Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Bloody Contradiction

by Gigi

Seattle, circa 2000. Gargoyle Statuary, an amazing shop in the University District, advertised custom-fitted vampire teeth. As someone who saw Dracula far too young and dressed up as a vampire for the first time in the first grade, how could I resist?

I still have the teeth, and also a copy of the form we were required to sign -- we had to agree that we wouldn't bite anyone with our new fangs.

I love the macabre. But only up to a point. I'm a mystery writer with fake fangs, yet I can't stand blood.

Suspenseful, spooky stories are my favorite type of book -- but when it comes to graphic blood and guts, I run the other way. Yup, I'm the anti-Sophie.

Being scared by the atmosphere an author creates is much more appealing to me than being shocked by explicit gore.

So coming up on Halloween weekend, here are a few wonderfully spooky books for those of us who want our ghostly mysteries without horror or graphic bloody deaths -- and yes, for those of us who want to be able to turn off the lights after we finish a good book:

- The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova: Chasing Dracula through ancient libraries and crypts across Europe. How much cooler can you get than that? (Yes, I know I'm biased. In addition to the Dracula-at-an-early-age thing, the protagonist of my first book is a historian.)

- The Houdini Specter by Daniel Stashower: Master magician Harry Houdini attends a seance. (I have no bias in favor of magicians. Sure, they're cool. But this is just a damn good book.)

- Hag's Nook by John Dickson Carr: An abandoned prison in the barren English countryside where people who enter the warden's room never emerge alive. (In the "impossible crime" genre.)

- The Unseen by Alexandra Sokoloff: University profs recreate a haunted house experiment from the '60s. (Creepy, yes, but not as much of a horror novel as her others.)

- Borrower of the Night by Elizabeth Peters: A haunted German castle with ghosts that walk the castle ramparts. (The first and most Gothic of the Vicky Bliss series.)

Some of these books have rational/mortal explanations at the end. And some don't... Happy Halloween!


Hard Boiled Mysti said...

Great post, Gigi! You just found my husband's Xmas present for me (Houdini book).

I love getting reading suggestions!

Lisa Hughey said...

Another show and tell item...I think we need to see those fangs at our next Pens get together!!! :)

L.G.C. Smith said...

Gigi, I'm with you on this. Gentler is better for me. Images get caught in my mind and I can't shake them easily. Thanks for the list. "The Historian" sounds great.

Sophie Littlefield said...

oh no, not the anti-Sophie! how can that be, when I love hanging out with you so much?
PS do you know if that fella still makes the custom fangs? I LONG for my own set...

Gigi Pandian said...

As far as I know, that guy still makes fangs each year around Halloween at Gargoyle Statuary...

And Mysti -- There's a whole series of those Houdini books by Stashower. This one isn't even the best one, just the most appropriate topic for today's list.

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