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Books recommended in Danse Macabre

King's Dear Constant Readers

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Jul 14, 2009, 12:25pm Top

A little off-shoot from our reading of Danse Macabre - does anybody intend to read any of the books recommended by Stephen King? Of the ten books he discusses, I've only read two, The Fog (which is good, gory fun in a pulpy way), and Strange Wine (which disappointed me, although I could appreciate Ellison's invention and imagination).

I have a few of the books he listed in the appendix, and dug them out to read soon. I got stuck straight into The Cement Garden and not having read anything by McEwan before, I'm glad I did.

What an icky experience! It really is very uncomfortable reading, but for all the right reasons. King talks about psychological pressure points, and this book presses them virtually all the way through.

Jul 14, 2009, 9:30pm Top

I would like to but I have soooo many books that I want to try and read that I'm actually feeling pressure. Not a good feeling when I enjoy reading so much.

Edited: Jul 14, 2009, 11:03pm Top

What a good idea for a thread!

The first time I read Danse Macabre I searched out a couple of the books he mentioned, but had trouble finding some of them (this was circa 1992-93?). So I substituted.

I couldn't find Ramsey Campbell's The Doll Who Ate His Mother, so I tried Midnight Sun by him instead. I thought the idea was terrific, but remembered not enjoying the book too much. For me, it was too slow. I admire horror built around inference, but that one just didn't work for me.

I couldn't find James Herbert's The Rats or The Fog, so I picked up Haunted instead. It's been years, so I don't remember much of the book. But I do remember I didn't desire any more James Herbert.

I did read Peter Straub's Ghost Story and LOVED it. Peter Straub is one of the very few horror novelists that I consider an equal to Stephen King.

I also tried Matheson's Hell House and wasn't crazy about it. But I did like I Am Legend a lot and have picked up lots more Richard Matheson.

I read Harvest Home and liked the writing, but didn't finish the book. I'll have to try it again (did he mention Harvest Home or am I remembering wrong?). It hasn't stopped me from picking up more from Thomas Tryon.

T.E.D. Klein's The Ceremonies is another one that I think I picked up due to a Stephen King rec from Danse Macabre, but now I can't remember.

Ones I haven't picked up, but would like to try are Burnt Offerings, The Haunting of Hill House and The House Next Door. I probably should go through that appendix at the end again and search out some more.

Jul 15, 2009, 7:36am Top

Cal, I wasn't suggesting adding any more to the read-a-thon! You could tell us which ones you've read and what you thought, or which ones you might seek out in the future.

Hell House will probably be my next read from the list - you've really set me up for that one now, jseger ;) I love the film so it seemed an obvious choice.

I read Haunted by James Herbert when it came out. At the time I loved it, it was very different from his normal stuff (more restrained, no sex), but my older self might feel differently. I'll have to give it another go. But it's the worse one to read to get a feel for Herbert - I'd try again if I were you.

Tried Ramsey Campbell as a teenager and didn't think much of the book, I can't remember which one it was. But I do have a short story collection of his, recently mooched. I'm going to start there, if I like it I'll try a novel.

I admit it - I've never read any Peter Straub! So I'm in for a treat.

I did wonder if this thread would be better off in the Thingamajiggy group but I guess we are also discussing/picking to pieces the Big Man's taste...

Edited: Jul 15, 2009, 8:20am Top

I just think it would be a great challenge to take part in!

I read Ramsey Campbell's The Face That Must Die instead of The Doll Who Ate His Mother. Campbell is a disturbing author. It wasn't the most fast moving or gripping book but it was weird.

Peter Straub is wonderful. I read Ghost Story many years ago and loved it! I read In the Night Room and The Talisman. Good stuff!

Matheson has been on my wishlist for a long time. So many books and too little time!

Jul 15, 2009, 8:29am Top

LT has the same effect on me sometimes, Cal - I realise how many good books there are and I want to get stuck into them all, right now.

Campbell sounds even more interesting, disturbing and weird is definitely my thing (I have some experience of the slow, the disturbing and the weird, too, but that's enough about my love-life, ha ha)!

Jul 15, 2009, 10:09am Top


I had almost the exact opposite experience, seger. When I first read the book (15 years ago, or so), I read Burnt Offerings, The Haunting of Hill House, and The House Next Door, all of which I LOVED. I also read Harvest Home, which I consider one of my absolute favorite horror novels of all time--it's very cult-ish paranoid horror, like Rosemary's Baby set in the country. I liked Matheson's Hell House, but not I Am Legend. (Although I have to admit, there's nothing very special about Hell House--it's a pretty standard haunted house story.)

