Anthony Vacca is a librarian with 15 years of experience. It’s his firm belief that for every promising new book released, there are a hundred older books even better. He is the host of the O’Neal Library’s ongoing series, Under the Mountain, a monthly celebration of all things spooky in books, movies, music, even comics. Here, Anthony offers his five best “spooky” reads in time for Halloween.
The Arabian Nightmare
By Robert Irwin | Thriller/Suspense
Acclaimed scholar of Arabic literature Robert Irwin understands that the history of storytelling has always been informed by a relish for the strange and terrible. Set in 15thh century Cairo, this vibrant fantasy follows a smug English spy who becomes afflicted with the titular disease, which infects its victim’s dreams before bleeding into and then replacing reality. Eerie, exotic, perverse: bad dreams have never been so delicious.
By Carlos Fuentes | Thriller/Suspense
Unable to resist an unusual job listing, a young historian is hired by an ailing widow to edit the memoir her husband left unpublished, with the caveat that he must stay in her house for the duration of the assignment. Naturally, the reader won’t be surprised that nothing good awaits our hero: inexplicable nightmares, waking phantasms and a mysterious ingenue, who is more sinister than she seems.
The Driver’s Seat
By Muriel Spark | Psychological Fiction
Muriel Spark wrote lean, often off-kilter novels, and did so with fearlessness and a ruthless sense of humor. Notably unnerving is “The Driver’s Seat,” a steely account of a woman’s final holiday abroad. It’s not so much what this woman does that makes this book so alarming; rather, it’s that Spark’s writing is so sharp that the reader is led haplessly from the unassuming into horror. This isn’t a book that seeks to comfort, but there is always a morbid wit at work, and the clear-eyed understanding of the hurt that is to be human.
By Dan Chaon | Horror/Crime Fiction
A grief-stricken psychologist loses himself in a patient’s investigation of an online conspiracy involving drowned young men; concurrently, his guilt-ridden teenage son fumbles his own attempts at locating his drug-addled best friend. These narrative threads converge as the reader uncovers their family’s connection to a quadruple murder during the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. With “Ill Will,” Dan Chaon demonstrates the horror genre’s indelible influence on the contemporary thriller, delivering an elusive mystery that oozes with menace. Not for the faint of heart, but never without a world-weary sense of humanity, this novel is a mature work of cosmic dread.
Satan in Goray
By Isaac Bashevis Singer | Historical Fiction
The early Yiddish short stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer are overrun with wisecracking demons, grotesque depictions of bodily possession and the downfalls of prestigious men of faith who mistake madness for a kind of holy foolery. Nowhere do these elements run as rampant as in his wonderfully macabre first novel, “Satan in Goray,” a madcap chronicle of a 17th century Jewish community that succumbs to deviltry and renounces devout living for ribald excess. Singer’s enthusiasm for the sinister side of the supernatural, along with his Earthy and erudite language, make this a dizzying mixture of historical research, profane humor and genuine spookiness.