find young witches, UFOs, land sharks, and a haunting look at Halloween paranoia.

11. ‘Strangers on a Train’ by Patricia Highsmith

Guy Haines and Charles Anthony Bruno are passengers on the same train. They both have people in their life who are giving them grief. They both kind of wish those people would go away. So they figure… why not help each other out with a little outsourced murder? Strangers on a Train is more in the thriller/mystery vein than typical horror, but Highsmith’s ability to get inside a murderer’s mind is about as creepy as it gets.

12. ‘The Shining Girls’ by Lauren Beukes

Time traveling serial killers. Time traveling serial killers. Harper Curtis is a man from another time, and Kirby Mazrachi is a girl who isn’t supposed to have a future. Harper is meant to kill all of the “Shining Girls” throughout history, but Kirby is determined to bring him to justice. Half horror thriller, half sci-fi mystery, The Shining Girls will keep you guessing as Kirby draws closer to the impossible truth.

13. ‘Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?’ by Joyce Carol Oates

For a short horror read that will utterly ruin your entire life, try Joyce Carol Oates’ Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? It’s loosely based on a real life serial killer (so that’s fun), but it’s also kind of about the devil. The entirety of Oates’ creepiest story revolves around a strange man called Arnold Friend trying to coax a young woman into his car. That’s it, that’s the whole plot. But it’s so stomach-churning, so chilling, so next-level creepy that Arnold Friend will stay with you for a long, long time.

Happy reading!


Via: https://www0.bustle.com/13-creepy-books-for-halloween

Writing Prompt: Spooky Story

writing prompt scary story

In the run up to Halloween, I will be doing some themed writing prompts; and without further ado here is today’s:

Write a spooky legend about your neighborhood.

Suburbia can be just as scary as the big city! What does it look like? Who lives there? What happened…?

Think Urban Legend or Scary Movie, make it as creepy as you like – but remember, you just made it up so don’t freak yourself out!

Via: https://www.bustle.com/writing-prompts-for-fall

Writing Prompt: School of Magic


In the run up to Halloween, I will be doing some themed writing prompts; and without further ado here is today’s:

Design your very own school of magic!

What does it look like?

What subjects are taught?

Who are the teachers?

What’s the hot back-to-school gossip?

Anything goes, so have some fun with it…

Via: https://www.bustle.com/writing-prompts-for-fall

Man Booker Prize 2017 Goes To George Saunders For Lincoln In The Bardo

man booker george saunders

The American short story writer George Saunders has won the Man Booker prize for his first full-length novel, Lincoln in the Bardo.

The book is based around a real event: the night in 1862 when Abraham Lincoln buried his 11-year-old son Willie in a Washington cemetery. Imagining the boy trapped in the Bardo – a Tibetan Buddhist term for a kind of limbo – Saunders’ novel follows the fellow dead, also trapped in the graveyard and unwilling to accept death, who observe the boy as he desperately waits for his father to return.

Written almost entirely in dialogue, the novel also includes snippets of historical texts, biographies and letters, some of which contradict each other and others that Saunders, 58, created himself. In his review for the Guardian, fellow author Hari Kunzru praised Lincoln in the Bardo as “a tale of great formal daring”, adding: “[It] stands head and shoulders above most contemporary fiction, showing a writer who is expanding his universe outwards, and who clearly has many more pleasures to offer his readers.”

Accepting the prize, athe 58-yearold Texan-born author made an eloquent defence of the importance of culture. “If you haven’t noticed, we live in a strange time, so the question at the heart of the matter is pretty simple,” he said. “Do we respond to fear with exclusion and negative projection and violence? Or do we take that ancient great leap of faith and do our best to respond with love? And with faith in the idea that what seems other is actually not other at all, but just us on a different day.

“In the US we’re hearing a lot about the need to protect culture. Well this tonight is culture, it is international culture, it is compassionate culture, it is activist culture. It is a room full of believers in the word, in beauty and ambiguity and in trying to see the other person’s point of view, even when that is hard.”

The chair of judges, Lola Young, described the novel as “an extraordinary piece of work. Admitting that she initially felt challenged by its layout, which is reminiscent of a screenplay, the Labour peer said she was eventually “captivated” by work which she came to regard as unique.

