Scary things that

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - BOOKS -

Chill­ing tales with a touch of the su­per­nat­u­ral are climb­ing the bestseller lists, and it’s not just for Hal­loween, writes Claire Cough­lan

NOTH­ING beats a heart-thump­ing book in front of a roar­ing fire, se­cure in the knowl­edge that the bo­gey­man isn’t in­side the house. With the ex­plo­sion of ‘grip lit’ over the past few years, the thing to be scared of was usu­ally the per­son clos­est to you. How­ever, tales of the su­per­nat­u­ral may just be the thing for 2018 and be­yond.

With the big screen adap­ta­tion of Sarah Wa­ters’s bril­liant su­per­nat­u­ral novel, The Lit­tle Stranger (di­rected by Ir­ish­man Lenny Abra­ham­son) in cin­e­mas, its pub­lisher Vi­rago has is­sued a re­jack­eted edi­tion of the book to tie in with the movie. There is also a slew of spine-tin­gling nov­els out this month, such as Laura Pur­cell’s new Vic­to­rian chiller, The Corset (Blooms­bury Raven) and Sarah Perry’s Mel­moth (Ser­pent’s Tail).

Much an­tic­i­pated nov­els with a touch of the Gothic in­clude The Fa­mil­iars (Bon­nier Zaf­fre, Feb­ru­ary), a de­but novel by jour­nal­ist Stacey Halls, about the Pen­dle Witch tri­als of 1612, which was won in a nine-way auc­tion by the pub­lisher and crime writer Erin Kelly’s new novel, Stone Moth­ers (Hod­der, April), which is a skil­fully-plot­ted tale set against the back­drop of a Vic­to­rian lu­natic asy­lum.

But why the sud­den craze for spooky books? So­phie Orme, ed­i­to­rial di­rec­tor at Bon­nier Zaf­fre, told pub­lish­ing trade mag­a­zine The Book­seller ear­lier this year: “Af­ter a sur­feit of psy­cho­log­i­cal crime, I think read­ers are look­ing for a new kind of read­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, one equally as thrilling, but that takes life as we know it and adds an ex­tra — and of­ten rather fright­en­ing — twist. In times of po­lit­i­cal and fi­nan­cial un­cer­tainty, it seems nat­u­ral that peo­ple should reach for new ex­pe­ri­ences to es­cape into.”

Lim­er­ick-born novelist Wil­liam Ryan, whose at­mo­spheric new novel, A House of Ghosts, is pub­lished this month by Bon­nier Zaf­fre (un­der the name WC Ryan), agrees that es­capism is an im­por­tant fac­tor.

“Maybe peo­ple want to read hap­pier fic­tion than they wanted to read be­fore — pub­lish­ers are talk­ing about ‘up lit’, but I think Gothic fic­tion is rid­ing on that same wave. Maybe Gothic is a lit­tle bit of fun for peo­ple,” he says.

Dacre Stoker, who is the au­thor (with JD Barker) of Drac­ula pre­quel Dracul (Ban­tam), is also the great-grand­nephew of Bram Stoker, as well as the man­ager of the Stoker es­tate, which gave him ac­cess to Bram Stoker’s lost jour­nal, pro­vid­ing in­spi­ra­tion for this new book. The novel fea­tures 21-year-old Bram, who has “bar­ri­caded him­self in­side a room at the top of the tower of a long-aban­doned abbey, lead­ing him to write down the dis­turb­ing events that have brought him here”.

Stoker says that the jour­nal “gave tremen­dous in­sight into Bram as a per­son. It tells us what Bram thought was im­por­tant in the world and what Bram thought was im­por­tant enough to write down in a jour­nal”. He de­scribes Bram Stoker as a “very com­plex per­son, who was very open-minded”. He believes that his an­ces­tor’s ex­plo­ration of the su­per­nat­u­ral in Drac­ula still res­onates with con­tem­po­rary read­ers al­most 150 years later, as the de­sire to un­der­stand what’s be­yond our com­pre­hen­sion is a uni­ver­sal, ageold hu­man trait.

Ali­son Hen­nessey, ed­i­to­rial di­rec­tor of Raven Books, a rel­a­tively new im­print of Blooms­bury, for peo­ple who like their books “with a touch of the dark side,” thinks that this new wave of fic­tion is a re­ac­tion to the tur­bu­lent world we live in po­lit­i­cally.

“As peo­ple have turned away from dystopian fic­tion — per­haps feel­ing it’s just too close to the world we live in now — hor­ror/gothic books have be­come more ap­peal­ing, with the idea of a ‘safe’ scare, one that you know is safely con­tained within the pages of a book and won’t en­croach

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