Seven horror novels you must read before you kill- er, I mean die.

It’s October! Time to read the horror, right? Right.

Good news! I’ve wasted the bulk of my life reading horror novels, rotted my brain with all manner of graphic violence, sacrificed everything to sail across a sea of trash.

Along the way I found some gems. (They were covered in blood and/or slime, but I mean to share them anyway.)

So here they are: the seven horror novels (or novellas) you must read before you kill or die or both.

The Events at Poroth Farmporoth by T.E.D. Klein – This is probably my favorite horror story of all time. It’s creepy, mysterious, funny, and the tension builds and builds until the end. I read it in one sitting. Klein is a tremendous writer, even if he hasn’t published anything in years. Most of his stuff is out print, but you can get this story for $0.99 as part of this collection. There is also a much longer novel based on this novella, The Ceremonies, and it’s very good as well.

The Amulet41QC-xErU-L by Michael McDowell – McDowell is most famous for writing Beetlejuice, but before he got into screenplays, he wrote a lot of great horror prose in the 80′s. The Amulet is his darkest and my favorite. Relentlessly grim. I said “oh no!” out loud more than once while reading this, and I felt weird horror flutters deep in the cockles of my body. Pretty sweet.

Harvest Home5147HWXW8OL by Thomas Tryon – I’ve talked about Harvest Home before, and every time I bring it up, there’s a big response. I think that’s pretty remarkable for a horror novel that predates Stephen King and was out of print for quite a few years. Though Tryon died in 1991, he touched something dark and primal here, something that sticks with the people who read it. I think it always will.

We Have Always Lived in the Castlewehave by Shirley Jackson – Here’s a psychological creeper for you creeps. Shirley Jackson brings the unsettling thunder, and this is my favorite of hers.

The Stand41ISGxpFzmL by Stephen King – King’s post-apocalyptic epic captured the dickens out of my imagination, and I know I’m not alone. It was pretty instrumental as far as setting me on the path to writing weird stuff, too. Life changer.

The Collectorcoll by John Fowles – This book harbors so much genuine darkness that actual serial killers have used it like a guide book. Fowles went on to be a literary star writing less shocking stuff, but his creepy first book is the one I can’t get over.

The House Next Doorhouse by Anne Rivers Siddons – Another non-horror writer who dabbled in the darkness while it was popular, Siddons wrote one of the best haunted house stories ever. Works on multiple levels, too.

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Literary hard drugs.

I had to make sure everyone knows that the first two books in the Jubal Van Zandt series are $0.99 this weekend. They’re really funny, loaded with action, and set in a strange world that blends science fiction and urban fantasy. Highly recommended! Now’s your chance to grab ‘em while they’re cheap:

Revenge of the Bloodslinger on Amazon

Beautiful Corpse on Amazon

I’ve sworn myself to becoming a better evangelist for the things I really love — to scream it from the rooftops, so to speak. So I’m writing this from the rooftop and just screaming bloody murder. The lady across the street is making that bitter beer face she always makes whenever I get out here and make a little noise. Yeah? Well, last time I checked, it’s perfectly legal for a naked man to climb out onto his roof and bellow like an angry gym teacher. Ever heard of a little thing called freedom of speech, lady? Look it up!

Seriously, though, this is one of my favorite series, and I think you’ll like it, too. Read it! Read it! Read it, and let me know what you think.

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23 books I read in 2017…

(AKA Tim McBain’s summer reading list of insane greatness, featuring books.)

I’ve read a bunch of books so far this year, and it happens that I love nothing more than spreading the word about good reads. Out of 120 books or so, I’ve narrowed things to a list of 23 — one for each week we’ve endured so far in 2017.

Behold! Books!

(Lists are in no particular order.)

Four books that chilled me, thrilled me, and rocked me like a hurricane.

1. Rules of Prey by John Sandford – This book was recommended to me by Dennis Rader AKA the BTK killer. Not personally. He sent the book’s cover to the Wichita police in a big pack of creepy stuff. Weird guy. Not the most charismatic. But I’ll hand it to him, he was dead on about the book. It’s a great thriller in the Silence of the Lambs vein. It was so popular, in fact, that it spawned a series that is currently 29 books deep and counting. I’ve read four of the Prey books, and they keep getting better.