“The challenge is actually part of its uniqueness. It is almost saying, ‘I dare you to engage with this kind of story, in this kind of way.’ It is incredibly rewarding.

“For us, it really stood out because of its innovation, its very different styling, the way it, almost paradoxically, brought to life these almost dead souls in this other world. There was this juxtaposition of the very personal tragedy of Abraham Lincoln and the death of his very young son next to his public life, as the person who really instigated the American civil war. You’ve got this individual death, very close and personal; you’ve got this much wider issue of the political scenario and the death of hundreds of thousands of young men; and then you’ve got this weird state across the cemetery, with these souls who are not quite ready to be fully dead, as it were, trying to work out some of the things that plagued them during their lives.”

The author of four collections of short stories, two novellas and a long body of journalism, the Texas-born Saunders came to writing relatively late, initially training as a geophysicist. After working as a tech writer, a field in which he was rewarded for brevity, he began writing short stories. His first collection CivilWarLand in Bad Decline was published in 1996. He was awarded a MacArthur Genius grant and a Guggenheim fellowship in 2006, then won the inaugural Folio prize for his story collection, Tenth of December, in 2014.

Saunders is the second American in a row to win the Booker prize, after last year’s winner Paul Beatty. Saunders’ win falls four years after eligibility rules were changed to allow writers of any nationality writing in the English language and published in the UK. There has been fierce criticism of the rule change.

The judges took five hours to come to what Young called a “collegial”, yet unanimous choice. She denied any concerns about Saunders’ nationality, saying: “We don’t look at the nationality of the writer. Honestly it’s not an issue for us. We’re solely concerned with the book, what that book is telling us.”

The books losing out on the prize were 4321 by Paul Auster (US), Elmet by Fiona Mozley (UK), Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (UK-Pakistan), History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (US) and Autumn by Ali Smith (UK).

With 144 novels submitted for the 2017 prize, Saunders’ novel was among a starry, 13-book longlist, a rarity in recent years as more debuts and less-established authors have been named as contenders. This year’s longlist included Arundhati Roy, a previous winner of the Booker, as well as authors who had also won the Pulitzer, the Costa, the Baileys, the Folio, the Impac and the Goldsmiths prizes.

The £50,000 win, announced at a black-tie dinner at the Guildhall in London, was yet another success for an independent publisher; released by Bloomsbury, Lincoln in the Bardo is the third win in a row for an independent, after two consecutive wins for Oneworld publications.

Sales for Saunders’ novel have trailed behind Smith’s in the UK, with Lincoln in the Bardo selling about 10,000 copies so far, compared with 50,000 of Autumn. Saunders can expect his sales to skyrocket; last year’s winner, The Sellout, has now sold more than 360,000 physical copies, with sales in the week after the prize announcement jumping by 658%.

Young’s fellow judges this year were the writer and critic Lila Azam Zanganeh, the novelist and poet Sarah Hall, the artist and author Tom Phillips, and the travel writer and novelist Colin Thubron. Saunders was presented with the award on Tuesday night by the Duchess of Cornwall.

Via: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/oct/17/man-booker-prize-2017-second-american-author-george-saunders-lincoln-in-the-bardo?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

In Cold Blood: The Story Behind The First True Crime Novel


The first true crime novel almost destroyed the man who wrote it. Howard Linskey, an author featured in CBS Reality’s new true crime TV series Written In Blood, finds out why.

The story of the first true crime novel is as famous as the crime that inspired it – and the man who completed the book never wrote another.

Truman Capote was already a literary star in 1959, when he read about the Clutter killings in the quiet town of Holcomb. Capote was famous for writing Breakfast at Tiffany’s but he wanted to try something new – the first ‘non-fiction novel’ – and this felt like the ideal subject.

Herbert Clutter and his family were brutally murdered when two men broke into their farm one night, looking for money they thought was locked in a safe that did not in fact exist. Enraged, they resolved to leave no witnesses. Herbert’s throat was cut then he was blasted with a shotgun; his wife Bonnie, their fifteen-year-old son Kenyon and sixteen-year-old daughter Nancy were all gunned down before their killers fled.

