Friday, October 29, 2010

freak week part V

Final scare question of the week: what is the scariest book you ever read?

For me it had to be R.M. Kinder's An Absolute Gentleman. I've read all the standard horror fare--in fact, once upon a time I used to teach a course in Horror Literature. Gothic? Check. Dracula, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Turn of the Screw, The Castle of Otranto, Northanger Abbey. Promethian? Check. Frankenstein and all the spin-offs of that ground-breaking prototype. I've read The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, just about everything by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allan Poe, and much of Stephen King's library of terror. I've read a lot of Anne Rice (she's pretty scary--her witch series was much better than her vampire books) and a little of Dean Koontz. But hands down, An Absolute Gentleman had me on the edge of my seat.

The pretense? Our narrator, Arthur Blume, is a kind, scholarly professor of English. And he's a serial killer. His flashbacks are terrifying in their own right, but even worse? The knowledge that before the book is over he will kill again--you know he'll get caught. The potential victims loom before you, you begin to like them, fear for them. You want to warn them--but how? Arthur is nothing but an absolute gentleman, albeit a deranged, slightly disconnected and very well-intentioned one.

To my mind a serial killer is a horrifying as a shark. You cannot reason with either of them and once they have blood on the brain, all bets are off.

As masterly in suspense as anything by Alfred Hitchcock, R.M. Kinder kept me in the clutch of fear until the final chapter. And yes, I would read it at night after the kids were in bed and every single little noise made me jump. That's how edgy I got.

Happily for my lucky winner, Lemur Troops and Critter Groups is NOT a scary book. It's a fun frolic of an animal parade, presenting all different flocks and coveys and herds of creatures. Whimsically designed by the author, Rena Jones, Lemur Troops and Critter Groups can be read in a dark, lonely house all alone without fright. Or it can be read in a sun-bathed room full of people. Either way, Lemur Troops and Critter Groups by Rena Jones will entertain and educate you, not freak you out! (And as a sort of funny side note, lemurs communicate by their sense of smell. Go ahead and imagine how that must look out in the wild.)


How can you win October's FABULOUS? Easy--every comment through Saturday is an entry to win. I'll pick a lucky winner Sunday.

Hope your Halloween Weekend is HOWLING good fun!

Spill it, reader. What book had you freaking out on the edge of your seat?

Reader, I have to add this picture of San Francisco Giants pitcher Brian Wilson. His beard REALLY freaks me out. And now freak week comes to an official close.

17 comments:

  1. I read The Exorcist when I was staying alone in the house while everyone else was away on vacation. I had the book in my hand, walked into a dark room and the window shade slammed against the window. I'm sure the neighbors heard me scream.

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  2. The Shining is a VERY scary book. The movie terrified me as a kid and the book is even SCARIER. There are a ton of Steven King books that have given me a good scare, but I think The Shining was the scariest.

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  3. I agree with the Anne Rice witch books. The vampire books were just weird. Stephen King is the king of scary. I can't read everything he writes. I started Pet Cemetery and I don't think I ever finished it. (He writes that HE had to put it away for three months in the middle of writing because it was freaking HIM out so much.)

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  4. We went to the beach every summer, to a house that was owned by a guy who wrote stories of Southern coastal ghosts. Ghosts like The Gray Man of Pawley's Island. The book's original illustrations were on the walls. I'd read those stories and it would be storming and I'd be SCARED.

    Brian Wilson dyes his beard. No lie.

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  5. Carrie. Turn of the Screw. Dictionary of the Khazars was just odd....not scary, but weird/scary. I found Mein Kampf very disturbing due to both the crazy writing style and knowing what came next in Hitler's life.

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  6. Is it just me, or are those woods at the top of your page looking scarier and scarier as the week goes on...? eee! Even the normally-friendly-looking greenie-green boots are looking kinda like GHOST BOOTS!!
    ...must be the seasson....getting to me!! boo!!

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  7. I can't read scary books or watch scary movies. I'm wimpy that way, but I just find life itself to offer enough scariness that I don't seek it out in fiction. I recently tried to re-read a book I loved as a kid - The Black Cauldron. But it made me jumpy!

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  8. The scariest book? By far, it was Silence of the Lambs.

    The scene in the basement/dungeon/hole? Shiver.

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  9. I generally don't read scary books, but in a book of comic stories by Gerald Durrell, there's a truly terrifying ghost story. I read it twenty years ago and I *still* can't bear to walk in front of a mirror in the dark.

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  10. The Shining IS Steven King's scariest book, and Silence of the Lambs freaked me out too, but the one that really did it for me was In Cold Blood. Terrifying and true life.

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  11. Ooh - what a great question!

    I've got to go with Ghost Story by Peter Straub. I, uh, couldn't finish it. I'd seen the movie (poorly edited, but Fred Astaire was great) and knew what was going to happen ... and just couldn't handle it.

    Yes, I'm a wuss.

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  12. Eeesh. Stephen King's IT had me avoiding sewage drains and looking with genuine distrust at all sorts of plumbing for a while. Dorian Gray gave me a fair case of the creeps along with Browning's "My Last Duchess".

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  13. Know what book freaked me out as a kid? Flowers in the Attic. Remember that series? I couldn't put them down but I was terrified the whole time.

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  14. I admit it: Neil Gaiman's Coraline had me shivering. The book, that is; I never saw the movie. The world he creates is so eerie, so believable and creepy, I jumped when the wind blew a bush against the window.
    I need a new category of books: "Don't Read Alone in the Dark." It would have its own shelf, just like "Read it with a Kleenex."

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  15. Everything scares me. In the same way that every TV ad for Hallmark makes me cry, everything that even remotely tries to be frightening scares me senseless. Maybe it's just a sensitive nature and an overactive imagination. Heck, part of Harry Potter scare me...

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  16. and am I the only one who thinks Poe's writing is overwrought? I mean, really, could anyone actually speak that way?

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  17. Oh lord all the Kay Scarpetta series by Patricia Cormwell had me sweating.

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Spill it, reader.