March 14, 2013
Now in paperback – £7.99
She turned her hand to science fiction in The Stone Gods a few years ago and now Jeanette Winterson has embraced horror in this devastating short novel about the Pendle witch trials. Winterson was commissioned by the publishing imprint of Hammer Films to portray the brutality and bigotry unleashed against women and Catholics in Lancashire in 1612, when witchcraft and popery were twin evils in the eyes of King James I.
Winterson’s fans and horror aficionados alike will enjoy this humane and at times shocking story, an unflinching portrait of the suffering and indignity meted out to a family whose poverty and disregard for authority make them easy targets. She heightens the horror by depicting the diabolical in a gripping imagined version of events featuring witchcraft, animal familiars and paranormal visions, as well as a love triangle with human souls at stake. Winterson focuses on the strangely youthful widow Alice Nutter, though her short novel has several memorable characters and she boldly works familiar names into the story, including Shakespeare and the occultist and mathematician Dr John Dee. The Daylight Gate is an unremitting, elegantly crafted tale written in a spare prose style that will haunt you – at least until you pick it up and read it again.
October 19, 2012
Jeremy Dyson’s The Haunted Book – an account of real-life ghost-hunting from the member of the League of Gentleman – is the latest volume out in time for Halloween. Our other flesh-creeping picks include Susan Hill’s new ghost story, Dolly, and a fresh edition of The Mist in the Mirror; an anthology of the macabre compiled by Roald Dahl; and disturbing new novels by Helen Dunmore (The Greatcoat) and Jeanette Winterson (The Daylight Gate) commissioned by the publishing imprint of Hammer Films. There’s also John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Let the Old Dreams Die, a short story collection from this Swedish sensation that includes the moving sequel to his astonishing vampire novel, Let the Right One In. (Ask nicely, and we might even give you a free World Book Night edition of Let the Right One In.)
A perfect ghost story is as much about psychology as the supernatural. From the solitary scholars in M. R. James’s peerless tales (available in a Penguin Classics edition) to Susan Hill’s orphans and widowers, ghost story victims are already haunted by loss or loneliness. By allowing our imagination to complete the nightmare, a ghostly tale is often more effective than a TV or film adaptation. Read James Herbert’s The Secret of Crickley Hall and judge for yourself whether the BBC’s new adaptation of the novel – due to air in November – matches the master for sadistic terror.