Many of the books were actually out of print when King wrote Danse Macabre, and I suspect King's highlighting them made them even harder to find. For instance, I've never seen a copy of The Doll Who Ate His Mother. Like everyone else, I tried other Campbell instead and was unimpressed. (In fact, the other I found was recommended in Danse Macabre--The Parasite.)

Of course, I'm the anal retentive dork who has been meticulously marking the books off the reading list as I read them for the last 15 years....

Jul 15, 2009, 4:39pm Top

I also used Danse Macabre as a reading list when it was first published about 27-28 years ago. It's too long ago now for me to pinpoint which books you include in 'the ten books he discusses' but I did get about halfway through the list of 100 recommended books at the end - and then I felt I'd exhausted the ones I really wanted to read. Just doing my best to remember what the main 10 were, I loved Ghost Story, The Haunting of Hill House, The House Next Door, Rosemary's Baby and Something Wicked. I just love books about books and that's why I found DM so fascinating and it really did enhance my reading of all of those books. My only disappointment was that, as TheBentley points out, many of the books King wrote about were already out of print and there are some that still remain on my wishlist and which I still haven't been able to find.

Edited: Jul 16, 2009, 12:31am Top

#7 - Hey, I've never seen a copy of The Doll Who Ate His Mother either! I didn't even know what the cover looked like until the interweb came along!

I tried reading Harvest Home while I was on a trip and think that was a mistake. I fully intend to read it again and have also picked up The Other and Night of the Moonbow.

I may be showing myself to be a real ignoramus here, but I think part of my problem with 'quiet horror' (H.P. Lovecraft, Ramsey Campbell, Charels Grant, T.E.D. Klein, T.M. Wright) is that as a reader you usually know what is coming a hundred pages or more beforehand. At that point I just find myself thinking 'hurry it up already!'

If you liked Harvest Home, I'd recommend The Ceremonies by T.E.D. Klein (I know he was mentioned in Danse Macabre, but can't remember if it was in reference to him as a writer or editor...). It was similar in style to what I remember of Harvest Home and like that book was very well written.

Edited: Jul 16, 2009, 2:41am Top

I actually was going to read Harvest Home last year but ended up reading The Other instead, because King pointed to it (along with Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist) as one of the three novels whose commercial success convinced mainstream publishers to get interested in horror. The Other was easily my favorite horror read for last year.

I was actually somewhat disappointed by Rosemary's Baby, in part because some of the themes and elements seemed a bit dated. It wasn't bad, but more the type of book you admire rather than enjoy. I have to admit I preferred the movie on this one. Although it's a very faithful adaptation, the visuals and performances gave the story the little extra oomph I thought the novel lacked.

Danse Macabre also motivated me to read Something Wicked This Way Comes, which was pretty fun but not all that scary. I'd actually set it down more as dark fantasy or even YA. Bradbury's prose has a habit of twisting in on itself at times, but it can also be sort of hypnotic.

I haven't read The Haunting of Hill House yet. I have read both The Lottery and We Have Always Lived in the Castle (so far, my favorite horror read of this year), and she is simply masterful. I'm actually rather saddened that The Sundial is out of print.

I've yet to read any novels by Campbell, but I think some of his short fiction is brilliant. His style can be a bit difficult at times, so a lot of his works are better the second time around. I just finished Cold Hand in Mine, which King mentions as another example of the new British horror writers. I think his style is more straightforward than Campbell's, but he's way more subtle than Campbell overall. Definitely a lot of stories where he doesn't show you what's behind the door, so to speak.

As far as Straub, I've read Shadowland so far. Again, it was more dark fantasy than horror. I have Ghost Story on my TBR pile, but will probably get around to Mr. X first, since I have a weakness for stories with HPL connections. (Thanks, jseger.)

Also on my TBR pile is Fritz Leiber's Our Lady Darkness, which I think shows up on the list, and The Ceremonies as well.

Jul 16, 2009, 3:22pm Top

Since we read Danse Macabre I have read Rosemary's Baby and Dracula. I have bought Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde but haven't opened it yet.

I really want to read a bunch of the other books. Ghost Story and I Am Legend at the forefront. He also really made me want to read Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Really I want to read a lot of the books he mentioned but I've got a little stack growing of TBR books and it gets bigger faster than I can read.

