101 HORROR BOOKS TO READ BEFORE YOU’RE MURDERED is essential reading for all of the fictioneers out there that either love speculative fiction, or want a curated introduction to the phenomenal horror fiction that has come out since the year 2000.
As Josh Malerman writes in his foreword to the book: “Welcome to modern horror.”
Sadie Hartmann’s 101 HORROR BOOKS TO READ BEFORE YOU’RE MURDERED adds urgency to the hunt for new great reading, as the renowned writer of a gargantuan amount of horror book reviews excitedly offers up the very best she has come across in the last 23 years.
There are horror indie books, self-published titles, and best-selling novels too.
Sadie Hartmann provides accessible literary criticism for the bevy of books in 101 that are clearly near and dear to her heart, even if some of them were so terrifying they made her sleep with the lights on.
My To-Be-Read (TBR) list grew by dozens, as I perused Hartmann’s meticulous work and found exciting insight tailored to my interests.
I could not put 101 HORROR BOOKS TO READ BEFORE YOU’RE MURDERED, or my Goodreads app, down!
There is a book for everyone in here and the way 101 is organized and explained makes for both fascinating and illuminating reading.
Each book falls under one of five categories: Paranormal, Supernatural, Human Monsters, Natural Order Horror, and Short Story Collections.
Each category is explained thoroughly with wit, knowledge, and relatable candor.
Paranormal is for Hartmann, “freaky shit that defies explanation,” and she is one-hundred percent right.
And then there are subcategories, like Supernatural’s Demons and Possession.
Two brilliant sections are given to each book review and were pivotal for me: the “At A Glance” section to the right of the review and the “Quote” section at the top of the review.
I LOVE quotes, even just one line in a work of literature, be it horror, non-fiction, or poetry; I find they are so revealing as to the book’s voice and the author’s writing.
Hartmann painstakingly searched for not just a good quote, but an impactful one that represented what the work and its author’s writing are about. It is genius.
On top of the Quote, Hartmann gives us the At A Glance map to the novel where you can read about the work’s specific Themes, Tone, Style, Setting, and the Publisher; and all of which I find very helpful when determining what might interest me to delve further into a book or to run shrieking into the night, because there are clown dolls in the tale, combining two of my worst fears.
Readers, authors, horror experts and novices alike will revel in learning so much from Sadie Hartmann’s 101+ horror books.
Wait, did I just say 101+ horror books?! What is with the +?
Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann’s 101 HORROR BOOKS TO READ BEFORE YOU’RE MURDERED goes above and beyond analyzing the books themselves and hits on the very genres, tropes, triggers, and myriad nuances that give such books so much power to move, thrill, and scare the hell out of us.
And yes, though Hartmann states that this is a book of the modern age of great horror and that she is not reviewing foundational figures such as Mary Shelley, Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Anne Rice, or Bram Stoker, but, and I mean BUT, you may find a wonderful surprise as you go along and read about each of the 101, because many of the featured authors and genres lend themselves to what these classic authors have done in literature and so, for example, there may be a few mentions of THE EXORCIST by Blatty that slip past Hartmann’s portcullis before the book is closed.
And though the 101 book is limited to 101 reviewed titles, there are also ten author spotlights throughout the book, because all of these authors’ works need to be read (so we have a plethora of great titles), and each of them, from Adam Nevill, Alma Katsu, Ania Ahlborn, Christopher Buehlman, Grady Hendrix, Josh Malerman, Paul Tremblay, Stephen Graham Jones, Tananarive Due to V. Castro pick their own their three all-time favorite horror books for 101!
There also essays from other exceptional authors in the modern genre that feature their books too: Cassandra Khaw, Hailey Piper, Eric LaRocca, R.J. Joseph, and Daniel Kraus give their own thoughts on important aspects in horror.
So, what are some examples of the 101 modern horror gems in the book?
I am not telling.
Go and discover what graces the shadowy pages inside 101 HORROR BOOKS TO READ BEFORE YOU’RE MURDERED for yourselves. Ideally, do it before you’re murdered.
Sadie “Mother Horror” Hartmann is an author, is the Bram Stoker-nominated editor-in-chief of publisher Dark Hart Books, the owner/publisher of the horror fiction subscription service Night Worms (which is sooo much fun), and she is an epic reviewer of books.
“101 HORROR BOOKS TO READ BEFORE YOU’RE MURDERED Is Essential” Was Written By R.J. Huneke.
Catch Sadie Mother Horror Hartmann on her book tour NOW!
