Bizarre Book Club – Spooky Halloween All Hallows Read Horror Special

This post is brought to you by the Parlour of Horror Blog Tour. Parlour of Horror, nothing keeps your teeth whiter.


Last week I went to The Sherlock Holmes pub in London, near Trafalgar Square, and took some pretentious pictures for my next batch of mini-reviews:  sherlock-holmes-pub-1sherlock-holmes-pub-2

I genuinely liked it in there, the weird Victoriana made me feel all warm and fuzzy. Anyway, on to the horror.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The night when the whole world as one raises the dead and eats so many sweeties (candy) that we glow iridescent with e numbers.

I’m sorry that I can’t send these out to you personally as you’re supposed to for All Hallows Read, but maybe you can pass them on after purchasing them this year. Let’s begin!

The Haunted Book by Jeremy Dyson.

As well as being a member of The League of Gentlemen and a playwright and author, Jeremy Dyson is a big fan of Robert Aickman (as am I). This is definitely noticeable in this themed collection of ghostly weird tales, which is a fictional account of a journey across the UK to collect local scary stories. Like Robert his stories are often not spelled out, leaving the reader to draw their own conclusions about what happened and why. It’s very clever, atmospheric and genuinely creepy.

Mr Fox by Helen Oyeyemi helen-oyeyemi

You’d be forgiven for thinking this was a nice children’s book about a married couple who are foxes, but it’s not. There are barely any real foxes.

I found Helen Oyeyemi‘s book very exciting simply for the way it bent my mind. Was it a collection of short stories? Not really. A novel with a single, flowing narrative? Well, no…

Mr Fox is an author who kills off all his female leads, and Mary Foxe is a character of his whose head he chopped off (there are many references to the Bluebeard fairy tale). Or perhaps she was his real wife whose head he chopped off? The pair of them imagine various scenarios in which she’s a romance novelist, a florist, a model and many more, the stories getting darker and stranger but always beautiful.

Helen Oyeyemi manages to take an idea that was cliche by the time it appeared on The Twilight Zone, a character speaking to it’s creator, and turn it into something I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. My brain crackled like popping candy and I think yours will too.

100 Jolts: Shockingly Short Stories by Michael A Arnzen

These flash horror stories are deviously good fun. Split into sections covering the different aspects of horror (gory, supernatural etc) they often don’t become clear until you’ve thought about it for a few moments, and then you’ll be pondering them for quite a while afterwards.

If you have a spare few minutes you can dip into any section and read a tiny story, or sit down for hours and read lots in one go.

Ecstatic Inferno by Autumn Christian ecstatic_inferno_cover

These short stories are very beautifully written and there were so many sentences that made me green with envy. They span science fiction, fantasy and horror, but each tale has a dark Gothic magic behind it.

You’ll find Siamese (conjoined) twins navigating their sexuality, something happening to the children of an earth colony on a cold, barely inhabitable planet, Gods running the government and much more. Nicely creepy and very intelligent.

Ta dah! Have a wonderful Halloween and try not to eat too many sweets (who am I kidding, stuff yourselves silly).

Maddie’s bizarre book club 3 (including a helpful handbook for the disturbed mind)

Gutten morgan! Welcome one and all to another bizarre book club. Here be monsters and probably some sort of squishy things that will hurt your face.

Shush this is serious
Shush this is serious

1. Number one is Instigation: Creative Prompts on the Dark Side by Michael Arnzen. You need it, you know you do.

Probably not for the easily shockable (but if that’s you, why on earth are you following this blog?!) it’s packed with character and story ideas or scenario suggestions of the kind that are rare. It’s good, and made me feel oddly comforted to know that it existed.

2. Unbearables by Various (Autonomedia). I managed to pick this up in a charity shop for a couple of quid, which was lucky because I couldn’t find this on amazon or anywhere for you, but it is available on the publisher’s site. They seem to be a group of writers from the mid-nineties who specialised in personal stories that weave dreamlike and Virginia Woolfesque throughout.

There's a possibility I added this picture purely to show you my nail varnish
There’s a possibility I added this picture purely to show you my nail varnish

You could argue it errs on the pretentious side occasionally but I’m a firm believer that sometimes pretention is OK. Plus I got it well cheap.

3. Death to the Brothers Grimm by Various. Fairy tales are, to use an oft repeated pun on the name, grim. Or at least they were supposed to be before Disney made them all pink. This collection reawakens that side of them. Sometimes funny, sometimes weird, often disturbing, this is a very entertaining collection.

4. Bad Book Club by Robin Ince. Technically not a bizarre book by itself, it is a humorous guide to oddities of publishing that you can’t believe exist. A few examples are: ‘What Would Jesus Eat,’ ‘Starlust,’ a compilation of people’s sexual fantasies involving 80s popstars, and a book about breeding rabbits that seems obsessed with how to kill them. 

5. The Obese by Nick Antosca. Yup, exactly how it sounds. A very short satire described as “Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds-with obese people.” I’ll add its description on the back as I think it explains the story better than I can:

“Nina Gilten works in the fashion industry. She retouches images for Redbook, Teen Vogue, Chic, Marie Claire, and Nylon. Her work involves shaving off hipbones, masking moles, and giving more sheen to the lusterless skin of supermodels. In other words, she makes people beautiful. But when a vengeful houseguest forwards Nina’s private correspondence with her boss to popular feminist blog Jezebel, Nina finds herself jobless and ostracized.

Then rabid obese people start rampaging on the streets of New York.”

Jolly good! Get reading or by golly I shall cry onto you until it becomes annoying.