Truman Capote left New York for the scene of the murders, travelling with none other than Harper Lee, his best friend since childhood and author of the recently completed, To Kill A Mockingbird, which would soon become a huge sensation. Capote and Lee arrived at a small town still reeling from the shock of the murders. The eccentric, effeminate, outspoken Capote must have stood out a mile in rural Kansas but he charmed the inhabitants of Holcomb and even the special investigator, Alvin Dewey, to get the inside information he was looking for. The one thing Capote lacked was any trace of the killers. It seemed the police trail had run cold.

Six weeks later, a former cell mate who knew of their plan to rob the safe, identified Perry Smith and Richard ‘Dick’ Hickock as the Holcomb murderers. They were arrested, tried and sentenced to death by hanging, admitting their guilt along the way.

This is where the story of In Cold Blood takes a highly unusual turn. Despite the savage and brutal nature of the crimes, Capote decided it was necessary to get the killer’s version of events, because it would humanise them and make his book more vivid. He arranged to visit the convicted men and struck up an unlikely friendship with them, bonding with Perry Smith in particular, thanks in part to the murderer’s interest in art, music and books. He kept up a correspondence with Smith for five long years, while the death sentences were repeatedly appealed and his novel remained tantalisingly incomplete.

Capote realised he had placed himself in an impossible position by getting too close to the killers. In a bitter twist worthy of any crime story, he did not want Perry to hang, yet needed the sentences to be carried out if he was ever going to have an ending for his book. The mental torment on Capote began to grow.

“I thought that Mr. Clutter was a very nice gentleman. I thought so right up to the moment that I cut his throat.” – Perry Smith by Truman Capote in In Cold Blood.

As one of ten crime authors asked to appear in CBS Reality’s new true crime series Written In Blood, which began on 3 September, I prefer to keep my distance from real-life killers. Mark Billingham, Peter James, Simon Kernick, Angela Clarke, Marnie Riches, RC Bridgestock, Luke Delaney, Elly Griffiths, Alex Marwood and myself have all written books influenced, in part or whole, by true crimes, ranging from the callous, so-called honour killing of Banaz Mahmod to the horrific James Bulger murder.

My episode covers the infamous Moors murderer, Ian Brady, who, with Myra Hindley, killed five children in the early sixties. My novel The Search features a fictional character, loosely based on Brady and in no way sympathetic to him. When young Susan Verity disappears, suspicion falls on Adrian Wicklow, who shares Brady’s sadistic desire to torment the police. My research on Brady was disturbing enough without actually having to sit down with the real killer, who ironically died, after 51 years in prison, just one week after The Search was published.

Even if I had been writing about the Moors murderers themselves, I could never imagine visiting Brady – let alone striking up a friendship with him – to gain insight into his awful crimes. Rightly or wrongly, Capote put himself through that very process to complete his novel, but it took a terrible toll on him.

Perry Smith and Richard Hickock eventually lost their final appeals and both men went to the gallows on 14 April 1965. They asked Capote to be there when they died and he reluctantly agreed, witnessing Hickock hang but running out of the room just before Perry was executed.

Truman finally had his ending, but the anguish that caused him and the six years it took to finish In Cold Blood drove Capote close to madness. He never finished another book. Instead, he was left with lifelong addictions to drink and drugs that directly contributed to his early demise from liver disease in 1984, aged just 59.

Two Hollywood films have been made about Capote’s obsession with the Clutter family murders and their killers. The late Philip Seymour Hoffman won a best actor Oscar playing him in Capote, while British actor, Toby Jones, earned rave reviews for his equally brilliant portrayal of Truman in Infamous.

The book was finally published in 1966 and was a huge success. In Cold Blood is still in print and considered something of a masterpiece. The first true crime novel has been translated into thirty languages and sold millions of copies. Whether Truman himself considered it all worth it in the end is debatable.


Written in Blood airs every Sunday at 10pm since 3 September, exclusively on CBS Reality. Howard Linskey’s episode on the Moors Murderers will be broadcast on 5 November.

Via: https://www.deadgoodbooks.co.uk/in-cold-blood-truman-capote-howard-linskey/amp/