Arts & Culture

The Most Haunting Southern Books

Seven reads for dark and stormy nights

Just in time for Halloween, seven authors from around the region share the Southern novels they recommend reading on cold and dreary nights (and perhaps with a flashlight handy).

A Good Man Is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor is about a cold-blooded serial killer named the Misfit who takes out an entire family, including an insufferable grandmother. He’s got the best line of any bad guy in print (and the best last line of any story): ‘She would have been a good woman…if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.’”

—Karin Slaughter, thriller/crime writer. Most recent: Pieces of Her

“Manly Wade Wellman’s The Lost and the Lurking is a tale rich and strange, ripe with folklore and the occult. Wellman is the forgotten king of Appalachian horror.”

—David Joy, novelist. Most recent: The Line That Held Us

Desperation Road  by Michael Farris Smith is good old Southern Gothic with a shivering dash of haunting. Revenge and regret are very particular kinds of haunting—ones that won’t let the victim rest.”

—Patti Callahan Henry, author. Most recent: Becoming Mrs. Lewis

The Ballad of the Sad Café is an enormously haunting Southern Gothic novel and about as perfect a piece of writing as can ever be. It concerns itself with a giant, muscular woman; a beautiful, mean-spirited convict; and a hunchback. These three dance around each other, each in love with the wrong person, being cruel and yearning to be loved, they spin together, ever faster until the inevitable end. [Author Carson] McCullers had a particular way of revealing the soul of human beings. She made Georgia the world.”

—Edward Carey, author. Most recent: Little

“I recommend Cassandra King’s Moonrise, a Southern Gothic in the vein of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. I love mysteries set in historic houses falling into ruin with spooky gardens and hidden secrets of the departed swirling about like ghosts. Read under a blanket with the light on!”

—Mary Alice Monroe, author. Most recent: Beach House Reunion 

“In Gods of Howl Mountain, Taylor Brown brings the dark wilderness of the North Carolina hills and towns to vivid life with his masterful use of atmosphere, punchy dialogue, and evil deeds from the past that still haunt decades later. And his characters, so hard but so human at the same time, are unforgettable.”

—Lauren Denton, author. Most recent: Hurricane Season

When We Were Worthy by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen is set in a small town in Georgia. In a nutshell, it’s Friday Night Lights meets Big Little Lies and is absolutely gripping. It exposes the dark underbelly of small town secrets, obsessions, and scandal. You’ll never view your neighbors the same way after reading this novel.”

—Ariel Lawhon, author. Most recent: I Was Anastasia

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