Yes, it has occurred to me that every other WIHM article on Dead Head Reviews has been written by a woman. (Dammit Patrick…You told me I could do this…)
So, hopefully you have read all of the other articles this month. Those are all poignant, heartfelt, and brilliantly written articles, told from unique viewpoints. *sigh* Okay okay, what I’m trying to say is that those articles are probably better than mine. (Lilyn G talked about boobs with mouths for nipples…how the HELL am I supposed to compete with that?) Nevertheless, I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to highlight some of my favorite horror books written by women.
Sineater by Elizabeth Massie
It was 1998, and I was 18 yrs old and well into my post-Stephen King/Clive Barker deep dive into the horror genre. I was lucky enough for this one to fall into my lap, via Leisure paperback. Sineater won the Stoker award for Best First Novel, and it is probably the best first novel I’ve ever read (either this one, or John R Little’s The Memory Tree). It’s almost never listed in Best-of coming of age horror novel lists and has every right to be in ALL of them. Also, don’t forget that Massie is also one of horror’s greatest short story writers. I recommend Shadow Dreams and The Fear Report. If you can’t find either of those, just pick up one of her newer collections, as they include some reprints from her early collections.
Suffer the Flesh by Monica J. O’Rourke
Not only does Monica write horror, but she writes extreme horror. She is also one of the best. I choseto highlight Suffer the Flesh, but you could easily replace that with Poisoning Eros (co-written with Wrath James White) or her excellent collection, Experiments in Human Nature (if you can find it!). Her short story, “Virtue of Stagnant Waters” (Splatterpunk Forever) earned a deserved Splatterpunk Award nomination in 2019. If you’re still wondering if she knows her stuff, consider the fact that she also works as a “book coach.” I think that means she wears a whistle and tells you that your book sucks.
Mr. Suicide by Nicole Cushing
Here is another Stoker winner for Best First Novel (2015). Mr. Suicide is written in 2nd person narration and Cushing takes full advantage of this. This choice was not a gimmick. The unique narration lends an immediacy to the story. It’s almost as if Cushing is grabbing you by the shirt and telling you, “Feel This!” Very unnerving.
Halloween Fiend by C.V. Hunt
I know, I know. You were expecting Ritualistic Human Sacrifice weren’t you? You’re right. That one is awesome too.
Husk by Rachel Autumn Deering
In just 102 pages, Deering has written one of the most captivating and character-driven novellas I’ve ever read. Also, fun fact: She wears a denim jacket with Judas Priest and Iron Maiden patches on it, and has written for DC Comics/Vertigo, Dark Horse Comics, IDW, and Cartoon Network. She also invented Black Metal and Vikings…probably.
Brother by Ania Ahlborn
I’m only three books deep into my Ania Ahlborn fandom (the other two were Within These Walls and The Devil Crept In) and I’m already convinced she is one of the best horror writers working today. I consumed this story via my Kindle’s text-to-speech function, AKA killer-robot-reading-a-book-to-you function, and I STILL loved it. So it’s probably even better reading it yourself.
The Death House by Sarah Pinborough
This article wouldn’t be complete without a mention of my favorite current writer, Sarah Pinborough. She struck international fame with the masterful Behind Her Eyes, but I still believe that The Death House may be her greatest book. However, she has several other home runs to her name: They Say a Girl Died Here Once, Cross Her Heart, and 13 Minutes rounds out my list of Pinborough faves.
I read only women horror authors in February. Here is how they fared. Ranked in reverse order:
6th: The Feast of All Saints by Anne Rice. I’m not a big Anne Rice fan, but this was a selection for a “Louisiana stories” book club, so I decided to try it. Way too long, and riddled with some historical inaccuracies. Grade: D
5th: The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell. Written in a classical style, which I usually do not care for. Even without the dense language, I feel that the story wouldn’t have kept my attention anyway. Grade: D
4th: The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White. Same problem as The Silent Companions, only slightly more enjoyable to read. Grade: D
3rd: Monstress by Marjorie Liu (graphic novel). This is a perfect example of a graphic novel that I can tell is very good, but just isn’t for me. The art is absolutely beautiful, which helps, but the story is very complex, with many moving parts. Grade: C
2nd: The Devil Crept In by Ania Ahlborn. Now we’re getting into the good stuff. So far, my second fave from her, behind Brother. Grade: Band my #1 book of the month is….
1st: True Crime by Samantha Kolesnik. Believe the hype folks!! Grade: B
Reviews by Jason Cavallaro