Gothic Readers Book Club

The Gothic Readers Book Club is a gathering of like-minded souls who read Gothic literature. Our goal is promote the best in modern and classic Gothic literature from around the globe.

Glen Krisch's novel is a complex story of good and evil, both literally and symbolically. The town of Coal Hollow sits atop a dark and evil secret. When Cooper, an outsider, arrives in town, he's met with suspicion. Things go from bad to worse when two boys disappear. As Cooper tries to clear his name, the sinister underbelly of the town emerges. This is part zombie, part ghost story, part just plain scary. Krisch's narrative is dark and intense. He doesn't offer explanation or answers. Evil just exists and likely always will. A few of the characters didn't seem to have a home in the action of the story and there are a few slow parts where it gets overly descriptive. Minor flaws in a great story.

The anthology A Carnivale of Horror is an eclectic collection of circus-themed stories. Ray Bradbury's famous (or infamous) "Something Wicked This Way Comes" is the lead story and sets a great tone. There are freak shows, clowns, big tops, and plenty of horrors here. Stories like Tom Reamy's "Blind Voices" capture that strange, sinister edge that lurks around the circus and the old freak shows. Younger readers might not get the freak show concept entirely, but the fear is definitely there. John Connolly's story, "Some Children Wander by Mistake," is just plain disturbing. You will never look at clowns the same (if you don't already fear them). The big top theme does get a little repetitive and a few of the more experimental stories (Joe Hill's lack of narrative, for example) don't always work. The quality stories here are well worth the read and Bradbury's classic ties the whole thing together nicely.

P.J. Hodge's Ghosts and Other Supernatural Guests is a fantastic Gothic collection. The writing style is reminiscent of the Victorian classics, but it's adapted to a modern audience. The crisp pacing reads well, and the archaic touches make a great framework to give the stories a very authentic air. The stories focus on Victorian ghosts, hauntings, manifestations, and psychological fear. Hodge is skilled at building tension rather than using gore and violence as a narrative tool. Very well done.

If You Like: M.R. James, Henry James, Guy de Maupassant

Edited by Shawna L. Bernard, Cellar Door: Words of Beauty, Tales of Terror is a unique collection. The stories are linked by title to create a loose thread between the tales. A simulation of opening doors, passing through, never to return to your point of origin. The poetry, flash fiction, and short stories take the reader down shadowy corridors and through haunted cold spots to reveal monstrous horrors hidden in the darkness. The works here are eclectic and terrifying.

If You Like: Algernon Blackwood, H.P. Lovecraft, Sheridan Le Fanu, Guy de Maupassant

Fry's horror is the most powerful of all. Understated, tense, and disturbing, he doesn't fall back on guts, violence, and grossing out his readers. Like the Gothic classics, he explores death, mortality, inner fears, and that fine line we all dance with insanity. He focuses on that most frightening question of all. What is real and what do we create in our own head? This collection lurks in the shadows and darkness of our worst fears.

If You Like: H.P. Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood, Sherwood Anderson

Garry Kilworth has put together a fantastic collection of poetry in  Poems, Peoms and Other Atrocities. The collection features the work of both  Garry Kilworth and Robert Holdstock. While not all of the selections are dark poetry, most touch on some of the most powerful shadows in our lives. The collection's divided into sections. Life and Death and War naturally reach into the darkest places in our souls. Even the section on Love touches on the haunting strains of Gothic. In "Shield Man," the author promises to take "the first blow" and "never fail at the task" of protecting those he loves. A powerful sentiment, but one that lingers with the hint of the impossible. "Letter to Lavinia" has the essence of the Poe infused in every line. Gothic poetry is not lost. Find it here.

If You Like: Shelley, Poe, Keats

Sokoloff creates a fantastic balance between reality and the supernatural in Book of Shadows. Part detective story and part supernatural, the narrative is a slippery slope of magic, murder, and trust. How far can a detective seeped in a culture of 'just-the-facts' step outside his comfort zone to believe in the occult? Can he trust this strange woman luring him farther and farther into a world of darkness and mystery? Can he afford not to trust her considering the stakes? Sokoloff's work is a compelling, chilling tale.

If you like: Ann Radcliffe, Matthew Gregory Lewis, E.T.A. Hoffmann

Ghosts were the staple of the Gothic tradition and editor Andrew Barger has compiled a collection featuring the highlights of the early modern era. As with his other anthologies, he also provides excellent resources for readers who want to investigate beyond his pages. Featuring stories from Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and other famous names, he also includes a few readers might not immediately know. This is a fantastic introduction to the supernatural and paranormal of the 1800s.

If You Like: Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Wilhelm Hauff

This collection from Bruce Boston spans his entire career, and the selections are amazing for their depth and diversity. This is not cheap horror poetry about monsters and the apocalypse. Boston's vivid imagery and elegant style captures the long, dark shadows of twilight and the haunting fear of midnight. Decay, terror, fear, hope, the light at the end of the tunnel, madness, nightmares, and dreams. Bruce Boston is the Byron of our age.

