DeFlip Side #131: Horror Stories

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Welcome everyone. I’m Christopher DeFilippis and this is DeFlip Side.

Well, lengthening fall nights are once again upon us. And I’m here to recommend some books that will help you embrace this growing darkness, and while away the spooky evenings. So get the fire crackling and put your feet up, because here we go.

Let’s begin with What I Found at Hoole, book seven in author Jeffrey E. Barlough’s Western Lights series. What I Found at Hoole is kind of a tangential sequel to my favorite Western Lights book, 2001’s The House in the High Wood, which began with this passage:

“Not long ago, the occasion of my receiving a substantial legacy from an uncle I had never met necessitated a journey by traveling-coach to the distant town of Hoole, where my late kinsman had resided.”

This unnamed narrator goes on to recount a horrific and totally unrelated story told to him by a fellow coach traveler about the titular house in the high wood. In the book’s final passages the narrator returns briefly to wonder what he would find at Hoole, trusting that it wouldn’t be half so monstrous as the story he had just heard.

Well here we are 11 years later and that anonymous narrator has revealed his name at last—Ingram Somervell—and he finally tells us about his trip to Hoole.

Upon arriving at the upland estate of his late uncle Henry Clement, Ingram meets his uncle’s ward and chief heir, Miss Perta Solsgrace—a black-veiled, reclusive young woman hideously scarred by small pox. Ingram has no designs on the estate, but his interest is piqued when a mysterious light appears atop Cowdrie Beacon, the peak that looms above the great house. Ingram soon learns that Sir Henry was excavating archeological ruins at the deserted site, which he believed to be a grave-mound of the mysterious elds, the legendary creatures that dwelt in the hills before the coming of men.

But the mystery takes a horrific turn when Ingram starts seeing Sir Henry’s ghost, angrily imploring him to inspect something in the estate’s dilapidated chapel; on top of this, Ingram discovers facts suggesting that Miss Solsgrace isn’t the person she appears to be.

Barlough’s Western Lights novels are tough to classify. They take place in a mysteriously sundered world where an ice-locked Victorian society coexists with a host of prehistoric beasts, and they feature a liberal blend of horrific, fantastic and supernatural elements.

But The House in the High Wood is a straight horror, and the darker tone and haunting outcome of What I Found at Hoole makes it a perfect companion piece to its predecessor. The books are of a kindred, horrific spirit, and What I Found at Hoole is an eerily wonderful addition to the Western Lights canon.

Up next is another DeFlip Side favorite, author Glen Hirshberg with his latest novel, Motherless Child.

An expanded version of a short story that first appeared in Hirshberg’s collection The Janus Tree, Motherless Child follows young single mothers Natalie and Sophie on a series of gristly midnight road trips as they struggle to come to terms with the fact that they’ve been turned into vampires by a mysterious singer called The Whistler.

But worse than their growing hunger, and the dawning realization that they’ll be forced to kill innocents to feed, is their simple maternal urge to see their babies again—something Natalie tried to make impossible by turning the children over to her own mother and begging her to disappear. The best friends are soon at odds over whether to try and find the kids again; but they may have no choice, because The Whistler has his own designs on Natalie, and the infants figure heavily into his plans.

Listen, my use for vampire fiction pretty much begins and ends with Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Stephen King’s ’Salem’s Lot. And in these True Blood/Twilight-ridden times, most of us are burned out on vampires. But whether you’re a vampire fan or not, you should read Motherless Child. Because while it has all the vampire trappings and plenty of gore, it’s not about vampires—not really. It’s about alienation and sacrifice and heartbreak and, above all, humanity. It’s emblematic of the literate, thoughtful horror that Hirshberg has made his trademark.

And since tonight’s show is all about horror books, I’d be remiss not to mention Earthling Publications, which published Motherless Child. Publisher Paul Miller has created an entire Earthling Halloween Series—in honor of his favorite holiday—featuring classic-style, flat-out horror novels, replete with monsters and haunted houses and all the wonderful things that go bump in the night. I’ve just discovered the series myself and Motherless Child is only my second acquisition; but I plan to be a regular collector from this point forward. So should you. Click the Earthling Publications logo to learn more.

And click here to read my expanded review of What I Found at Hoole, along with just about every other title in the Western Lights series.

In the meantime I’ll be throwing another log onto the fire; there’s plenty of darkness ahead and lots of great, creepy books to enhance it.

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Click here to read reviews of other Glen Hirshberg titles, including The Janus Tree and Other Stories