Jul 16, 2009, 10:00pm Top

This is a rare thing for me to say of a movie adaptation of a book, but I really think the film of Something Wicked This Way Comes is a more than adequate substitution for the novel. It really clarifies and expands a lot that's sort of muddy in the book, and I actually think it captures more of Bradbury's signature voice (which is more evident in something like Dandelion Wine). Am I alone in that?

Apr 1, 2010, 8:16am Top

Read Lord of the Flies a little while ago (I'm sure it's listed at the back of Danse Macabre). I read it as a teen but found the re-read a gripping and gruesome experence. Not really a horror but definitely horrific. The tension grows as you get through the book and it gets very hard to put down. The pig killing scene is barbaric but is one of those cases where it is essential to the plot - you start to fear for the boys at this point, and the suggestion of just what will be done to Ralph towards the end, although only hinted at, takes you right back to the pig and makes you very uneasy.

Highly recommended to any of you who haven't read the book, or those who haven't read it since their teens.

Apr 6, 2010, 9:57pm Top

I read both Strange Wine and The Body Snatchers after finishing Danse Macabre, and am happy to report that I loved them. Strange Wine in particular--it is perhaps my favorite short-story collection of all time. It's definitely in the top five.

Apr 19, 2010, 12:33am Top

I wanted to add a link to this thread that readers may find useful - HP Lovecraft wrote an essay that gives the best horror/suspense reading list I've ever found, especially if you are interested in the history and roots of the genre.

IN LITERATURE (1927, 1933 - 1935)
by H.P. Lovecraft

Sep 3, 2010, 1:32pm Top

Great thread - wish I'd discovered it earlier!

From Appendix 2 (i.e., the list in the back of the book):

Books I've read:
The Thomas Covenant Trilogy
Lord of the Flies
The Haunting of Hill House
I Am Legend
Interview with the Vampire
Ghost Story

Books I own but haven't read:
Watership Down
A Good Man Is Hard to Find
The Other

Books that I don't own and haven't read:
Everything else


I'll second the recommendation of HPL's Supernatural Horror in Literature (which King also recommends in DM, you'l recall) - I think it's one of the best things he ever wrote.

Feb 23, 2012, 10:36am Top

>17 Moomin_Mama:

Thanks! BTW - you didn't happen to pull this off of Amazon, did you?

Feb 23, 2012, 10:42am Top

>18 artturnerjr:: Didn't realise there was one on there. Got it from a sci-fi and fantasy forum (can't remember which one - found it on a Google search). Have looked for my copy of Danse Macabre but cannot find it...

Feb 23, 2012, 10:45am Top

>19 Moomin_Mama:

Just curious. If you had pulled it off of Amazon, it was probably my list! :D

Feb 23, 2012, 10:46am Top

>20 artturnerjr::
If only I'd have known :)

Feb 23, 2012, 10:49am Top

>22 artturnerjr:

Actually, I don't recall if it's a complete list or not, so you were proably better off using the one that you did. :)

Feb 25, 2012, 10:23am Top

A further note on the list - I've set it up so it's more of a way for people to keep track of what they've read (or want to read) from the list, rather than a voting scheme as such (it's unnumbered and you can't thumbs down). You can also see what other people have read. Because I myself entered all of the books, you can't see which ones I've read myself although I can use it that way because the list also shows your collections (in other words the books on the list in your collections on LT, not just the ones you've ticked).

Mar 21, 2013, 8:01pm Top

Have read another two from the list recently.

I am Legend - really enjoyed it, much, much better than Hell House. It hasn't aged at all badly considering how many 'last survivor(s) against the undead' books and films have come out since. I had no qualms with the protagonist's scientific endeavours - after all, he was only using a simple microscope, blood samples and library books, had plenty of time on his hands and seemed reasonably intelligent. The main character's problems with, well, randiness, surprised me, as more modern takes on the story never tackle this issue. I did have an issue with the ending and it was my only gripe. The conversation between the protagonist and his captors seemed a bit forced and served mostly to spell out the main point of the ending for the reader. I would have preferred something more suggestive than explained.

Our Lady of Darkness - enjoyed it but it hasn't aged so well. The horror part was creepier in the beginning but was downright silly by the end. I quite liked the characters although they were of their time, and the history of the occurrences was a lot of fun if you like authors such as Arthur Machen and Clark Ashton Smith. What I didn't like, apart from the silly, non-scary ending, was some of the characters' preoccupations with young, nubile young women, often underage. There was a bit too much of it and none of it was necessary to the plot, which gave me the impression of reading something written by a dirty old man. It deserved a mention in King's list for the first few appearances of the bogey, which are creepy indeed, and the horror references, but it's nothing special.

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