So I’ve been tagged by fellow authors and all-around good people C. Bryan Brown (Necromancer) and Edward McFadden III (The Black Death of Babylon, Our Dying Land) in the newest tag-thing sweeping Facebook:
The Ten Books That Have Stayed With You
I figure rather than just list ten books on FB, I would make a post to explain WHY they stuck with me. Just to point something out, these are not my ten favorite books of all time (although some of my favorites are on it). These are the first ten books I came up with when I thought, Hmm, what books do I still think about even now, months, years, or in some cases decades after reading them? Here, in no particular order, is that list:
1-The Book of the Dead (Skipp & Spector)
You might be surprised to learn that I’m not a huge fan of zombie fiction. Sure, there are some good ones, but oftentimes I feel like I’m reading the same thing over and over. (Don’t hate me, please) The end of the world is here and the zombies are going to eat us. Brilliant, but unless someone comes along with a really different take on zombies (most recently for me was Resurrection X: Zombie Evolution by Dane Hatchell), I’m generally more of a “meh” with zombies. Of course, The Book of the Dead came out long before every other book was about the living dead in some form or other. It was also a zombie offering from the kings of splatterpunk, so you know it’s bloody good. With stories from the likes of King, Campbell, Lansdale, and McCammon, you know it’s one to read.
2-The Exorcist (Blatty)
The Exorcist is my favorite movie of all time. It also happens to be my favorite book of all time. I love the slow burn of the story, the creepiness of Regan’s transformation, and the horrible violence that comes from an otherwise innocent young girl. I read this as a kid and have never forgotten the way it made me feel. Scared and dirty.
3-The Amityville Horror (Anson)
This is another book I read as a kid, and whether you like any of the various movies or not doesn’t matter. The book scared the crap out of me. This is one of those books where an image has stayed with me for decades: the image of a pig, red eyes blazing down at George as he runs through the pouring rain to save his family. In my mind it doesn’t look anything like the cheesy pig from the movie. In my mind it’s much worse.
4-On Writing (King)
Cliche, I know, but it’s a great book and I’ve read it more times than I can count. If you’re a writer (horror or otherwise) and haven’t read it, I can’t recommend it enough. I’ve read a lot of books about writing, and for me this is one of the absolute best.
4b-Salem’s Lot (King)
I know, I know. Back to back King isn’t fair, so we’ll call this a twofer. Both King books count as one. Is that fair? Hell, it’s my post, so…it’s fair. Besides, I couldn’t leave out a book that, like The Amityville Horror, has a scene that’s stayed with me since I was a kid. It’s a scene early on where Ben sneaks into the Marsten house as a kid and sees an image of Hubie hanging dead from a noose, his eyes puffed shut, skin a horrible green…and he opens his eyes. If you haven’t read the book, that’s some creepy shit right there.
5-The Damnation Game (Barker)
I picked up The Damnation Game at a book fair in high school. I’ll never forget it, because I remember seeing the cover and thinking, What’s a book like this doing in a high school book fair? That was followed almost immediately by, Hey, that’s the guy that made Hellraiser! I picked it up and read it in like two days. I absolutely loved it. I don’t think it’s my favorite Barker book, but it’s the one that stays with me after all these years.
6-Floating Dragon (Straub)
I love Peter Straub’s writing, and Floating Dragon is the one that I remember the most vividly. It probably has something to do with the events in my life while I was reading it. I bought the book while living in England, and started reading it on the flight when I was moving back to Connecticut. Oddly enough, the book is about a couple who had lived in England and just moved back to Connecticut (where the book is set). I didn’t know that when I started reading, and it was a little weird. Thankfully, the book rocked.
7-The Pearl (Steinbeck)
I read this book in (I think) 6th grade. I was in an accelerated reading class and this is the first book they gave us. I didn’t exactly love it, but it was the first “real” book that I read, dissected, and discussed from a literary standpoint. Maybe that’s why I still remember it.
8-The Lost (Ketchum)
You didn’t think Jack Ketchum was going to be missing, did you? This isn’t’t the first Ketchum book I’ve read, but I still remember the feel of the book, all dirty teenage angst and violence. As weird as it sounds, I love the way people died in this book. It’s something Ketchum does very well.
9-The Alienist (Carr)
I. Love. This. Book. What a fun story. This is all about an early form of forensic investigation and psychological profiling in New York City right around 1900. THat, and dead prostitutes. The book and its sequel The Angel of Darkness are great reads. I’ve recommended this book to friends who have told me they loved it so much they’ve recommended it to others. That’s saying something.
10-H.P. Lovecraft (Take your pick)
Another potentially “not fair” moment, but if you’ve read H.P. Lovecraft you know two things: 1) his stories have been reprinted in more collections than can be counted by mortal man, and 2) they’re the unofficial influence for all Japanese tentacle porn. Maybe I made up that second one, I don’t know…Even so, I still love Lovecraft and have re-read his work more than any others.
–The Elements of Style (Strunk & White)
This might be an odd entry, because it’s more of a reference than a book, so I’ll call it an Honorable Mention. I added it because a) it stuck in my head when I was thinking of books that stuck with me, and b) because I grab it so often it feels like it’s always stuck there. I try to ignore it while I’m writing, but once I start editing, I find myself grabbing the book all the time to see if I’m doing something “properly” or not. Sometimes I’ll leave something technically wrong if I think it flows better with the scene, but at least I know I did it on purpose.