Even now, generations removed from the publication of Daphne du Maurer’s gothic classic, the name Rebecca conjures up untold chilling imagery. The scariest aspects of Rebecca are those things that are left unsaid – from the lack of a name for the narrator to the mystery behind the titular character’s gloomy death.
If you thought William Fried kin’s adaptation of The Exorcist was petrifying, just wait until you read the source material. Inspired by real events, Blatty’s story of demonic possession and exorcism cuts right to the quick. When 12-year-old girl Regan Mac Neil starts to behave irrationally her mother soon realizes that she has been possessed by evil spirits and turns to the church for help.
The finest example of Victorian gothic horror. The characters that Stoker brought to life are vivid, memorable, unsettling… not least Count Dracula and his nemesis Abraham Van Helsing.
Dystopian novels are by their very nature distressing as they view the human condition and its future as both cynical and doomed. Atwood’s acclaimed novel is no different.
An easy choice? Perhaps, but any list that discards Ellis’s colorful and controversial tale is, to use the parlance of the day, an epic fail. Patrick Bateman’s descent into madness, his graphic retelling of the gory murders he seems to revel in and his glorification of vapid consumerist culture all go hand-in-hand.
The reason Ben Fountain’s heroic anti-war novel so haunts the mind comes not from the explicit depiction of some bloody battle, but the inhuman mistreatment of soldiers by the society that sent them to fight – and die – for some abstract idea of freedom.
Whether it is in Shakespeare’s Macbeth or a kid’s book, witches are not to be messed with. In Dahl’s evergreen tale, witches are on a mission to rid the world of children because the clean smell nippers’ produce is odorous to witches sense of smell.
Originally banned in America for its depraved depiction of sexuality, it was finally published in 1961. Even then a judge in Pennsylvania had this to say about it: “(It is) not a book. It is a cesspool, an open sewer, a pit of putrefaction, a slimy gathering of all that is rotten in the debris of human depravity.”
In truth, we could have included No Country For Old Men, The Road or The Crossing, but Blood Meridian is the McCarthy novel that consistently sets our nerves on edge. An historical Anti-Western book, Blood Meridian follows the fortunes of The Kid as he runs with the Galton Gang, a ferocious cadre of scalp hunters.
A modern science fiction classic, Pollen tells the story of a distorted near future Manchester where people are dropping dead from a bizarre pollen. Inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the book paints a lively picture of a drug-induced dream world and touches upon crime fiction and alternative counterculture.