As a boy of eight, I received a much-loved birthday gift from my father. Entitled “Horror stories for thirteen year olds” or something of a similar note, I distinctly recall its green cover, with a black and white sketch of a small boy running amidst spooky trees and long strands of giant hair (by that, I mean the hair of giants, which naturally is giant in itself). I read the book with glee; the kind of childish pleasure that you get not only from doing something forbidden (an eight year old reading scary thirteen year old stories, can you say forbidden!) but also from discovering a delight you have never savoured. It was this delight which would stick with me, ever-changing, but never leaving, throughout my childhood, and until now.
That delight concerns horror stories. Not your slasher type horror story, where humans can act out on their terrible desires and cause harm and terror on whomever they so please. No, the supernatural horror story: ghosts and ghouls and demons, giants and spiders and bats and the undead. Terrifying vampires, lurching zombies, spooky banshees. My fascination for this genre drove me to discover the wonder of the public library, where weekly I would shuffle in and devour any and all horror / supernatural material I could get my hands on. Naturally, this fascination has driven my taste in books, movies and tv shows, and of course my own writing. However, it has been a long time since I’ve stumbled across something that could take me back to that joyous feeling of my childhood – that pleasure in reading a book that is fascinating and terrifying at the same time, that sends shivers up your spine and makes you think twice about wandering around in the dark. I recently had the joy of reading John Connolly’s short story collection, Nocturnes:
Though not all reviewers agree (see some of the reviews left on Amazon.com), I think that this book shows a mastery of the short horror tale by Connolly. Whilst some of the longer pieces in the book are works of art (the Charlie Parker novella at the end is gloriously creepy, and actually freaked me out at one point, late into the night) the shorter pieces are of equal beauty. Tales of giant spiders, humanoid bats, ghosts, strange gods and lurking childhood fears will keep you awake late into the night, even after you’ve finished the book in one sitting. As a fan of horror, of King and Koontz and Barker (among others), I am in love with this book. It lies on my bedside table, awaiting the next read through. If you enjoy horror, do yourself a favour. Buy this book. You will not be disappointed.