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 we hear from Robert Dunbar, author of the classic novel The Pines and its sequel, The Shore, among many other books and short stories.
Halloween is the climax of an eldritch season, and more than any other book I can think of Something Wicked This Way Comes captures that atmosphere, the sheer essence of autumn. Recently, I had the opportunity to revisit Ray Bradbury’s masterwork with the Literary Horror group I moderate on Goodreads … and found it strangely moving to experience that novel in tandem with the group. So many years had elapsed since I’d read it. Imagine finding an old photo of the first boy you fell in love with. There he is – forever wild and handsome, despite the passage of decades. You might not remember the passion or the tenderness. You may have long since forgotten all the negative aspects – the jealousy, the fights, his mother – but this sudden glimpse becomes a knife in your heart.
Pain can be a good thing. It means you haven’t turned to stone.
Over the years, so many writers I admire have told me that Bradbury’s classic was the book that taught them to love the darkness. Yes. Exactly. It meant a lot to me to encounter his intoxicating language again and to remember how I got drunk on it as a kid, how it set my imagination on fire.
Still, there was a not-so-wonderful facet this time. Admittedly, the Literary Horror group has close to 2,000 members. Nevertheless, I was shocked by the number of people who complained about Bradbury’s prose style being “difficult.” This? Difficult? I have to wonder what such folks would make of Joyce’s Ulysses or Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying, you know, something actually difficult.
“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”
~ Ray Bradbury
But I mustn’t dwell on that. So many members of the group reveled in the text. Many of these readers were quite young and discovering Bradbury of the first time, and I felt privileged to be the one guiding them through it. There are only so many first times in life.
Every so often, things get to you. The profoundly moronic individuals who glut the genre (and the naked politicking that has so come to define it) can leave you wondering why you ever got involved in the first place. Then something like this reminds you.
Way back, there was love.
Robert Dunbar is the author of several classic horror novels. His latest releases include Wood and the collection Martyrs & Monsters.