If You Like: Keats, Shelley, Byron, Coleridge

Greg Herren has produced a fantastic collection of gay-themed Gothic tales here! The Richard Hall story "Country People" is worth it alone, but the rest of the authors really rise to the occasion, too. Marshall Moore's "Sic Gloria Transit" is a dark, brooding piece with haunting prose. "The Troll in the Basement" by Quentin Harrington and "Waiting for the Vampire" by William J. Mann are also two standouts here. The anthology closes with a novella, "Fever" by Victoria A. Brownworth, bringing the collection to just as intense an ending as Hall's opening tale.

If You Like: Sheridan Le Fenu, Algernon Blackwood, Edith Wharton

Michael Sims gives us a fantastic look into the Victorian love of the vampire. Spanning the entire century, Sims has collected the best of the vampire tales, including Sheridan Le Fanu,
Mary Elizabeth Braddon, and the lost chapter from the infamous Dracula by Bram Stoker. These tales reflect the early origins of the vampire myth and vary greatly in tone, depiction, and characteristics. A must for any well-read vampire fan.

If You Like: Sheridan Le Fanu, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Bram Stoker

Iain Rowan is more well known to most people for his crime writing, but he's brilliant at the gothic as well! His short story collection titled Ice Age is one of the most superb collections of dark fiction since Henry James. The stories here all reflect a creeping sense of doom. Hence the title. The cold chill of the grave is reaching out in every line, every paragraph, and every story. Things are wrong, but what? Why? Rowan takes us down very dark, sinister roads of our own making. There are no serial killers, no supernatural beings, and no spell to make things better in the morning. Rowan reminds us that we make our own evil.

If You Like: Henry James, Ambrose Bierce, H.P. Lovecraft

In another from Gothic horror editor Andrew Barger, this collection explores the more specific tales of the vampire from early modern period. Ghosts were a popular theme of the Gothic literary tradition, but the undead make plenty of appearances! These stories reflect the foundation of the vampire mythos and many differ greatly from what we know as the blood-sucking monster/ lover of today. Some of these tales have not been published for over two centuries and give a fascinating insight into the beginning of the vampire legend in modern Western Europe.

If You Like: Alexander Dumas, Théophile Gautier, Joseph le Fanu.

Dazzling sums up Paula Cappa's paranormal/ supernatural novel. Set in Concord Massachusetts, the the spirits of transcendentalists Emerson, Thoreau, and Alcott wander the woods near an old cemetery. Elias Hatch, the cemetery keeper, is the last of the transcendentalists in our age. There are also secrets, guilt, and pain hidden among the old tombstones. The straightforward narrative is about a kidnapping, the clues, and a family suffering from their loss. Poetry's woven among the plot to give the prose an elegance and grace that seduces you. The metaphorical elements bring a fascinating dimension to the supernatural elements.

If You Like: Algernon Blackwood, Henry James, Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sandy DeLuca's new novella is a classic example of modern Gothic literature. Her protagonist Donna was raised in a strange and mystic household, but she flees from her bizarre upbringing into the 'normal' world of kids, a job, and a marriage. But like many a Gothic tale, she cannot escape the long, dark shadows that lurk just out of sight. Horrors and terror will not remain buried, and Donna must confront her own nightmares as well as those of the distant past. Complete with a hospital and its sinister past, Messages from the Dead is a frightening tale.

If You Like: Henry James, Algernon Blackwood, Sheridan Le Fanu

In her novel Affinity, Sarah Waters takes us to Victorian England. Exploring a dual system of oppression, the prison system and the social condition of women, Waters weaves a master multi-layered tale. Imprisoned for a seance gone terribly wrong, Selina Dawes sits festering in horrific conditions in a women's prison. Margaret Prior, recovering from a suicide attempt, tends to the women and their needs as charity. These two women's lives collide, changing both forever. Affinity is a tale of forbidden arts, forbidden love, and forbidden social rights. The story unfolds in dense, complex layers, leaving the reader questioning motivations, actions, and the reality of the supernatural. The prose is elegant, drawing us into a tangled web of ghosts, fear, and ever-increasing tension. Hints of madness creep around the edges in classic Gothic tradition and the uncertainty builds to a feverish pitch.

If You Like: Henry James, Edgar Allan Poe

Andrew Barger is well-known for his horror anthologies and this is one of the best. He has compiled twelve of the best short stories from the early modern Gothic period. He also includes a wonderful list of the over 300 tales he read for this collection, giving the reader an excellent reference source to continue.

If You Like: Dickens, Poe, Balzac

Andrew Davidson's The Gargoyle is a modern interpretation of the classic Gothic nightmare world of pain, suffering, and the questionable supernatural. Our protagonist endures an almost unbelievable series of horrors, only to discover a lunatic at his bedside. Marianne weaves a tale of reincarnation, ancient love, and centuries of redemption through the fiery inferno of time. Taken literally, the novel is overblown and nearly absurd. This is not a literal work however. Like many novels in the Gothic literary tradition, it's rich in symbolism, metaphor, and analogy. The fiery car crash that introduces the novel is the beginning of the descent into the depths of Hell itself. Our sculptress figuratively carves a new life for him out of her fantastical tales. Get lost in the imagery and depth here.

