I want this to be a platform for EVERYONE within the horror community; authors, publishers, bloggers, reviewers, actors, directors, artists. I could go on, if you work in the genre then you are more than welcome to apply for the job.
For the sake of Twitter characters and in looking for something a little more punchy, I’ve now decided to call this feature The Graveyard Shift. (#GraveyardShift)
The rules are quite simple…
You are invited to imagine yourselves as warden for an old graveyard, and choose eight books, preferably horror/dark genre, to take with you to cover your shift; here you can discuss why you chose the books.
As well as the books, wardens are allowed one song/album to listen to. Again, an explanation for this choice is required.
You must also discuss one luxury item you can bring, which must be inanimate and not allow communication.
If you’d like to take part in The Graveyard Shift then please submit an application to firstname.lastname@example.org
A new shift is about to begin and the warden is…
The Shining By Stephen King
This was the first “grown up” book I ever read, purchased for me by my mom from the drug store paperback rack. I’d read those Great Illustrated Classics children’s adaptations before, but The Shining was the book that introduced me to the world of real, true, adult literature. Also, while I’d always known I wanted to be a writer of some sort, it was after I read The Shining I realized I wanted to be a horror writer. It’ll always have a place of major sentimentality for me and I’ve got to include it here for that reason alone. Taken on its own literary merits it’s the seminal haunted house story of the latter-half of the 20th century and deserves to be spoken of in the same breath as Shirley Jackson’s Hill House; King accomplishes the fantastic task of making The Overlook Hotel one of the most malevolent yet alluring antagonists in literary history, which is no small feat considering it’s a building. As a younger reader I was enraptured—much like Jack—by the mysteries of the hotel, and found myself re-reading those portions of the novel dealing with the scrapbook hoping to glean some new piece of information about it that I might have missed. It’s also a deeply human book, and while Jack Nicholson’s cinematic incarnation of the character may be one of the most believably fearsome monsters in the horror canon, his literary progenitor is one of the most believably complex.
House of Leaves By Mark Z. Danielewski
While The Shining may be one of the most influential horror novels I’ve ever read, House of Leaves is probably my favorite, and the one that most speaks to me. As someone who spent years in the world of academia, it hits a very right note in terms of capturing both the tedious complexity and intellectual pleasure of writing a thesis, and Danielewski’s multi-layered, Russian-doll approach to storytelling is a literary feat I think will probably be studied by future generations alongside Nabokov’s Palefire. The fact that it leaves itself open to so many different and so many contradictory interpretations is also a brilliant piece of storytelling—is the movie real? Is Johnny? Were Zampano and Pelafina lovers? Is everything a metaphor for their relationship? It’s also got a special appeal for me because it’s a perfect fusion of so many subgenres I love: it’s at once a haunted house story, a found footage story, a dark romance, and a tragic character study all wrapped up in one. Like The Shining, I also love that the book teases just enough about the nature of the supernatural threat so that the reader can come up with their own theories and ideas without ever spelling anything out, especially regarding the nature of The Minotaur.
American Psycho By Bret Easton Ellis
My wife has told me that you can’t truly love something unless you acknowledge and accept its flaws. As an inveterate 80s-phile growing up—I spent the first several years of my life in them, after all—Psycho was the ultimate test of whether or not I could go on living with a fierce, nostalgic dedication to the Reagan era. The answer was a tenuous “yes,” although the book also served to provide me with a lasting, visceral reminder that it wasn’t all John Hughes movies and bitchin’ synth chords. While Ellis has since fallen into the great provocateur’s trap of constantly trying to one-up himself and be an iconoclast for the sake of being an iconoclast, it’s hard to remember that once upon a time he was a genuine generational adjudicator, calling down judgment on all the excesses of an age we still struggle to find fault with. The heinous torture sequences aside, it’s also hard to remember what a genuinely funny book it can be when Bateman is in full-on freakout mode; its strongest parts are those sections of the book that’re focalized through his own deranged lens of reality, especially a sequence at a U2 concert that ends with him having a bizarre revelation about Bono. When I’m writing 80s period material myself, it’s also a great meditation tool- I just open it up at random and lose myself in Ellis’ bitingly cruel, beautifully realized recreation of the decade.
