David Wright, a reader-services librarian at Seattle Public Library who’s been hosting story-time-for-adults readings since 2004, is planning some Halloween events and offers suggestions for spooky Halloween reading.
OK, so maybe that wasn’t so scary. But it’s the season for things going bump in the night, and for books that give us that cold-fingers-on-the-back-of-the-neck shiver. For Halloween reading, I always recommend the gold standard of haunted-house books, Henry James’ “The Turn of the Screw” (plus the masterful 1961 movie made from it, “The Innocents,” starring Deborah Kerr). I’ll be doing my annual rereading of it on some dark, stormy night this week, with cat in lap and ears on alert for mysterious sounds.
But for some lesser-known recommendations, I turned to an expert: David Wright, a reader-services librarian at Seattle Public Library who’s been hosting twice-monthly “Thrilling Tales: The Story Time For Adults” readings there since 2004. He’s got some special Halloween events up his sleeve as part of the library’s “Booktoberfest” (see spl.org for details), and had suggestions for those looking for some seasonal home reading. I asked him for titles both old and new; here’s his list:
Classic scary tales
David Wright’s “Thrilling Tales: The Story Time for Adults” takes place the first and third Monday of every month at 12:05 to 12:50 p.m. at Seattle Public Library’s Central Library, in the Microsoft Auditorium. A special Halloween edition takes place Monday, Oct. 30, with a reading of “The Considerate Hosts” by Thorp McClusky. Admission is free; bring your lunch.
Wright is also hosting a few special events for Halloween: “Ales from the Crypt” at 7 p.m. Oct. 28 at Floating Bridge Brewery in the University District and at 8 p.m. Oct. 29 at Tippe & Drague Alehouse on Beacon Hill, and “Halloween Horror Hour” at Third Place Books in Seward Park at 7 p.m. on Halloween night. Information on all of these: spl.org or shelftalkblog.wordpress.com, or call the library at 206-386-4636
• Thomas Tryon (1926-1991) was a Hollywood actor who turned to writing later in his career. Wright recommended two of his works, “Harvest Home” and “The Other.” “Both have the same setting — New England villages with a very rustic and autumnal feel,” he said, describing the novels as “brilliant, subtle horror for people who don’t read horror.”
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• Penguin Classics has just released two don’t-miss collections from classic horror writers. “The Best of Richard Matheson” showcases work from an author known for numerous episodes of “The Twilight Zone,” as well as the short story that inspired the early Steven Spielberg film “Duel.” “He’s really good at a lot of different registers, but he’s one of the best terror writers,” Wright said.
Also new: “Shirley Jackson: Dark Tales,” an author who’s received some well-deserved new attention since last year’s acclaimed biography “Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life.” This collection showcases “what she does so well,” Wright said, “that sense of uncanny, creeping dread, tales of what I think someone called ‘noonday dread.’ ”
• For those looking for a varied collection of classic short stories, Wright recommends “The Valancourt Book of Horror Stories.” Many such collections, he said, contain the same familiar stories; Valancourt’s is full of “stories nobody’s read, from authors you haven’t read, in a wide range of tones.”
• This one’s new (just published Oct. 24): “Strange Weather,” a collection of four novellas by Joe Hill (son of Stephen King). “These are all single-sitting reads,” Wright said. “It’s great if you want to know what’s going on in the world of horror, the best of it. If the last one you knew was Stephen King, this is — literally! — the next generation. A great collection.”
• Jac Jemc’s “The Grip of It” came out in August; Wright describes it as an update on “Turn of the Screw,” in that it presents as a traditional old-house-in-the-woods story, but brings its own surprises. “It’s the kind of story where it feels familiar and yet, you have no idea what’s coming,” he said. “Just a dynamite book.”
• And, from last year, “The Children’s Home” by Charles Lambert is, Wright said, “my favorite kind of spooky story in that it’s truly strange.” This story of a young, disfigured recluse feels, he said, like a modern-day fairy tale — but scary. “It’s not quite like anything I’ve ever read before, which is great.”
And Wright threw in a bonus recommendation, for parents looking for something not-too-scary to share with very young children: a charming new picture book called “Wee Sister Strange” by Holly Grant, with illustrations by K.G. Campbell, about a waiflike fairy who wanders through a town. “It’s beautiful,” Wright said. “The illustrations are not spooky — they’re just kind of autumnal and a little weird, just the right thing.”
It’s a busy season for Wright, who’ll wrap up the month with a special Halloween edition of “Thrilling Tales” (Monday, Oct. 30, at 12:05 p.m. at the Central Library). His selection: “The Considerate Hosts” by Thorp McClusky — “a tale of murder with a spooky twist.” Information on this and all other library events: shelftalkblog.wordpress.com. Happy Halloween!
One final news item; not Halloween-related but I couldn’t resist it: In commemoration of this year’s 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, a group of University of Washington graduate students and community volunteers have organized JaneFest 2017, a full day of activities including an expo-style festival with information booths and participatory activities, culminating in an evening Regency-style ball.
The ball is sold out, but the festival — from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 4, at Mary Gates Hall on the University of Washington campus — is free and open to the public, whether you be a Janeite or just a curious observer. Events at the festival include demonstrations of Austen-era cooking and embroidery, a fashion show, card games, discussions of Austen’s works and an Austen Trivia salon. For more information: janefest17.wordpress.com. All are welcome; as an Austen character was once heard to remark, “one cannot have too large a party.”