I read it the summer after my freshman year in college, when I was walking home after dark most nights. It wasn't a long walk, but it seemed like there were about 5,000 sewer openings on it, and I had to look in every one.
The scene in the book where a girl sticks a piece of string down her kitchen sink drain, half-knowing what will happen, and something down in the pipe takes it and starts running with it ... man, that gives me chills even now.
Richard Matheson, "I Am Legend": This was a novel long before it was a Will Smith movie (and before Smith's version, it was a Charlton Heston movie called "The Omega Man" and a Vincent Price movie called "The Last Man on Earth"). None of them is as good as the book. A lone man fights against a takeover of the world, and realizes not only that the good guys don't always win, but sometimes, they're not even the good guys.
Although the monsters are called vampires, they act more like zombies, and Matheson's 1959 novel is credited with helping to start that whole movement. George Romero, director of "Night of the Living Dead" and several sequels, has acknowledged his debt to the book.
H.P. Lovecraft, "The Haunter of the Dark": I haven't read a lot of Lovecraft; all the multi-eyed slimy tentacle stuff always seemed a little over the top to me. But he does set a terrifying scene, and when I read "The Haunter of the Dark," I was suitably freaked out by it. After you read it, if your power goes out at night, you'll move for the candles or the flashlights just a little bit faster. As with many Lovecraft stories, the ending is not a particularly happy one.
Sara Gran, "Come Closer": You probably know the other books and authors on my list; you might not know this one. Sara Gran is a terrific writer who's written four very different novels: a modern coming-of-age story ("Saturn's Return to New York"), a noirish mystery ("Dope"), a surreal detective story ("Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead") and "Come Closer," a scary-as-hell novel that's part traditional horror and part psychological thriller. As Booklist said in their review from 2006, "Strange noises that come and go; objects that inexplicably appear, then vanish. Such bump-in-the-night shenanigans are horror-story standard fare, but in Gran's gifted hands, these stereotypes fade away like ghosts."
If you have a favorite scary book you want to share with someone, a growing custom provides the perfect opportunity to do so on Halloween. Back in 2010, fantasy author Neil Gaiman put forth a modest proposal on his blog: There aren't enough holidays that involve giving books to people, so we should start an "All Hallow's Read" tradition, where people give scary books on Halloween. This year, there's a website, allhallowsread.com, with recommendations from Gaiman and others.
Reach Greg Moore at gmo...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1211.