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Recommended Reading by Professionals…with Stephen Graham Jones

In this series, I ask various publishing professionals (including authors, bloggers, editors, agents etc.) to recommend 2-3 authors or books they feel haven’t received the recognition they deserve.

Today’s recommendations are by Stephen Graham Jones. Stephen Graham Jones is the author of sixteen novels, six collections, one novella, one chapbook, and more than two hundred short stories. Most recent is the horror collection After the People Lights Have Gone Off (Dark House) and Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly, a YA novel co-written with Paul Tremblay. Jones’s fiction has been a finalist for the Bram Stoker Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, and the Colorado Book Award, and his fiction has won the Texas Institute of Letters Jesse Jones Award, the Independent Publisher’s Multicultural Award, and an NEA Fellowship.

‘Tis the season for haunted house novels. While the slasher is far and away my favorite genre of horror movie, the haunted house might be my favorite mode of horror on the page. The novel form seems built to deliver us the haunted house. You’ve got to go into a lot of side rooms to make a haunted house real, I mean, and the narrative velocity of a movie doesn’t always allow that. The haunted house is a slow burn, from The Haunting of Hill House to Lunar Park, by way of The Shining. How to know you’re reading some solid haunted house material, though? Easy. If it makes you nervous about going up your own stairs in the dark. Here’s three that do just that:

  • Douglas Clegg’s Breeder. There’s only ever been three novels to invade my dreams such that I kind of regretted letting them into my head. This is one of them. And I think it’s the imagery Clegg taps into. And the way he convinces me that it’s real. I kept seeing this terrible stuff long after I’d turned away from the page, and when I was least expecting it. And, as uncomfortable as that can be, that’s also exactly what we want from the horror we engage, isn’t it? Horror lasts. The best horror, it lasts and lasts, well past the jumpscare. For my money, Breeder is some of the best horror.
  • John Langan’s House of Windows. Langan has an elliptical way of delivering the horror such that he’s walked you ten steps into the room before you even realize it’s that kind of room. But then, in trying to find your way out, you stumble deeper and deeper, and find at the center an emotional core that’s missing from a lot of horror. These are real and important issues Langan’s confronting—and, making us confront, and process through. In short, this is a house we don’t want to walk into. Also, this is a house that, after reading it, you never really leave, either.
  • Burnt Offerings. This one isn’t exactly under the radar—it was a movie shortly after it was a novel—but it’s been largely forgotten over the last twenty-five years. And that’s a shame. The level of writing on display here is intimidating. Marasco was in complete control of every sentence, every scene. This is one of the cleaner, more direct novels you’ll read. And this house at the center of it, it’s completely terrifying. All haunted house stories can more or less be divided into the ‘stay away’-kind, or the ‘hungry house’-kind. This house, it’s got quite the appetite.

Stay tuned for the next post where we get reading recommendations from Christopher Buehlman!

About Kristin Centorcelli (842 Articles)
Kristin Centorcelli is the Associate Editor at SF Signal, proprietor of My Bookish Ways, a reviewer for Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly, and has also written for Crime Fiction Lover, Criminal Element, and Mystery Scene Magazine. She has been reviewing books since late 2010, in an effort to get through a rather immense personal library, while also discussing it with whoever will willingly sit still (and some that won’t).
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