Top ten spooky reads for Halloween

Top ten spooky reads for Halloween

Skulduggery Pleasant author Derek Landy runs down some seriously spooky reads to delve into this Halloween season.

Derek Landy’s popular cult series Skulduggery Pleasant is getting an original graphic novel with Bad Magic, A Skulduggery Pleasant Graphic Novewhere the fan-favourite fantasy detective is brought vibrantly to life in full colour as never before. To mark the release of Bad Magic (and of course to celebrate the horror season now we’re firmly in October), Derek Landy tells us some top spooky reads…

IT by Stephen King

I could have picked a dozen different books by King and they’d all deserve the spotlight, but for that special combination of small-town horror, nostalgic coming-of-age terror, and sheer cosmic weirdness, IT is hard to beat.

The Drive-In by Joe R. Lansdale

Joe Lansdale has written some of the coolest sci-fi and the funniest, grittiest crime novels, but his horror work stands out as a bizarro plunge into everything there is to love about the genre. The Drive-In, and its sequels, tell the tale of a group of friends whose run-down drive-in is suddenly plucked from Texas by unknown forces. Warning: it gets weird.

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

Just a brilliant tale about a disturbing serial killer able to travel through time, seeking out girls who ‘shine’, and the one young woman who escapes his clutches and is determined to find and stop him. This is a fantastically written, wholly original thriller from a wholly original writer.

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

A wonderful villain (a soul-sucking vampire in a Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith) and a fantastically flawed yet resourceful heroine, this is a genuinely scary story of a mother’s fight to save her child from the evils of Christmasland. Wonderfully written, thrilling, and dripping with atmosphere — if you’ve ever been even slightly unnerved by hearing a Christmas carol in the middle of summer, this is for you.

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

It’s 1988. Abby and Gretchen are best friends in high school. Their lives revolve around hairspray, the daily battle to cover up acne, and each other — all while Tiffany plays on the radio. It’s funny, touching, teenage angst that, yes, quickly gets interrupted when one of them gets possessed by a demon. This is clever, witty stuff, where the heart is warmed and wrenched in equal measure.

The Wishing Pool by Tananarive Due

A collection of short stories that flit effortlessly between horror, suspense and science fiction, and then has the audacity to cross over all three at the same time. The words vibrate on the page, loaded with apocalyptic menace and brutal violence.

Daphne by Josh Malerman

There are one or two other Malerman books that I could have picked for this, but none of them grabbed me like Daphne did. A slasher movie in book form, this is a tale about a denim-clad monster stalking high school girls that also works as a story about the claustrophobic, suffocating nature of anxiety. Brilliant stuff.

Our Wives Under The Sea by Julia Armfield

Recommended to me by the manager of my local bookstore, this is a delicate, haunting, almost lyrical story about grief and loss. It also manages, at times, to be really funny, which is always a plus. This is Armfield’s debut novel, so I’m making my way through her collection of short stories to figure out how she got to this level so fast. An exciting writer.

My Heart Is A Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones

I’m not going to lie — it took me a while to settle into Jones’ writing rhythm. This story, about a slasher-movie-obsessed teenage girl in a small town that’s being gradually gentrified, is a hell of a slow burn — but it’s the slow burn of a fuse, and at the end of the fuse is a whole load of dynamite. Riddled with horror movie references, this is my kind of book, and Jade Daniels is my kind of final girl.

Wanderers by Chuck Wendig

A behemoth of a novel that seeks to rival the epic nature of King’s The Stand, this is a story of a group of sleepwalkers making their way across America to escape an oncoming apocalypse, and the loved ones who have taken to shepherding them along the way. It’s scary and depressing, leaning towards hopeful and exciting, while never being less than thought-provoking and puzzling — in all the right ways.

Bad Magic, A Skulduggery Pleasant Graphic Novel by Derek Landy+ P.J. Holden £14.99 HarperCollins is out on 12 October 2023