Scary stories for Hallowe’en

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There are many scary stories out there, from Stephen King and Shirley Jackson to the wonderful Pan Books of Horror Stories. Hopefully, the following selection includes some lesser known and unexpected choices…

Firstly, in her centenary year, some Muriel Spark. ‘The Driver’s Seat’ is one of her most slender novels. Lise has left behind her life and boarded a plane to head for foreign Spooky1climes to find, perhaps, a boyfriend. We are only a few pages into the story when we are told,

‘She will be found tomorrow morning dead form multiple stab-wounds, her wrists bound with a silk scarf and her ankles bound with a man’s necktie, in the grounds of an empty villa, in a park of the foreign city to which she is travelling on the flight now boarding at Gate 14.’

What follows is a tense, macabre story of a woman in search of her destiny…

One of my favourite horror films is ‘The Wicker Man’, the tale of a policemanspooky6 trying to solve the mystery of a missing young girl on a Scottish Island community which lives by the old Pagan ways… A novelisation of the film, by the film’s director Robin Hardy and script writer Anthony Shaffer, was published in the 1970s, but I had no idea until recently that the pagan shocker was ‘inspired’ (to put in politely) by an earlier novel, ‘Ritual’ by David Pinner. The similarities are staggering, with a policeman called to an enclosed Cornish community to investigate the death of a local child and slowly ‘subjected to a spectacle of psychological trickery, sexual seduction, ancient religious practices and nightmarish sacrificial rituals.’

‘The Fly Paper’ was a short story by Elizabeth Taylor and recently I came across the television adaptation which was part of the ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ series from the 1970s. This series was broadcast in the early evening when I was a child and yet, when I stumbled across this episode recently and by accident I was taken aback by the damp, chilly atmosphere of the film and the forlorn, sordid nature of the story. A young girl is followed home from school by a strange man who tries to befriend her on the local bus, leading to a denouement which lived with me for days and one all the more shocking for the similarities to one of Britain’s most famous, and reviled crimes. ‘The Fly Paper’ is available on YouTube.

I have written about Marghanita Laski‘s chilling ‘The Victorian Chaise Longue’ before. It is available in an lovely Persephone Books edition, so you’ve no excuse not to track it down!spooky8

Finally, from fiction to a different kind of horror. Gordon Burn was a great writer (his novel ‘Alma Cogan’ is one of my favourites) and ‘Happy Like Murderers’ is his account of the lives and crimes of Fred and Rosemary West who, throughout the 1970s and 1980s groomed, sexuality abused and murdered a string of young people, including their own children. This is a truly disturbing book, full of the vilest spooky9imagery and incidents which many horror novelists would baulk at. It is not for the squeamish, but it is an important book which delves into how the Wests lives collapsed into this horror show and shows that, like most crimes, the crimes of Fred and Rosemary West did not occur in a vacuum. Psychology can – possibly – explain some of what happened, but ‘Happy Like Murderers’ also shows after the West’s arrest, there must have been an obscene number of people who found it difficult the sleep at night…New2

And finally, a recent book which I shall be writing about shortly, ‘Ghost Wall’ by Sarah Moss: a gripping story of teenage Silvie and the strange atmosphere which overwhelms all those on an ‘experiential’ archaeological holiday in Northumberland. Certainly one of my books of the year.

 

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This entry was posted in David Pinner, Elizabeth Taylor, Gordon Burn, Marghanita Laski, Muriel Spark, Sarah Moss and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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