Sadie Hartmann was kind enough to give TFF an extra copy of 101 and we are giving it away after we see Philip Fracassi at an upcoming signing in NYC and he signs his own book review in 101! You can enter the GIVEAWAY free on any of TFF’s social media or FB here.
Speaking of Mr. Fracassi’s Book Tour, TFF’s own R.J. Huneke will be interviewing Philip Fracassi prior to his stop at the Mysterious Bookshop in New York LIVE on Facebook (the video will be on Youtube the next day), so be sure to tune in!
BOYS IN THE VALLEY by Philip Fracassi is a chilling classic.
Fracassi’s tale is labeled as horror, but is much more than that: this is a deep, gritty coming-of-age story that delves its own mark on readers.
In 1905, when the priests at a Catholic orphanage in rural Pennsylvania are brought a possessed man to heal, things go horribly wrong, for the clergy and for the 30 boys in their charge.
From the shocking opening to the pandemonium at the book’s ending, BOYS IN THE VALLEY grabs you and does not let up!
Fracassi has a great writing style that combines vivid imagery, tight-knit prose, and a tense build-up of suspense littered with unexpected action, as he creates an in-depth world filled with memorable characters.
It is because of the many aspects of the characters living within the winter-blasted setting that there are quite a few extremely moving scenes.
The following Book Review of BOYS IN THE VALLEY by Philip Fracassi has mild plot Spoilers*
The book starts with its protagonist, nine-year-old Peter, watching paralyzed as his father returns home drunk and faces scorn from his wife for not bringing the starving family any food.
Peter’s father, Jack, snaps. He murders his wife, he stares down his son, and then he turns the gun on himself.
It is the eerily realistic semblance of the defeated father losing it and the powerless boy that sees this play out, paralyzed and mortified, that captures people’s flaws and their humanity so well, and this knowledge shapes Peter, even as the event itself haunts him.
The way Fracassi writes the scene, you can feel how tired Peter’s father is when he “sits heavily” and takes off his battered hat. You get the feeling the man is, at the least, verbally abusive when he is in an angered state, and like the kettle that whistles in the home as Peter’s mother taunts her husband, Jack Barlow simmers on the page until, once boiled, he blows up.
Are the use of ‘Jack’ and ‘Barlow’ a nod to two of Stephen King’s earliest works?
Seven years later, Peter is among the kinder and older boys of St. Vincent’s Orphanage. He is training to become a priest under his friend and surrogate father figure, Father Andrew, and his insightfulness into the difficulties of life, at the orphanage and in general, makes him an interesting lens to watch the tragic story of BOYS IN THE VALLEY unfold.
Peter, now 16, has fallen in love with a neighboring farmer’s daughter, and he has to come to grips with his knowledge that his mentor, Father Andrew, thinks of him like a son, and that to tell Andrew that Peter will not complete his training and become a priest will likely break the man’s heart.
But Father Andrew is a fantastic character and one who continually reminds Peter, despite the priest’s own hopes, that it is Peter’s choice to make.
This is a beautiful display of affection that shines throughout the book and is not forgotten when Peter does not get to make that choice.
Life at the orphanage means strict adherence to the priests’ rules, daily farm work and meager meals that never fill any of the boys’ bellies.
The 30 boys living together act as brothers will, in both caring for one another, especially Peter looking out for the smaller and younger orphans, in entertaining one another, in ribbing one another, and in picking on one another.
Boys are curious.
But the more they learn of the priests’ attempt to heal a possessed man who is then killed and buried on the church grounds, the more a malevolent mood permeates many of them.
Peter’s best friend, another main character and a good foil that makes an impression, as the gruff, ever-cynical older boy, David, is stalwart throughout the book, a pillar that Peter can count on to show no fear. Until he cannot. And when David is afraid, Peter realizes just how wrong things have gone.
Fracassi writes: “David is not easily knocked off his course. He has walls within walls to keep himself insulated from things of the world . . . Any emotions he may or may not feel . . . are buried deep within him, visible only to his inner self . . . [But] to see him so visibly, dramatically shaken is like . . . the first time I saw my mother cry.” [BOYS IN THE VALLEY, Fracassi, Tor Nightfire, Earthling Publications, Orbit Books]
The entire passage is far more impactful than the condensed quote above, but you will just have to read the book, readers.
There are many more memorable characters, from Brother Johnson, the sadistic, lifelong criminal sentenced to serve the priests and therein is often the twisted enforcer of punishments for the boys, and then to Grace, the sweet love of Peter’s life who lends him a great work of fiction every time he visits her.
