Author Picks: Mavis Cheek’s Halloween Reads

With a week and a half left until Halloween, we’ve asked Mavis Cheek, author of Parlour Games, for her favourite spooky reads to suit the season.


When it comes to being frightened, forget film (I laughed my way through Jack Nicholson in The Shining) – books do it better. Read these with a glowing, candlelit pumpkin smiling spookily at your window.

   draculahaunting hill houseamerican psycho

 Try Bram Stoker’s Dracula – written in 1897 and chillingly convincing. Count Dracula, the Vampire, arrives by ship in Whitby, his cargo is soil from Transylvania which he needs to spread everywhere for his own renewal – the crew of the ship begin to mysteriously disappear, one by one – which is as nothing to what happens to poor, palely wasting Lucy…

Try Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House (1959) S.J. (who looked like a slightly overglammed schoolteacher) was Stephen King’s and Neil Gaiman’s inspiration – and made Donna Tartt shiver with dread. Shirley Jackson knew how to turn the ordinary into the frightening, the sane into the insane, the normal into the paranormal – so pull your curtains tight, dim the lights and hunker down…

Ira Levin’s  Rosemary’s Baby (1967)  I read this when I was nineteen and it made me unable to stay in my flat alone for weeks afterwards – and then I saw the  film – which – to be fair – does it justice and I was seriously frightened all over again. Mr Levin knows how to crank up the fear factor and in this book, he works his black magic like a true satanic puppeteer (best not read if you are pregnant). He does the same with The Stepford Wives – a chilling read which has the horrible addition of being believable. 

And ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ by Edgar Alan Poe (1839) takes you to that darkest of places – the coffin – and that darkest of human nightmares – being sealed up and buried alive.  It’s included in a collection of his short stories called Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque – there are a few more in that selection that will have you creeping nervously to your bed and hoping you don’t appear to die in the night…

Of course, a more modern chiller is American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis (1991).  A psychopathic killer who enjoys torturing his victims is one thing – but to dress him up as an ordinary, attractive, normal businessman is the other – and it’s what makes this book so terrifying.  You might start to look at your fellow colleagues in a whole, new light.

If you’re feeling spooked after getting through Mavis’ list then make sure to check out her own titles, including Sleeping Beauties and Three Men on a Plane, and Parlour Games for some much needed relief.

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Come back next Friday for our final installment of Halloween reads!