Lost Horror Novel A Must-Read This October

Here are my Halloween reading recommendations this year: VINTAGE SCARES!

I love used bookstores and adore old books. So when I come across a book like this, once out of print and now resurrected, I get really excited.

This list was published on KSL.com for my monthly column, Book Matters. To see the article, CLICK HERE.

the elementals old

It’s a common tale: an older book goes out of print because shelf space and reader attention are given to the most recent best sellers. Stories are lost, forgotten, only to be found buried in the dusty shelves of used-bookstores. But some stories are too good not to resurrect.

Michael McDowell (1950-1999) held English and creative writing degrees from Harvard and Brandeis University. He is most well known for his screenplays for Tim Burton’s “Beetlejuice” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” He also wrote the script for “Clue,” the movie adaptation of the popular board game. But McDowell was also a talented horror novelist, producing over 30 works before his death.

Steven King called McDowell, “the finest writer of paperback originals in America today.”

“The Elementals,” his fourth novel, and one of his most popular, was published in 1981 and went out of print shortly after the author’s death in 1999. Thanks to Valancourt Press, a small publisher that specializes in reviving classic supernatural novels, “The Elementals” is back in print, along with four other of McDowell’s books. The reprint edition has a great new cover and an introduction by award-winning horror author Michael Rowe.

the elementals

This Southern gothic horror novel starts with the funeral of Marion Savage, during which her adult son must follow family tradition and thrust a knife into her chest. Fleeing Mobile, seeking solace, the family heads to a remote Alabama beach known as Beldame.

At Beldame there are three ancient Victorian houses standing in the sand. The third house, abandoned as long as anyone can remember, is nearly filled with sand. No one goes in the house, no one should. For lurking inside is something no one wants to meet.

“The Elementals” is a fantastic haunted house tale, loaded with dread, eerie moments, and good characters. Plain white sand has never been this scary or malevolent. It’s the perfect book to read this October.

Content note: Frequent swearing, including the F-word, a couple brief sexual references, and, of course, scary moments and some creepy gore.

For more vintage scares, check out these classics as well:

ghost story antiquary

“Ghost Stories of an Antiquary” by M.R. James (1904)

English writer and scholar, M. R. James, is best known for his ghost stories. He’s credited with pulling the genre out of the dusty gothic forms and into contemporary settings. In this collection, a painting of a house replays a gruesome scene, an inn that once belonged to an alchemist changes during the night, and more. Though a century old, these stories of the mundane twisted into the scary, are still some of the best.

edith wharton ghost stories

“The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton” by Edith Wharton (1904-1937)

Pulitzer Prize winning author, Edith Wharton, is best known for her social and literary writings, but she also had a love for the supernatural. These traditional New England ghost stories chronicle hauntings, spirits, and other spine-chilling adventures.

mountains of madness

“At the Mountains of Madness” by H.P. Lovecraft (1931)

This short novel is hailed as one of author H.P. Lovecraft’s best and most twisted tales. A group from Miskatonic University sets off on a scientific exhibition through the barren lands of Antarctic. There they find nothing they expect, including a lost civilization and untold evil.

october country

“The October Country” by Ray Bradbury (1955)

Ray Bradbury’s second collection of short stories, also once out of print, is a mystical journey through the dark and bizarre. Encounter funhouse mirrors, weird poker chips, and more in these stories from the master of imagination.


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