As the frosty fields are quickly covered with falling snow and then the fell wind of the incoming storm that grows and grows and, finally, blasts St. Vincent’s, so too does the evil follow in its wake.
The possessed boys carry out the most heinous of acts imaginable against their orphan-brothers.
Only the union of the resistant boys under Peter and David stand in the way of the demons.
Fracassi paints so many shades of black.
Though there are parallels between Blatty’s masterpiece THE EXORCIST, Stephen King’s IT, and BOYS IN THE VALLEY, when I think of this book, I keep coming back to two impactful coming-of-age tales: William Golding’s LORD OF THE FLIES and Kurt Vonnegut’s SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE.
The latter is a favorite of mine, and I would argue Billy Pilgrim as a young man dropped into WWII Germany grows enough to be a bildungsroman in its own right, just as much as Golding’s tale of boys surviving on their own devices does, if in different ways.
LORD OF THE FLIES pits one group of children against another in a poignant way that is echoed in Fracassi’s boys forming of two opposing sides.
Demonic possession has been depicted throughout culture as an evil being often self-describing itself as ‘many’ or ‘legion’ and in BOYS IN THE VALLEY, the demons that inhabited a child murderer spread, like a disease, so that a horrific army of possessed young boys is formed and bent on further infection of the clergy and their brethren boys and the world, and for any who resist they want only to maliciously harm them.
Dominance and survival are two of the qualities that seep from Golding and from Fracassi.
There are even two orphan boys that are so close in age and friendship, they are called brothers even though they are not related, and these two inseparable characters are pitted against one another in BOYS IN THE VALLEY and it is terrifically terrible.
End of SPOILER Warning*
The horrors of war, the sheer atrocities performed by humans pitted against humans, that Billy Pilgrim is caught in in Dresden, Germany are so harsh as to be revolting, which was the point: the writing is as real as the terrible acts of war were/are.
So too does BOYS IN THE VALLEY invoke violent depictions of its own deeply personal war. But this is also realism and writing at its most effective.
This is how these characters behave.
BOYS IN THE VALLEY sticks with you like a knife in the ribs: it never really goes away.
For horror fans, you may need to read this one in the warm light of the summer sun, because the darkness and the bitter cold stalks the reader, just as it daunts the characters in the book.
Yes, there are some brutal, graphic scenes in BOYS IN THE VALLEY, but they are reflective of the history that the story takes place in, as well as the realistic actions of the characters.
Fracassi’s tale is one you will happily reread even though it still hurts.
I was fortunate to receive an advanced review copy of this book to do a Preview Review of the Earthling Publications signed limited edition for Halloween 2021 that is a stunner, and I have reread the ARCs provided to me by Tor Nightfire and by Orbit Books to do this review to expound on BOYS IN THE VALLEY for their July 2023 release dates. The book is out NOW.
Hello everyone! Eager Readers, the TFF Fellowship, and lovers of reading and fiction in general, I am forever grateful to have you here, and I want to put down as much of the fun for the upcoming quarter and year as possible.
Drive For 500:
I am jumping to the next contest, and with nearly 900 Twitter followers and so very close to 500 Facebook followers, and I asking each and every one of you to reach out and invite anyone you know who loves reading or would want a good introduction to reading fiction, with spoilers or spoiler-free.
I think TFF is a great place to start to revolutionize the love of reading and collecting books.
And so, when we reach 500 Facebook followers I will start up the next EPIC contest!
The Epic Giveaway Contest will consist of many treasured editions, including Signed and Limited (S/L), small press, and even what I suspect is a first print, first edition of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods Annotated – it is a gargantuan book sealed!
There are a ton of mainstream authors here with both paperbacks and first edition hardcovers, classics and contemporary, so no matter what you want to read and/or collect I hope to have you covered.
There will also be new swag from others and from me! More on this below.
I have been blessed 1. To have a nose for finding good books, 2. To have family members hunting books down for me and 3. to have a few great friends in the book community who have been so generous to donate many a precious book.
Much as I do not enjoy the mailing process, I greatly enjoy speaking with and sending out prizes to those that win them.
I will wait to achieve 500 followers in FB to start up the Epic Contest and post its prizes in detail, but I am sure the Rune Works woodshop will be involved with some woodworking and gift certificates for those on the livestream.
Regardless of whether or not we get 500 followers by then, I will still have some kind of contest and giveaway in my first TFF livestream of the year on Thursday, January 27th, 2022 at 12pm ET.
But I would like it to be EPIC. 20 or 30 followers more and TFF reaches a major milestone.
Now I have live conversations and interviews that will be taking place in Q1.
