Chilling Reads for a Chilly Spring
Books to chill and thrill you through the cold nights.
March was never particularly warm in London, and the chill of winter often wrapped around us until way after the official start of spring. Of course, since moving to Los Angeles that has been a very different story, with February usually bringing startling sunlight and rising temperatures that feel more akin to summer than the depths of winter. But this year LA is treating us to those rare things known as "seasons."
So, seeing as March has extended its cold and wet stay, I thought I'd start my newsletter by recommending some delightfully chilling reads to enjoy in what has been for me an unexpectedly chilly spring.
I've been obsessed with Junji Ito ever since I was a recently relocated 12 year old living next to a tiny comic book shop which had a rather extensive manga collection. Since then I've been of the mind that every Junji Ito release is an instant must-read. That's become even more true since Viz began reprinting and publishing his gorgeous longer-format works and short story collections in gorgeous hardcover editions. The newest of the latter releases is a collection called Tombs and it's filled with evocative, beautifully drawn, and terrifying tales that are as always perfectly orchestrated by horror's sweetest nightmare merchant.
If you're wondering what you can look forward to in the new selection, some hideous highlights include a hit-and-run in a town filled with tombstones that leads the drivers to despair. There's also an eerie clubhouse haunted by the spirits of teenage activists. And one of Ito's most beloved and deranged tales, Slug Girl, officially translated into English here for the first time. So wrap up in your warmest blanket, light a candle, and get ready to stay up all night.
If you haven't read Stephen Graham Jones yet, I'm actually pretty jealous of you as discovering his writing for the first time is nothing short of revelatory, especially if you're a fan of horror. I first found him thanks to his novella Night of the Mannequins, which set me on the path to becoming a huge fan. Out of his decades of writing, though, I truly believe his "Indian Lake Trilogy" will likely be his magnum opus.
It might just be the slasher movie lover in me, but ever since reading My Heart is a Chainsaw I've felt like it'll live forever alongside horror classics by authors like Clive Barker, Stephen King, Anne Rice, Joe Hill, Dean Koontz, and, of course, Mary Shelley. It really is that great. The searing slasher story centers on a student of the genre, Jade, a young indigenous teenager watching her rural hometown quickly gentrify around her. As she watches slasher movies, ignores her abusive father, and wills her own blood-soaked horror movie into being, she can never imagine that when it comes to life it'll upend her world forever.
Don't Fear the Reaper is the second novel in the trilogy and it somehow manages to top the horrifying heights of the first book. It's hard to talk about without spoiling too much, but it pits Jade against a new slasher and throws her right back into the rules, lore, and films she's trying to escape. Jones is already a horror legend so make sure you add this — and its precursor — to your to-read pile and catch up on the rest of his stunningly good genre work now!
This non-fiction history of Black horror is nothing short of a blast. While it's less terrifying than some of our selections, it's an absolutely dynamite read for fans of film history. You might have come across the vital work of the authors thanks to their fantastic Shudder documentary Horror Noire. Based on Coleman's book of the same name, the engaging film made a rightful splash on the streamer — if you've yet to watch it, check it out now — and Harris and Coleman’s new book continues the thread perfectly.
The Black Guy Dies First explores Blackness throughout the history of horror from the early days of Black characters being exploited as bodycount to the Oscar-winning impact of Get Out to the contemporary cosmic horror of HBO's Lovecraft Country. Filled with accessible and incisive commentary as well as a look at 1000s of horror films featuring Black characters, Coleman and Harris bring an encyclopedic knowledge and scope to this absolutely unique cinema history book. Whether you're a horror hound or a squeamish cinema lover, you'll devour this incredibly readable history and leave with a ton of movies to add to your watch list.
This is a book I've been returning to more and more recently, not just because I dream of writing a great slasher / murder mystery novel (and this is arguably the greatest) but because Sarah Phelps made an unbelievable mini-series adaptation a few years ago that is a constant fave. Recently I borrowed a gorgeous and very old copy from the Los Angeles Public Library that has been accompanying me as I work on a secret but related script.
In case you've never picked this one up, it's easily up there with the bleakest and best of Christie's work. The premise is simple: a group of people are invited to a secluded and wild island at the behest of a mysterious host. Once they arrive they're picked off one-by-one for reasons seemingly unknown. If it sounds familiar it's because it has since become one of the foundational setups for mystery and horror.
Christie is often seen as a cozy author — thanks to the many, many delightfully charming adaptations of her most famous sleuths, Marple and Poirot — but she was a knife-sharp writer and a brutal social satirist. She showcases both brilliantly here. Important to note: this book used to have a horrifically racist title — linked to a long since updated and also very racist plot point — so if you want to read a version of this story without that history check out the astoundingly brilliant The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji. The meticulously plotted and deeply atmospheric 1987 Japanese novel is one of the best takes on the And Then There Were None setup that I've ever read, and I've read a lot, so it's a great alternative or supplementary read.
Now if you're looking for something a little less terrifying and a little more magical that'll still give you chills, let me direct you to this absolutely fantastic fantasy YA novel from Gabe Cole Novoa. I adore reading YA books and often find that titles written for this market offer up some of the loveliest and most inventive stories out there. The Wicked Bargain is absolute proof of that and a rip-roaring adventure to boot.
Author Gabe Cole Novoa introduces us to Mar, a transmasculine non-binary teen who just happens to be the child of the most feared pirate on the seven seas. Mar is a powerful magic user but when El Diablo comes calling to collect on a deal that Mar's father made years before, Mar is suddenly left all alone and in a battle of wits and wills against the devil himself. But have no fear as Mar finds unexpected — and extremely loveable — allies on their journey to try and save their father. This is a found family romp through the high seas with demons, magic, and pirates. What more could you want?
Something to look forward to…
In this twisty psychological thriller a serial killing librarian (wonderful, right??) goes up against a new colleague — and sometime novelist — who suspects there is a dark and dangerous truth behind her new workmate's cheery facade. While the setting might suggest something cozy, this is far from it as two delightfully nasty and intelligent protagonists battle it out between the shelves in a small town library. But who will survive? And what will be left of them?
While I haven't had the chance to get my hands on this one yet, I am such a huge fan of Silvia Moreno-Garcia that I had to highlight that she has a new book coming out. The queen of genre fiction is back with this intriguing book which centers on a sound editor in '90s Mexico who can't catch a break. But when her best friend's new neighbor is revealed to be a cult horror director who wants them to help him finish his lost movie, her life changes in an instant...
P.S. I want to say thank you to everyone reading this. I've been blown away by the support for this idea and this newsletter. I really appreciate it and hope that you find a new fave here.
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