2. A Reason to Live by Matthew Iden – Marty Singer is a flawed, human protagonist — something of a rarity in the thriller world these days. This had a really good knife fight in the opening scene, too. I’ve always said that’s the fastest way to a reader’s heart – a nice sharp knife.

3. Whiskey Sour by J.A. Konrath – This is the first book in the Jack Daniels series, another set of serial killer thrillers. Konrath doesn’t mess around. It’s very quick and very entertaining with great dialogue that made me laugh.

4. The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza – This was arguably the breakout book of 2016, at least in terms of kindle and audible. I can understand why. Rob Bryndza’s thriller opens with a gripping hook, and the tension just builds from there. It hits all the right notes until the final page. Very tough to put down.

Six books that made me laugh and laugh.

1. Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz – Funny and tragic with enough heart to choke a bodach — this is one of the most charming books I’ve ever read. I went into this thinking Dean Koontz was decent and came out a fan for life. Appreciate the man, I beg of you. Appreciate Dean Ray Koontz… or else.

2. Fat Vampire by Johnny B. Truant – Sharp, witty writing tells an oddball vampire tale that sinks its emotional hooks (and fangs, I guess) in by the end. I really enjoyed it, and I’m about to start the second book now.

3. Revenge of the Bloodslinger by eden Hudson – Blend up urban fantasy and cyberpunk, add a total dick main character, and garnish with hilarious jokes. I laughed out loud a bunch of times.

4. Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey – Hardboiled. Aggressive. Lots of fun in a gritty way. Kadrey helped redefine urban fantasy and basically make it way cooler. I’m excited to dig deeper into the series.

5. Bill the Vampire by Rick Gualtieri – When a geeky douche gets turned into a vampire, things get pretty funny and stay that way. Some reviewers have called it “The Big Bang Theory with vampires,” and I can see that, although I would probably express that notion by saying “The Big Fang Theory” instead. That’s just the way I choose to live my life.

6. Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck – At 58 years old, John Steinbeck drove a truck around America with his dog, Charley, and wrote about it. He was depressed and coming off a period of illness. Everyone advised against the trip. Steinbeck went anyway. The resulting book is full of sharp insights and amusing encounters with a wide variety of people, some of which may or may not have really happened. The homogenization of American culture is presaged here, among other things. Plus, Charley seems like a pretty cool dog. Steinbeck’s last major work is considered one of his most enchanting, and I’d say that’s so for good reason. I will probably read this again someday.

Two books that were perfect.

1. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley – Incredible, incredible book, and a weirdly perfect one for right now. I don’t want to give anything away other than to say that it’s really entertaining, thoughtful, and the finale literally gave me goosebumps with nothing more than a poignant exchange of dialogue. If I had to recommend just one book on the list, I think it’d be this one.

2. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick – If the last one was weirdly perfect, this one is perfectly weird. It’s an alternate history where the Axis powers won WWII, but its genius is in telling the story primarily through mundane points of view — regular people with limited to no ability to change the world. Eventually a real plot rises out of these slices of life, but the premise resonated with me so much more because of the way the story was told. I didn’t just go through the intellectual exercise of imagining a world after a Nazi victory, I felt its reality in my heart and gut, and it was terrifying and strange.

Two books that were almost perfect.

1. Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter – Incredibly intricate and clever — the characters, the plotting, the details. Everything was striking, vivid and entertaining. And yet by the end I felt a little jerked around by the story. There were a couple things that bugged me more and more as the tale went on, I guess. I definitely want to read more Karin Slaughter, though. She’s a crazy awesome writer.

2. Duma Key by Stephen King – This might be King’s most literary effort. It’s mesmerizing, subtle, and I found it so charming and likable that I can forgive its flaw. Nonetheless that flaw remains — something in the climax didn’t feel quite right. One emotional misstep, and it probably only stuck out because the rest of the book is so good. I still rate this five stars and recommend it highly. I even look forward to reading it again someday.

