Gamebook store

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Scare monger

With Halloween coming up, maybe you’re looking for some pleasurable chills. Maybe a few shudders. Even an outright shriek or two? If so, here are a few suggestions to get a little cold grue into your life.

John Whitbourn's creepy short story "Waiting For A Bus" has been collected in various anthologies including The Year's Best Fantasy, has picked up a slew of awards, and even been dramatized on the radio. I was fortunate enough to hear it from the author's lips one dark autumn evening in the late 1980s, and I can still feel the finger of ice that ran down my spine as he read the fateful words --

Ah, but no spoilers. Read it for yourself right now here. And if your hair hasn’t gone stark white after that, you can delve into the other Binscombe Tales here.

If gamebooks are your poison, you can climb inside the skin of the Frankenstein story with my interactive version of the classic drama of hubris, dark secrets, murder, and toxic love-hate. Among other things you get to be the voice of Victor's conscience - although, like Tony Stark, he doesn't always listen.

You also get to see through the eyes of the monster. And if you’re thinking that doesn’t sound too scary – well, you’re probably thinking of the movies, all of which are jolly romps compared to the flesh-crawling horror of the genuine Frankenstein article.

Steve Ditko, probably the greatest artist in the history of comics, produced some of his best work (so far) for Warren's horror mags, Creepy and Eerie, in partnership with Archie Goodwin. Now Dark Horse have collected those masterpieces of the macabre into one beautiful hardcover book. It's right here if you think your nerves can take the strain.

A rising star in the firmament of fantastic fiction is Jason Arnopp, whose novel The Last Days of Jack Sparks has justly earned him comparison with the greats of the horror genre. It's a brilliant Bloody Mary of a story mixing black comedy, postmodern zing, eye-popping terror, poignant notes of regret, all told at a pace that won't let you put the book down.

I'd say Jack Sparks was the best modern horror story out there but - sorry, Jason, that accolade must go to... oh, none other than Jason Arnopp, for A Sincere Warning About The Entity In Your Home. This personalized yarn is so effectively scary that it's probably not safe to read it when you're alone in the house. You can also send it to a friend and enjoy the twitchy, haunted look they'll carry around with them for the next few months.

Lastly, if you just want something sinister to watch, try the classic TV movie Schalcken the Painter, based on a J S Le Fanu story. That'll send you off to bed with an eye on the shadows.

Come back on Friday when we'll put the spooks aside and have a kick-ass roleplaying adventure involving supervillains: "The Enemy Of My Enemy".


  1. Eyes and Waiting For A Bus were possibly my two favourite stories from Binscombe. Highly recommended. I did prefer the more mainstream stories over the ones with historical references. I'll perhaps ask Santa for the other books you mention.

    1. Good picks, Andy. I also especially like Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside and Another Place. Jamie, who lives in a village not unlike Binscombe, says that he often thinks of that one as he goes out of his front door... which world am I stepping into?

    2. I went back to the Tales to jog my memory of the stories you mention. Both excellent. I had deju vu when I originally read "Oh I Do" which I couldn't quite put my finger on. I'm still non the wiser, but plagiarism it's not! Hadn't heard of Schalcken. It's on my next binge list. You've a 100% rating with your recommends so far, so law of averages you're due a shocker!

  2. I got the complete Binscombe Tales on your recommendation for Christmas... and am not disappointed. Mr Disvan is an interesting character!

    1. There's a unique blend of cosy, threatening, and deeply disturbing in the Binscombe Tales, embodied particularly in Mr Disvan himself. Maybe that says a lot about the English character in general.