If You Like: Dante, Milton

What is there not to love about this collection? It's a collection of some of the greatest Gothic writers of all time. Irving, Hawthorne, Poe,

Setterfield's story is a sweeping tale of sisters. love, Gothic nightmares, and ghosts from the past. A dying writer, Vida Winter calls upon a woman she has never met to tell her final story. Hence the title. This final story is the narrative of Vida's family. Winter digs deep into the past, into her darkest memories, to recount the horrific and bizarre events of the Angelfield family. Setterfield's descriptions of the mysterious and frightening moors harkens back to the tradition of the Brontë sisters. Her emotional landscapes are intense, haunting, and disturbing. She captures that Gothic sense of universality, devoid of time and place, that haunts the ages.

If You Like: the Brontë sisters, Henry James

Klein should be a household name in horror. His writing style is dark and dystopic. He crafts subtle tales of dread and fear. His characters are dark, bordering on the sinister, and live without hope for any future. The atmosphere builds in each novella through the skilled use of elegant prose. Klein's narrative is based around the shadows of the mundane world. Secrets, hidden spaces gradually unfold as he draws the reader into the underbelly corridors of broken cities.

If You Like: H.P. Lovecraft

James Avonleigh's Reiko: A Japanese Ghost Story is a haunting story of murder and revenge set in Japan. Four friends die under very mysterious circumstances. A paranormal investigator from Britain arrives to discover there are dark secrets lurking in the shadows of the tiny village of Izumi. Avonleigh returns to the ghost story tradition of Henry James and gives us a tale of fear and suspense. He crafts a tale of uncertainty and challenges the reader to question sanity, reality, and evil.

If You Like: Henry James, Algernon Blackwood

 Dark Duet is a collection of poetry that must be read. It demands your attention, luring you into its dark depths with subtle strokes and haunting melodies. This is the poetic world of shadows and light, good and evil, past, present, and future.You will not find cliche tropes here. Instead, Addison and Wilson weave complex tapestries of sinister enchantment. You must read on, but you fear what comes next. It's poetry of the unknown secrets and dark places that lurk just around the corner.

If you like: Lord Byron, Samuel Coleridge

Peter Straub's Ghost Story is a tale straight out of the Gothic classic literary style. Monstrous deeds, decades of guilt, revenge, and death stalk the pages of this timeless novel. Straub's narrative is complex and challenges the reader's notion of reality and fantasy. As young men, these four committed a most foul deed. But what is really happening fifty years later? What is truth and what is supernatural? Does it matter in the end if the mind believes? Straub captures the tone, suspense, and atmosphere of Gothic with skill and style.

If You Like: Wilkie Collins, Henry James

Andrew Wolter's writing fuses the classic elements of Gothic literature with modern themes from the LGBT community in a very dark, appealing way. This is a short story collection and Wolter delves into the tragedy, power, and intensity of human bonds and human evil. He explores love, passion, hatred, and viciousness much like Ambrose Bierce did over a century before. His characters are well-drawn and he crafts his narratives carefully to keep the suspense and fear tight and intense.

If You Like: Ambrose Bierce, Edith Wharton

Several weeks ago, our members engaged in an intense debate over zombies. There are many great zombie stories out there, but are they Gothic literature? We agreed that although many are fantastic horror, zombies just don't quite fit the Gothic literary tradition. The emphasis in a zombie story is gore over suspense. Character and setting development take second place to the horror elements through plot. Ty Schwamberger's novella The Fields is a rare exception. It's both a fantastic horror story and a great piece of Gothic fiction. Rather than an eating brains/ walking dead story, Schwamberger has crafted a tale of human frailty, ignorance, and evil within the framework of the zombie story. The walking dead serve the Gothic narrative rather than serve as the plot device. It's more a tale of humans than shambling corpses and this one of the most critical facets to Gothic literature. Do not be afraid of the zombies with this one.

If you like: Guy de Maupassant, H.P. Lovecraft

Sometimes we here at the Gothic Readers Book Club feel that true Gothic poetry is a dead art. No pun intended. Lord Byron and his ilk proved that verse could convey as much intensity and passion as narrative, but modern writers don't seem to feel the same. Dark poetry is in an even worse state than general poetry. Gary Crawfodr and Bruce Boston restored our faith. Notes from the Shadow City explores the darkest depth of an imaginary city through verse. From siren songs to pure evil to the shadows themselves, the rhythms and phrases seduce you into the underbelly. The words chill, enthrall, enchant, and horrify. Byron would be proud.

If you like: Byron, Shelley, Keats

Malfi's tale reflects the psychological horror of Gothic. It's not gore and violence. There's a powerful sense of unease throughout the story. There are things lurking in the shadows and around the corners. Things we cannot see, but we know are there. The suspense is intense and frightening and Malfi builds the tension well. Like the classic Gothic novels, we are never really sure about our protagonist. What's real and what's not here? Are the horrors and haunts real manifestations or imagined? Malfi challenges the fine line between insanity and supernatural here.

If you like: Henry James, J. Sheridan Le Fanu, Algernon Blackwood