Today I’m continuing my reprint of my 2009 series “Ten Essential October Reads.” Standing at #8 is Al Sarrantonio’s “Orangefield” Cycle.
October is here, and with it comes Ten Essential October Reads. With the countdown to Halloween ticking away, there’s no better time to look at some books that really capture the spirit of the holiday, whether it’s the childhood traditions of trick-or-treating and playing pranks, the essence of a cool autumn day, or the dark things that scurry through the shadows. Throughout the month, I’ll be spotlighting ten books or stories that I think capture the magic of the season.
8. The “Orangefield Cycle” by Al Sarrantonio
The covers alone tell you: this is Halloween reading. Malevolent pumpkins, grouped in fields or sitting atop slouched, menacing scarecrows, adorn nearly every one. Their faces are carved with narrow eyes and crooked smiles; devious and inviting at the same time. And the titles: Hallows Eve and Horrorween and The Pumpkin Boy. Yeah, this is, without a doubt, a series that demands to be read when the leaves are turning, the breeze is brisk, and Halloween is upon us.
The series runs like so:
- “Hornets” – short story that first appeared in the Cemetery Dance anthology Trick or Treat
- Orangefield – novel, Cemetery Dance, 2002
- Hallows Eve – novel, Leisure Books, 2004
- The Pumpkin Boy – novella, Endeavor, 2005
- The Baby – novella, Cemetery Dance, 2006
- Horrorween – novel retelling “Hornets,” The Pumpkin Boy and Orangefield, Leisure Books, 2006
- Halloweenland – expanded version of The Baby, Leisure Books, 2007
- “All Souls Day” – short story appearing online at Horror Drive-In, 2009
I’ve decided against any kind of plot synopsis this time around – I think Orangefield is the kind of place best experienced when you stumble into it on your own. Suffice to say that it’s a town where it always seems to be October (which you might think isn’t a bad thing – but for many of the characters in this saga, it is), and where the pumpkin crop is king. And just to let you know that Sarrantonio has his hand firmly on the atmosphere of Halloween, check this out (from “Hornets”):
The streets and lawns were full of children, mounting decorations, stringing pumpkin-shaped lights, transforming the neighborhood into the festival of orange and black it always became. Pumpkins seemed to have sprung up everywhere – not only on stoops and porches, but in windows, perched on flower boxes, back decks, and, at one house, lined up along the entire front of the house, an orange army guarding the lawn and the fallen leaves. At the house next to the Meyers’, a huge spiderweb of pale rope was being erected, pinned from the highest bare tree limb and stretching to the house’s gutter, anchored in three places on the ground to make it stretch like a sail; two boys were hauling a huge and ugly black plastic spider from the garage to mount in its lair.
Sounds like the kind of street I’d like to live one…except for the things that happen there later.
But I’ll let you discover that on your own.
Previously in the series:
Ten Essential October Reads: Halloween and Trick or Treat