Five books that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

1. The Breakers Series Box Set by Edward W. Robertson – If you like character driven post-apocalyptic tales, it doesn’t get any better than Robertson’s Breakers series. Seriously, I love these books. Plus, the box set featuring the first three books in the series is free!

2. Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon – This is a slow build, and many of the things Tryon did in the early 70′s have been copied to death. Even so, I will remember the climax of this book forever. There is something so strange and primal about the way it’s disturbing. I can’t stop thinking about it.

3. Skin by Patrick Logan – This is straight up, old school horror in the vein of old Stephen King or Clive Barker. A creepy voice comes calling people, beckoning them to touch some mysterious goo in the ground, and a heap of horrific deaths ensue. Violent. Disgusting. Gripping. And a lot of fun.

4. Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons – Mind vampires, dude. Mind vampires. Dan Simmons is a great writer, and a unique, inspired storyteller. I must admit that I liked the opening quarter or so of Carrion Comfort better than the rest, but it was entertaining throughout — a feat considering it’s something like 400,000 words. Worth reading just for the first big fight scene that careens on and on and makes great use of the mind vampire premise.

5. Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris – Everyone told me the last book in the Hannibal Lecter series sucked, so I didn’t get around to reading it until recently. I wound up liking it quite a bit. The plot is a bit minimalist compared to the twists and turns of Red Dragon or Silence of the Lambs. It’s more of a dark character study than a thriller, but Thomas Harris is such a good writer that he pulls it off quite well. This one got under my skin a bit, and as bad as prequels can be, this one did its universe justice, I think.

Two zombie books that wanted to eat my flesh.

1. Slow Burn Box Set by Bobby Adair – Dark, intense writing with great energy, and a story that delivers on the promise of the zombie genre. Fast paced and intense. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the series.

2. This Would be Paradise by N. D. Iverson – I predict that fans of Izzy and Erin from the Scattered and the Dead books will enjoy this one. What sets it apart from the rest of the zombie horde is the characters. Bailey is a strong yet vulnerable female protagonist you can really identify with it.

One book featuring a damn chupacabra.

1. Cursed: The Full Saga by Johnny B. Truant & Sean Platt – A Fugitive style story about a man on the run, except instead of merely being accused of a crime, Ricardo is accused of being a damn chupacabra. Which he is. So yeah, it’s awesome. The writing pulsates with a desperate sense of urgency and stuff.

One controversial book I’m still confused about.

1. Flashback by Dan Simmons – I flew through this book, was entertained, and it definitely made me think about a lot of things from a different perspective. On paper, it’s a science fiction novel about a dystopian future where America is ruined by a drug called flashback that allows people to relive their best memories over and over again. It’s the political side of this future that gets weird. A lot of people are offended by the ideas presented here. I don’t think I was, although I’ll admit that I’m not sure what to make of the author’s intent. As a story, I felt the setup for the ending was a little flimsy, but I still liked it. As a piece of culture, I’m not certain what to think.

Oh, no! The list is over, and it’s merely whet your appetite for literary talk? Fear not, ravenous reader. We are starting a kickass reading group on Facebook, and nothing would make us happier than talking books with you.

Click here to join The Incredible Tim McBain Reading Group (with L.T. Vargus, I guess). We’re going to talk about books and other things that are cool. It’s going to be like a non-stop party, except without drinking and with books. So more like a library, I guess!

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Make Halloween great again!

This should be the most fun week of the year. We should all be neck deep in gore, our heads full of ghosts, our hearts pounding from the adrenaline.

When I was a kid, everyone was obsessed with horror. It was awesome. Children gathered on playgrounds to hear second and third hand retellings of slasher and haunted house movies, a weird sense of wonder intertwining with our fear. Anything was possible in a horror story. Anything. That feeling seems to have faded for many people. I don’t know what happened. Maybe lots of bad horror ruined it.

Well, we want the old days back, the old Halloween back. We whipped up this QUIVERING slab of horror for your Halloween consumption. It is violent, horrific, tragic, exhilarating, funny, and we think it’s pretty awesome.