Splatterpunks Edited By Paul M. Sammon
Speaking of the 80s… while Psycho may be one of the best cultural examinations of the era, the Splatterpunks Anthology is perhaps one of the best literary collections of the age, a beautiful time capsule of what was on horror writers’ minds and how they chose to engage with those ideas and anxieties. The Splatterpunk movement has always fascinated me, and while I understand that it was too much a product of its time—and too nebulous in its goals and ideology—to last longer than it did, it’s had an impact on my own writing and sensibilities that has stuck with me until today; I’ll gladly count myself among the members of Splat Pack: The Next Generation, if such a thing can be said to exist. I’ve got positive things to say about most of the stories here—I wrote an entire essay about it once—but two in particular stand out as perhaps my favorite horror short stories of all time: Joe Lansdale’s “Night They Missed the Horror Show,” whose out-of-left-field climax and unexpected third-act villains have directly inspired more than a few pieces of my own work; and George R.R. Martin’s “Meathoue Man,” perhaps the horror story for the broken-hearted (I wrote an essay about that one, too). It’s another book I’ll just periodically find myself picking up, randomly opening, and exploring. The copy I own is the one I’ve had ever since I was 18, and traded a mutual friend a copy of Clive Barker’s In the Flesh for—and damn, am I glad I did.*
Lullaby By Chuck Palahniuk
While Fight Club may be what put Palahniuk on the map, and Haunted is what made readers across America clench their anuses in collective terror, for my money Lullaby is his true magnum opus, an underread, underappreciated work of not just great horror but great literature that deserves to be counted among the best works of the late 21st century. Like House of Leaves, it’s a deft fusion of horror subgenres, weaving together elements of a cursed media story (the story centers on a bewitched poem with the power to kill), a serial killer/vigilante tale, a doomed love story, a road story, a mystery, and a witchcraft narrative, with some last-act body horror for good measure. The romance that develops between sad-sack journalist Carl and maniac real estate agent Helen Hoover Boyle (a role Nicole Kidman was born to play) is genuinely affecting, and serves as proof Palahniuk has a sentimental heart buried beneath all of that Gen-X angst. The book is also a demonstration of an author working at the top of his game. Palahniuk employs the repetitive mantras and meditations that would become a crutch in his later works to fantastic use as the book itself is about a world of repetition and noise and aural clutter, while antagonist Oyster—a hipster wiccan with a bone to pick with humanity—comes across as a more fully realized version of Tyler Durden. Palahniuk has made other stabs at horror over the years, but, if you’re only going to read one of his forays into the genre—or only one of his books period—this is it.
Sleazoid Express By Bill Landis & Michelle Clifford
Even moreso than The Shining, Sleazoid has had an indelible effect on my life, and I can say without a doubt that I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t have cracked open a copy in 2004. It’s no exaggeration to say I could write an entire article about the influence the book has had on me. Bill Landis and Michelle Clifford’s gonzo exploration of early 1980s Times Square, the grindhouses that lined it and the exploitation movies that played there was like gasoline for my smoldering imagination, and the resultant conflagration hasn’t gone out since. Not just a catalogue of really fascinating movies, Sleazoid is a master class in amateur anthropology, as Landis and Clifford examine the various subcultures that sprang up around 42nd Street, their socio-cultural origins, the movies they gravitated towards and why. The book is a virtual time capsule/simulator, allowing readers to return to an era when walking the streets of New York was taking your life in your hands, and the only respite was slipping into a movie theater. Sleazoid is perhaps one of my most-read horror books, and I never tire of cracking open its pages and taking that journey back to The Deuce myself.
Red Dragon By Thomas Harris
It’s my sincere belief that this will one day be talked about in the same tones as Frankenstein and Dracula when future literature professors discuss classic works of horror. Before he was a byword for cannibalism and brilliant psychopaths, Hannibal Lecter was a sleazy literary boogeyman lurking around the margins of Thomas Harris’ tour-de-force entry into the world of serial killer stories, a subgenre he redefined with his vision of noble-but-broken men chasing human monsters through an even more nightmarish version of the soulless 70s. Rarely does horror literature get one character who so profoundly springs to life; Dragon gives us two in the form of Will Graham, a man preternaturally capable of evil but in possession of enough of a conscience to use his baser instincts for good; and Francis Dolarhyde, perhaps one of the greatest and most multidimensionally portrayed lunatics in horror history. When an author can get you to feel genuine sympathy for a guy who kills entire families and fucks corpses, you know you’re dealing with literature on a whole other level, and that’s exactly the case here. While the film version of Silence of the Lambs is inarguably the greatest cinematic adaptation of a Thomas Harris work, I’ll die on the hill of Dragon being his masterpiece, and I’ve always felt a bit wistful he never brought Will Graham out of retirement for one final showdown with his nemesis.
