Happy Halloween! | My Favourite Horror Novel

Aging, self-absorbed rock star Judas Coyne has a thing for the macabre — his collection includes sketches from infamous serial killer John Wayne Gacy, a trepanned skull from the 16th century, a used hangman’s noose, Aleister Crowley’s childhood chessboard, etc. — so when his assistant tells him about a ghost for sale on an online auction site, he immediately puts in a bid and purchases it.

The black, heart-shaped box that Coyne receives in the mail not only contains the suit of a dead man but also his vengeance-obsessed spirit. The ghost, it turns out, is the stepfather of a young groupie who committed suicide after the 54-year-old Coyne callously used her up and threw her away. Now, determined to kill Coyne and anyone who aids him, the merciless ghost of Craddock McDermott begins his assault on the rocker’s sanity.


Heart-Shaped Box was a book I bought years ago, purely because it shares its name with a Nirvana song. Yes, it really is that easy to get me to buy your novel!

It’s a ghost story with a modern twist. No old-timey haunted house here, just a genuinely creepy malevolent spirit that follows the protagonist wherever he goes. There’s possession, ouija boards, a haunted suit and mirrors that show spooky shit.

Joe Hill throws all the unrealistic-and-yet-totally-possible fears that people experience and makes them so evocative it’s chilling. You know when you’re in a dark room in your house and get the momentary panic that you’re going to see something awful? The trepidation you get, and the sick feeling of dread when you step in? Or the fear when you hear radio static that a dreadful voice is going to emerge above the noise?

I went downstairs at midnight to turn my central heating off and loudly sand “If You’re Happy And You Know It” the whole way.

Heart-Shaped Box kicks into high gear at around page 20 and never really puts you down again. It’s absolutely breakneck, atmospheric, dark, grim, heartbreaking, witty, and genuinely incredibly creepy from beginning to end. If you like horror and rock music and thrills, here’s the book for you. Happy Halloween!

CW for Heart-Shaped Box: child abuse, sexual abuse, suicide, mental illness. Also the dog dies.

Six For Sunday | Scary Characters

Six for Sunday is a weekly book meme run by Steph at A Little but a Lot, and this week we’re doing scary characters! Here are six characters who give me the heebies.

Jack Torrance – The Shining

The character of Jack Torrance is one of the main reasons I couldn’t enjoy watching the movie adaptation of The Shining. He’s a weird sinister dude in the movie from the start, but the book is much more focused on his descent into madness and it’s SO unsettling.

Craddock James McDermott – Heart-Shaped Box

The beauty of Heart-Shaped Box is that it taps into the most relatable scare of all and uses it to great effect: the horrible, sick feeling that you’re going to walk into a dark room in your house and encounter something malevolent and horrifying.

In this case Joe Hill has created a genuinely creepy ghost to fill that role, so every time I went downstairs to check the heating after reading at night I had to sing “If You’re Happy and You Know It” to ward off my terror.

Cujo – Cujo

Cujo is scary for one main reason: he’s a horror character that you could conceivably meet. Ghosts and zombies and vampires are far-fetched enough to be scary but “safe”, in a way, but Cujo is a rabid dog trapping a family in their car, and the everyday realness of the character – if not the situation – is what makes it so terrifying.

Mrs. Danvers – Rebecca

Rebecca technically isn’t a horror novel, but Mrs. Danvers gives me the fear, the creepy Rebecca-stan that she is. There’s something uniquely unnerving about an obsessed housekeeper who tries to convince people to jump out of windows.

Jean-Baptiste Grenouille – Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Grenouille is creepy rather than outright scary, but he still makes me feel incredibly uneasy when I read about him. Now that I’ve got a baby the idea of one having absolutely no inherent scene whatsoever makes me skin crawl a bit.

And that’s not even starting on the murder and making perfume out of virgins.

Whatever The Fuck Is Going On In The Exorcist – William Peter Blatty

Okay I haven’t read this book, but the film traumatised me so much at the age of fourteen (why was I watching it at the age of fourteen?!) that it’s only recently I’ve been able to actually say the name of it without breaking into a sweat. I had panic attacks when I heard Tubular Bells. I don’t even know what sort of nasty is floating around in Regan MacNeill’s head, but I’m never going to find out because I’m not touching this book. Ever.


What characters creep you out? Have you read the ones I’ve mentioned? Let me know!