Halloween's less than a week away. Turner Classic Movies has been running a nice selection of horror films on Mondays this month, and on Halloween the channel will run a day of Hammer horror films and top off the evening with the original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED, THE HAUNTING, and THE INNOCENTS, as well as an hour with Stephen King talking about horror films.
But there's plenty of horror to be found on the printed page too. In case you've missed them, you might want to check out some of the following short story collections. Why short stories? Well, we drop bite-size treats into the kids' Halloween bags when they come to the door -- same principle.
There's no real need to remind anyone to check out the work of Stephen King or Ray Bradbury or Shirley Jackson this time of year. If you've missed King's collection NIGHT SHIFT or Bradbury's THE OCTOBER COUNTRY, or Jackson's THE LOTTERY, you're cheating yourself. But unless you're a devoted fan of horror year-round and not just on Halloween, you may have missed some of the following.
NIGHT'S BLACK AGENTS, by Fritz Leiber. The first collection by the writer who brought the tale of supernatural horror into the modern urban setting. Try for one of the later editions that includes the classic chiller "The Girl with Hungry Eyes." The later collections SMOKE GHOST and THE BLACK GONDOLIER include several of the stories from NIGHT'S BLACK AGENTS as well as newer and equally chilling pieces.
DUEL, and NIGHTMARE AT 20,000 FEET, by Richard Matheson; and THE HOWLING MAN, by Charles Beaumont. You know their work even if you don't recognize their names. Matheson is the author of I AM LEGEND, SOMEWHERE IN TIME, THE SHRINKING MAN and others. Beaumont and Matheson were responsible for many of the original TWILIGHT ZONE's most memorable episodes, and these three collections are perfect Halloween reading for any fan of that series.
Classic supernatural fiction can be found free in ebook form these days. M. R. James's GHOST STORIES OF AN ANTIQUARY, for instance, or stories by E. F. Benson, Oliver Onions, Algernon Blackwood and others are available at the Kindle store or at sites like horrormasters.com.
There are several excellent treasuries of horror stories available; anyone looking for terrific Halloween reading should find a copy of the Modern Library collection GREAT TALES OF TERROR AND THE SUPERNATURAL, and David Hartwell's THE DARK DESCENT. Both are nice survey collections, spanning the history of short horror fiction from its early days through modern times, and Hartwell's (the newer of the two) offers work by contemporary writers such as Ramsey Campbell, Dennis Etchison, and Charles Grant.
I've mentioned Kealan Patrick Burke and James Everington in this space before; their collections THE 121 TO PENNSYLVANIA and THE OTHER ROOM (by Burke & Everington respectively) are highly recommended for the season as well. In particular, Burke's "Empathy" is one of the most frightening short stories I've read in years.
I've put five short stories into a collection called FIVE OF THE HAUNTED. The stories ("The Point," "The Old Neighborhood," "The Back Row of the Balcony," "Passenger," and "Anonymity") are all available separately at Amazon's Kindle store, Smashwords, and other retailers at 99 cents each. FIVE OF THE HAUNTED gathers them into one ebook at the bargain price of $1.50. Give it a look if you get a chance.