The Black Dahlia By James Ellroy
Though it’s more commonly classified as neo-noir, James Ellroy’s reimagining of the investigation into the murder of Elizabeth Short stands alongside Red Dragon and American Psycho in blurring the line between horror and crime fiction, plunging the reader into a world darker and more spiritually depraved than even some of Clive Barker’s most soul-churning work. Every character in the book is morally and spiritually compromised in some way, from the slime-dripping pedophiles that Detectives Blanchard and Bleichert begin their career busting to the necrophiliac surgeons and spooky, blue-blood creeps into whose midst their investigation leads them. Like Thomas Harris in Red Dragon, James Elroy has a blast examining the very thin—and sometimes nonexistant—line between the minds of depraved killers and the cops who catch them. The book also serves as a powerful indictment of that great golden calf that was old Hollywood and all of its false promises, destroying everyone it touches. I read this over the course of a week in 2008 after Hurricane Ike shut down my college and knocked out our power for just as long a period, jamming out to Joni Mitchell’s Hissing of Summer Lawns as I made my first foray into Elroy’s unique reimagining of an era that was gorgeous on top and covered in scum underneath.
The Age of Plastic by The Buggles
While Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories is probably my favorite album of all time, this is my go-to when I just want to pop something on my record player and clean, or chill out, or clear my mind. Recorded in 1979, it captures—in the course of 36 beautiful minutes—the entire sound, ambience, and soul of the decade to follow. From the loneliness and elegiac longing of Video Killed the Radio Star to the fist-pumping enthusiasm of Clean Clean to the wistful reverie of Elstree, it’s an album that’s not just about but captures the sound of nostalgia, and loss, and love, and the human desire to perfect and connect with technology, and the uncertain future that results from the fusion of all those disparate ambitions and emotions. The 80s was very much about all those things, and the Buggles not only predicted it, they captured it.
I’ll never go anywhere without a good, reliable quartz watch. I own several but for my graveyard shift I’ll be bringing along my trusted Invicta, with its glow-in-the-dark markers to let me know when daylight is approaching. It’s durable, accurate, and, like James Bond, in the event of a zombie uprising I can slip it over my hand and use that hefty case to crack some skulls.
*Funnily, there was a period in my life where In the Flesh—which I’m quite fond of—became my most valuable currency. Every time I’d obtain a new copy a friend or acquaintance would offer to trade me some horror treasure of their own for it. I’ve given away about six copies of the book and gotten some pretty nice swag for it.
Preston Fassel is an award-winning author and journalist whose work has appeared in FANGORIA, Rue Morgue Magazine, Screem Magazine, and on Cinedump.com. His debut novel, Our Lady of the Inferno, won the 2019 Independent Publisher Book Award for Horror.
You can follow Preston on Twitter @PrestonFassel
Our Lady Of The Inferno
Spring, 1983. Sally Ride is about to go into space. Flashdance is a cultural phenomenon. And in Times Square, two very deadly women are on a collision course with destiny– and each other.
At twenty-one, Ginny Kurva is already legendary on 42nd Street. To the pimp for whom she works, she’s the perfect weapon– a martial artist capable of taking down men twice her size. To the girls in her stable, she’s mother, teacher, and protector. To the little sister she cares for, she’s a hero. Yet Ginny’s bravado and icy confidence hide a mind at the breaking point, her sanity slowly slipping away as both her addictions and the sins of her past catch up with her…
At thirty-seven, Nicolette Aster is the most respected woman at the Staten Island Landfill. Quiet and competent, she’s admired by the secretaries and trusted by her supervisors. Yet those around her have no idea how Nicolette spends her nights– when the hateful madness she keeps repressed by day finally emerges, and she turns the dump into a hunting ground to engage in a nightmarish bloodsport…