Horror stories (or films) are not my cup of tea – I have never been a person who takes pleasure from being scared. This month’s theme is a difficult one for me, as I tend to have an overactive imagination and reading scary books inevitably lead to nightmares. My father always talks about reading The Rats by James Herbert – in the end, he had to sit reading in the corner of the living room, facing the door, so he could see anything that would be coming at him from all angles. I also have a friend who, while reading The Rats, had to cover the book with a tea towel at night, so she couldn’t see the eyes on the cover and refused to travel by train for about a week after finishing it (we lived just outside London at the time – this was a problem). How is this fun?
In the past, I have found that certain books have scared me rigid without being from the traditional horror genre. I read The Lord of the Rings for the first time when I was 15 and that led me to my first “corner of the room” moment – that giant spider, Shelob, now, she was scary. Psychological thrillers have also led to some of my more scary reading moments, I found Shadow Man by Cody McFadyen truly terrifying in parts – it disturbed me and I honestly wondered how someone could write something so violent. It didn’t stop me from continuing to read the book and the subsequent sequels, so what does that make me?
Where I am when I read, also affects how scared I get. If I am in the house by myself, while reading a thriller, I have to check rooms, lock doors etc., to make sure that serial killers can’t get me. I remember reading Hannibal by Thomas Harris, when living on my own, in a very creaky flat at the top of an old house in Aberystwyth. I spent most of the night huddled in bed with the book in one hand and a can of hairspray (wonderful weapon improvisation) in the other. I have no idea what I would have done if Hannibal Lecter had appeared (spray him to death, then backcomb his hair?) but it made me feel better.
So, what are your terrifying reads? Let us know – use the hashtag #NPTscary. We will be having a live twitter chat on Tuesday 30th September at 8 p.m.