This week, I have the privilege to interview bestselling author Richard Chizmar on Facebook Live January 19th, 2022 At 7:30pm ET @TFF’s Facebook.com/theforgottenfiction.
His two newest books include his NY Times Bestselling Chasing the Boogeyman, and Gwendy’s Final Task co-authored with Stephen King.
I chatted on The Jeff Word show with Jeff Terry on his Facebook Livestream last week, and that was a blast!
Jeff is a voracious reader, reviewer, book unboxer, and I encourage anyone that wants to hear us talking about our favorite books, life and books we do not care for, haha, to tune in to see the video here.
I have also queued up but am waiting to solidify a date with renowned artist Mark Molnar, whose work most recently adorns one of the finest fine editions ever made in Centipede Press’ DUNE by Frank Herbert.
He was very kind to license to me an unused piece for the book (with Jerad and CP’s approval) for the Rune Works Woodshop to create a Dune case (coming in Q2 2022) for the book with the art engraved.
Check out Mark’s art for Dune and on his site here!
I am catching up on all remaining cases, in the order they came in over the next few weeks.
I have projects I have had in the hopper for years now coming close too!
A friend of mine is building me a webstore for TFF merch and swag that may be ready this week.
Drive For 500 aside, there will be many a giveaway contest in Q1 and a ton of interesting projects announced. Stay tuned!
Upcoming reviews include: Gwendy’s Magic Feather, Dune, Gwendy’s Final Task, Ghoul and the Cape, The Clearing and many more!
The Q1 Announcement Schedule for 2022:
Thursday Jan. 27th is a Livestream @ 12pm ET: the next contest and prizes are announced.
Thursday Feb. 4th is a Livestream @ 12pm ET and the LIVESTREAM event and giveaway!
Thursday Feb. 24th is a Livestream @ 12pm ET: the next contest and prizes are announced.
Thursday March 3rd is a Livestream @ 12pm ET and the LIVESTREAM event and giveaway!
Thursday March 24th is a Livestream @ 12pm ET: the next contest and prizes are announced.
Thursday April 7th is a Livestream @ 12pm ET and the LIVESTREAM event and giveaway!
Chasing the Boogeyman: Richard Chizmar births a new genre, and though many great authors have and continue to work off of and dwell in the horror-crime-thriller realm, this novel is wonderfully different.
Rumor has it that the Richard’s small town serial killer may be something other than human.
But that just adds to the menace, and the reality is such that this tale is presented as true crime dialed up with the thrilling and macabre level of fantastic horror works.
And, as the story goes, the author, Richard, was there to witness it, and it is much more visceral and frightful, as you feel the terror that the character of Richard Chizmar feels in the chase for the Boogeyman.
I hate genres and labels, especially with regards to writing, as some of the great writers frequently publish speculative fiction that delves into so many other lanes (for example: Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, or Stephen King’s Duma Key).
But what is innovative and fascinating about Chizmar’s Chasing the Boogeyman is that the author himself is at the center of the seemingly-real summer of carnage and his horror is his story, and the reader gets a “first-hand” account.
The following Preview Book Review of Chasing the Boogeyman is Spoiler Free** and only speaks to the overall premise of the book and its opening.
Richard returns home from college and starts to chronicle the mayhem that envelops the small Maryland town as he stays at his parent’s house.
The Boogeyman looms as jet and creepy as any ghost or monster and that dark presence weighs heavily over Richard’s encounters, marking him and his fears for much of his future life.
This convergence of spine-electrifying-suspense with the true crime tale – from the dead-pan cops and intervening FBI, to the tormented small town – makes for something fresh and unique in Chasing the Boogeyman.
Where you can see echoes of Thomas Harris’ journalism days make fine ripples in his fiction, so too can you see Richard Chizmar’s horror writing make stomach-twisting waves in Chasing the Boogeyman.
“Chasing the Boogeyman: Richard Chizmar Births A Hybrid Genre” was written by R.J. Huneke.
About the Author Of Chasing the Boogeyman
Richard Chizmar is the coauthor (with Stephen King) of the New York Times bestselling novella, Gwendy’s Button Box. Recent books include The Girl on the Porch; The Long Way Home, his fourth short story collection; and Widow’s Point, a chilling tale about a haunted lighthouse written with his son, Billy Chizmar, which was recently made into a feature film. His short fiction has appeared in dozens of publications, including Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and The Year’s 25 Finest Crime and Mystery Stories. He has won two World Fantasy awards, four International Horror Guild awards, and the HWA’s Board of Trustee’s award. Chizmar’s work has been translated into more than fifteen languages throughout the world, and he has appeared at numerous conferences as a writing instructor, guest speaker, panelist, and guest of honor. Follow him on Twitter @RichardChizmar or visit his website at: RichardChizmar.com.