Let the Halloween spirit take hold in your heart. Point your face and head at your kindle and read this. Horror will happen inside of your body:

theclowns - ebook - 625x1000

As always, the book will be $0.99 for these first few days, so grab it while it’s cheap!
Happy Halloween.
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Tim McBain vs. the Book of Pure Evil

When I was 4 years old, an evil book became the center of my universe. See, the cover was terrifying. (Even more terrifying than the one with Charles Manson’s green face on it, which I had made the mistake of making eye contact with and then backed out of the room in slow motion a few times.) This cover had what I believed to be the face of an actual dead person on it – the skin puckered in odd places, the eyes were just empty holes, and there were worms crawling on it. Maybe worse than worms. Maybe centipedes. It was hard to tell. I spent a lot of time gazing upon this evil paperback, wanting desperately to know all of its secrets, my skin crawling at how awful they might be.


Don’t lock eyes with Charlie. Don’t do it!

I had a problem, though. I couldn’t read. Well, technically I could read, but I knew I would need help to understand it. I was 4. Plus I was a little scared to venture into this kind of terror ride alone.

So I begged my Dad to read it to me. I’d grab it off the shelf and thrust it at him a lot. He never directly said no. He always said “in a minute” or “in a second.” I remember trying to figure out which of those was longer. He also said “maybe” a lot. What a dick! I might have been 4, but I knew when someone was giving me the run around.

I moved on to Plan B. Whenever he was reading, I’d go grab the evil book and dig in a little on my own, hoping he’d take pity on me and help me out. The text was confusing. I just read the first page over and over again. And this Dad guy was playing hardball. He wasn’t swayed by my ploy at all.

Worse, my Mom caught me reading the book and declared it evil (Duh!), which I guess meant it wasn’t appropriate for 4 year olds. She put it up on a really high shelf to keep it away from me.

So now what? Weeks went by like this. Nobody would read me this goddamn book, and it taunted me from up on high. I was screwed.

But still I was drawn to the book. I couldn’t stay away. I started scooting a chair from the dining room to get it down when my parents weren’t paying attention. I held it and looked upon the cover and dreamed of what sights it might show me.

I puzzled over the opening pages again and again, too. Something about dead people.

I told all of the kids I knew about it, hoping someone might have a cool dad that had read them this thing, and we could figure it all out. My friends were intrigued but offered no answers.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the book. I guess at some point, holding it and reading those first few pages was no longer enough. I cut open a paper bag from the grocery store and spread it out flat to make a large canvas, got out my paint set and started painting the opening lines on it:

“THE DEAD HAVE highways.
They run, unerring lines of ghost-trains, of dream-carriages, across the wasteland behind our lives, bearing an endless traffic of departed souls. Their thrum and throb can be heard in the broken places of the world, through cracks made by acts of cruelty, violence and depravity. Their freight, the wandering dead, can be glimpsed when the heart is close to bursting, and sights that should be hidden come plainly into view.”

At some point in the middle of my painting, my mom discovered me. She caught me red handed. Literally. My hands were covered in red paint. She was scared, but more than scared, she was furious. She said this book was evil (True!), that I shouldn’t be reading this kind of trash (False!), and that the high shelf wasn’t cutting it, so the book needed to be thrown out (Absolutely not!).

I don’t actually know what happened from there. Was the book thrown out? I don’t remember. Did I cry? Probably.

But time passed, and all of this faded away.

28 years later I decided to look up reviews of the book I was reading, and that terrifying cover of the original edition slapped me in the face. I was unwittingly reading the forgotten evil book from all those years before. Behold the much gazed upon dead face:


I am no longer sure this is an actual dead person’s face.

OK, so the cover is not terrifying at all. It’s a shitty Halloween mask with really fake worms on it. But all of those memories came flooding back. No one else in my family remembers any of this.

But it turns out the evil book was THE BOOKS OF BLOOD, volume 1 by Clive Barker. The Stephen King blurb on the front declares: “I have seen the future of horror, and his name is Clive Barker.” The praise is warranted. I enjoyed the book a lot. I just wish I hadn’t waited so long to read it.

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