Of Darkness and Light, by me. It’s been making people sleep with the light on since 1989. The sequel, The High Place, will be published soon.
The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg. In my opinion, the greatest Scottish novel ever. I wrote about it, and others, in this essay.
Carnacki the Ghost-Finder by William Hope Hodgson. A classic, far ahead of its time. Here’s an essay I wrote about it. Also, I wrote The Host, a Thomas Carnacki story set in modern Scotland.
The Devil Rides Out by Dennis Wheatley. Another classic, but not at all ahead of its time. The racism, classism and general Little Englandism of this book sometimes reads like parody, but it’s still a great page-turner, still scary, and it arguably invented the occult novel as we know it.
The Night before Christmas of the Living Dead by M.V. Moorhead, despite its campy title, is a serious, suspenseful take on the Zombie trope.
The Last Weekend: a Novel of Zombies, Booze and Power Tools by Nick Mamatas has two things in common with this author’s other novels: it’s great, and it’s like nothing else you’ve read.
Blood and Kisses: Vampire Love Vol. 1 by J.T. Blackfriars. This novella, the only publication so far by a mysterious author, might someday be regarded as a classic. Here’s M.V. Moorhead’s review of it.
Julia by Peter Straub is haunting in every way, and still this author’s best work.
Full of Days by Bart Lessard is elegant and horrifying, my favorite work of one of my favorite contemporary authors.
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. Read this, okay? You’ll thank me. Then read The Moonstone.
Fragments of Horror by Junji Ito. I love Ito’s graphic novels Uzumaki and Gyo, but this collection of short tales is the best thing I’ve read by him.
The Empty House and Other Ghost Stories by Algernon Blackwood. What I said about Wilkie Collins applies equally to Blackwood.
Lion's Roar reports the death of Aaron Lee, who blogged for years as The Angry Asian Buddhist. He was one of the best Buddhist writers online — fierce, intellectually rigorous, compassionate, and honest. His death at age 34 is a loss to Dharma discourse. I hope someone will publish a book of his writing.
Endless bows. Gate gate paragate parasangate bodhi svaha.
R.H. Blyth wrote:
A haiku is not a poem, it is not literature; it is a hand beckoning, a door half-opened, a mirror wiped clean. It is a way of returning to nature, to our moon nature, our cherry blossom nature, our falling leaf nature, in short, to our Buddha nature. It is a way in which the cold winter rain, the swallows of evening, even the very day in its hotness, and the length of the night, become truly alive, share in our humanity, speak their own silent and expressive language.
For me, this applies as much to the novels I write as it does to haiku. I want to get as close to a blank page as possible while still having a story, with nothing extra, with everything unnecessary stripped away.
A couple years ago, I was on a panel about novellas at Left Coast Crime in the U.S., and the moderator, Brian Thornton, said that my novella One for My Baby has as many characters, plot twists and points of view as a full-length novel. I answered that for me it is a novel — the longer I write and the better I get, the number of words diminishes, but the size of the story doesn’t. Another panelist regarded the novella, like the short story, as a slighter form than the novel, saying that her novellas contained less complexity and less story than her novels, but for me the opposite is true.
"Ye huvnae heard ay Rudyard Kipling? Whit school did ye go tae?"
"Actually, A went tae a convent."
With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want… Let us in the name of the Holy Trinity go on sending all the slaves that can be sold
Today the U.S. celebrates an inept navigator who thought that San Salvador was Japan and Cuba was China, and who enslaved, mutilated and murdered the natives of the lands his ineptitude took him to.
Also, it’s not true that most people thought the earth was flat in those days.
I think it’s fitting that the U.S. celebrates this, considering how this country was developed, and what it continues to do, at home and abroad. It’s likely that the self-styled “greatest nation in the world” will be remembered by history alongside Nazi Germany.
Bart Lessard is one of my favourite contemporary authors. (Full disclosure: he and I are close friends, and his book Dead Men's Teeth is dedicated to me, but I loved his novels The Danse Joyeuse at Murderer's Corner and Rakehell years ago when we barely knew each other.)
His latest novel, Men of Blood, is a sequel to Rakehell, and it's even better than its predecessor. An exquisitely-written hybrid of violent swashbuckling adventure and strange love story, it's Yojimbo meets Braveheart.
“Write what you know” is a maxim preached to aspiring writers.
I get emails from single fathers who tell me that The Book of Man captured their experience. I have no children. I get emails from people who’ve been hospitalised for depression saying the same thing about the same book. I have never been depressed, and have never been hospitalised.
I have also never been a young Dutch woman, nor a Mexican-American drug-dealer and murderer, nor a murderous paedophile, nor a female ex-cop from an upper-class background, nor a former U.S. soldier turned handyman, nor a lounge musician who commits armed robberies.
War veterans have said that the book that best represented their experience was The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, who never saw combat.
Bram Stoker wasn’t a vampire. Stephen King doesn’t hang out in drains, wearing a clown suit and luring children to their doom.
Experience is a poor substitute for imagination and empathy.