Cemetery Dance Limited Edition AGE Night Shift By Stephen King is a deserving fine press production of the author’s first collection of short stories, and there are two added bonus shorts included that were not published by the Doubleday edition!
The short stories are all extraordinary and many are wholly groundbreaking for what horror could evolve to be.
Better put, Sai King’s stories hit on so many different levels and are so impactful that many traditional views of literary prowess were thrown out of the window screaming.
Most of these stories were originally published as stand-alone pieces in men’s magazines.
One exception is the very first story Stephen King got paid for, “The Glass Floor,” that was originally published in the Autumn 1967 issue of Startling Mystery Stories.
That and the introduction in the Bonus section of CD’s Night Shift, alone, is worth the price of admission.
Cemetery Dance Night Shift SPOILERS ahead*
To hear the writer talk about his experience getting rejections and receiving that first check is just remarkable.
This review will touch on two of the short stories held within and give an in-depth look at the small press production of the book itself, the limited deluxe Artist Gift Edition of Night Shift, masterfully produced by Cemetery Dance Publications.
And we will look at two of the weirdest and most fun shorts!
Enter “The Lawnmower Man.”
Easily as strange and hilarious and horrific a tale as can be constructed on ancient mythic gods and modern civilization’s obsession with keeping the home’s grass meticulously tended, “The Lawnmower Man” offers mystery, suspense, humor, and an otherworldly sense of dreaming while awake.
How or why someone decided to make a movie using the title alone and throwing out the insanity of the nude grass gobbling antagonist that makes the story is beyond all rational thought, but it happened.
This story proved that like Lovecraft and Poe, King could touch on ancient gods of yore, or wholly make up his own mythology in the modern world, and the charm of it all comes down to the characters caught within.
To date, I can think of no other story remotely like “The Lawnmower Man” – one of the highest compliments I give.
The next work is another favorite of mine that was touched on by TFF before in the One Of Us review, here: “I Am The Doorway.”
Another innovative tale is spawned circa the Space Race to the moon and beyond.
It merges science-fiction and the macabre in a painfully realistic manner.
Why does realism come to mind?
Space seems to be a lifeless void and a quiet vacuum, but the reaches outside the earth’s atmosphere are the truest unknown.
The astronaut here recalls little of his voyage to Venus that might note any apparent cause for his current murderous predicament.
But it is the only explanation.
Unlike so many sci-fi voyages and tales, Stephen King attaches the things beyond human understanding.
What could be more terrifying than intelligent entities, that manifest themselves like alien spores, a disease, or a parasite, in the form of eyes that continue to sprout from the searing, itching fingers of their space traveling host.
We cannot send life into space, but that does not mean that rabid rabies-like pathogens, or non-carbon-based life forms cannot live there, cannot hunt there for a way onto the earth to feed.
The astronaut is their doorway to the earth, and as far-fetched as that terrifying premise may seem, its sheer plausibility is solidified in that we cannot for sure say that the Eyes outside Venus’ atmosphere are an impossibility.
Truth be told, I would have loved to hear more about the astronaut in space in the story, but what King leaves to the imagination has me thinking about this one as I reread it again and again, shivering and itching between my thumb and forefinger.
All of the varying dark and spectacular shorts – from “Jerusalem’s Lot” to “Children of the Corn” to “Weeds” (the last bonus story in the volume) – are worth rereading and enjoying alongside the stunning artwork of Chris Odgers in CD’s Night Shift AGE.
For the $95 price-point CD’s Night Shift AGE gets an 11/10 score.
Limited to just 3000 books, each of the short stories feature well thought out and deeply impactful original art from Chris Odgers, and they stand out in the oversized deluxe design of 7 X 10 inches.
The faux leather brown of the book and the matching slipcase make the green and gold foil stamping really pop, as does the offset two color interior printing, and the thick, quality paper.
There are many bonus materials deservingly given to this book, a piece of literary history, including:
a foreword by Stephen King
an introduction by John D. MacDonald
a brand new afterword by Stewart O’Nan
two bonus stories (“The Glass Floor” and “Weeds”) that have never appeared in any edition anywhere in the world
And as CD’s Night Shift Artist Gift Edition is meant to highlight the tales with the paired art, the black and white illustrations are fine art that perfectly encompass the respective works being emanated to strong and stark imagery.