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.
Today’s entry comes from Jan Kozlowski, whose novella Die, You Bastard, Die! is a depraved little masterpiece in its own right.
When anyone asks me what turned me on to horror I usually tell them it was discovering Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot in our local department store’s paperback rack when I was about 14 years old. The truth of the matter though, is that I had been set up to become a horror junkie years before by my older brother who delighted in scaring the bejezus out of me with tales of hook-handed serial killers, dead men looking for their missing body parts and disappearing hitchhikers.
When Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark came out in 1981, I was twenty years old, living in my first apartment and planning my first grown up Halloween party. I invited friends and co-workers over and as we drank and talked, someone pulled out a copy of the book and we took turns reading out loud to each other. I was amazed to discover that the stories were many of the same ones my brother used to tell, intensified by Stephen Gammell’s horrifically mesmerizing illustrations. Suddenly, we were all ten years old again, sitting around a campfire with a flashlight shining under our faces.
Thanks, in large part, to Schwartz’s book, the party was a success and afterward I made sure that I acquired my own copy of Scary Stories and the sequel, More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark when it came out 1984. By the time the last book in the series, Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones came out in 1991, I was married and my school teacher husband, who was also a fan of the series, made the reading of the by-now consistently banned books part of his October curriculum every year.
My husband retired from teaching in1999, but we’ve kept the tradition of dusting off our original, Stephen Gammell illustrated, Scary Stories series every October and reacquainting ourselves with “Old Woman All Skin and Bones,” “The Babysitter” and “The Hearse Song,” among other favorites. We’ve also continued the tradition begun by my brother by scaring the bejezus out of the grandchildren, who have since become a whole new generation of Scary Stories fans.
Jan Kozlowski has run her own freelance writing shop since 1996. She creates horror-themed crossword and word search puzzles and has published several short stories. Her novella Die, You Bastard, Die! was published by Ravenous Shadows earlier this year.