It’s become an annual tradition here in October Country to share my Essential October Reads, those works that best capture the essence of the Halloween season for me. This year I’ve asked some of my favorite authors to share their own Essential October Reads with us.
I’m honored to kick off the series this year with legendary author and anthologist John Skipp.
If every single writer you ask doesn’t cite Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge as THE single finest Halloween horror story ever written, you have clearly asked nothing but crazy people. First published by Cemetery Dance on October 31, 2006, this instant classic nudged everybody else — I don’t care if their name IS Bradbury — to the back of the class, and left them there.
Here’s the blurb I gave the book, and I’m stickin’ to it:
“What’s the best, most badass Halloween horror movie ever made? It’s the one that screened inside my head while reading Norman Partridge’s astounding Dark Harvest. It takes everything archetypal and cool about Halloween, guts it, hollows it out, stuffs it with small town desperation and pre-hippie switchblade rock ‘n’ roll thunder, douses it with leaded gasoline, and then propels it forward on language that periodically, almost casually, explodes to lick the sky with fire. Partridge has carved himself a classic slice of modern mythmaking Americana. And my favorite holiday just got weirder and cooler. Long live the October Boy!”
P.S. — Check out the original back cover copy, which spells it out just perfectly, if you need more explanation:
A Midwestern town. You know its name. You were born there.
It’s Halloween night, 1963. Every boy between the ages of sixteen and nineteen has been locked up for the last five days. Now, starving and wild, they’re hitting the streets armed with baseball bats, pitchforks, and two-by-fours studded with nails.
They’re ready to go nose-to-nose with a legend. He’s the reaper that grows in a cornfield, the merciless trick with a heart made of treats, the butchering nightmare with a Jack O’ Lantern face. He’s the October Boy, and he visits your town every Halloween, ready to run a gauntlet of young men anxious to carve his beating candy heart from his chest.
Mitch Crenshaw and his gang burn rubber in a street rod with Gorgon headlights…. Pete McCormick’s on the move with a stolen .45… and a hunted girl is out there, too, making her break on the one night of the year when no rules apply. You’re running with them, threading your own path through danger and moonlight, shadowing a sadistic cop and packs of brutal teenagers who’ll attack anyone who gets in their way. Because this is your town. You understand its secrets, and you want a ringside seat on the night it all comes tumbling down.
John Skipp has been publishing short stories and novels in the horror and fantasy genres for 30 years. His latest projects include Sick Chick Flicks, a collection of screenplays from Cemetery Dance Publications, and Psychos, a collection of serial killer stories from Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers.