There's nothing like the American South to produce writing that's as deep, lush, and mysterious as its landscape. The crumbling ruins of plantation houses engulfed by decaying foliage make the perfect setting for tales of the macabre and fantastic.
Tennessee Williams described Southern Gothic as writing that captures "an intuition, of an underlying dreadfulness in modern experience." That underlying dreadfulness is what makes this kind of horror so utterly compelling. The novels are about the destructive power of family secrets and often linger over the grotesque -- mentally and/or physically flawed characters that illicit from readers both empathy and disgust.
The supernatural is but a natural extension to this type of storytelling. The real and the unreal world coexist side by side, one as significant and substantial as the other.
Photo: Mood Lifter, by Maggie Taylor, Lanoue Fine Art
Four and Twenty Blackbirds
by Cherie Priest
"Priest sinks deep into the tale of a Tennessee orphan who draws upon grit worthy of Scarlett O'Hara to extract an evil canker from her Spanish moss-hung family tree. Visitations by spirits spur Eden, who has grown up seeing ghosts, to pursue dangerous genealogical research. Also fueling her investigations are attempts on her life by a maniacal cousin, whose plots have the blessing of a crusty old matriarch resentful of Eden's slave-descended branch of the family. This southern-gothic closet is fairly overflowing with skeletons, from a polygamist wife murderer to a coven of voodoo priests....there's mystical, sultry appeal in the thick Chattanooga atmosphere and strong characterizations".
The Bad Seed
by William March
From Book Description:
"Now reissued – William March's 1954 classic thriller that's as chilling, intelligent and timely as ever before....What happens to ordinary families into whose midst a child serial killer is born...? The spine–tingling tale of little Rhoda Penmark had a tremendous impact on the thriller genre and generated a whole perdurable crop of creepy kids. Today, The Bad Seed remains a masterpiece of suspense that's as chilling, intelligent, and timely as ever before."
by Beth Massie
She is the Flannery O'Connor / Shirley Jackson / Stephen King / Eudora Welty of Southern horror -- Douglas Clegg
Watch book trailer here.
From Book Description:
"Charlene Myers, a struggling young artist, reluctantly moves to the rustic, isolated farm she inherited in hopes of rekindling her creative spark and reviving her flagging career. However, Homeplace - the dilapidated house and craggy, mountainous farmland to which she's moved - holds dark family secrets she had no idea about, secrets that begin to surround her and draw her in. What is in the tiny cabin called the "Children's House?" What is in the boarded up room at the top of the farmhouse stairs or the old well in the yard? Was Charlene's ancestor truly a witch? Is she part of a familial legacy of cruelty and abuse that she cannot escape?"
by Lucius Shepard
Excellent Southern gothic ghost story from Hugo and Nebula Award winner Lucius Shepard.
From Book Description:
"Sanie Bullard, a 28-year-old frustrated writer, is stuck in a stultifying marriage and husband Jackson's dilapidated antebellum family mansion in South Carolina, where the couple has returned so he can study for his bar exams in peace. His brother, Will, is addled with peyote as well as the family's weirdness; sister Louise is stranger still. Sanie, at loose ends in the "eminently hauntable" family home, hears voices. Unafraid of the ghostly voices, Sanie sees the house—and the Bullards—not as monstrous but as a "frail, musty puzzle she wants to solve." However, the puzzle is stranger and far darker than Sanie imagines. This memorable short novel careens through the mundane realities of a Southern small town, from bizarre revelations of decadent family history and strange supernatural theory to a violent and unexpected conclusion."
The Long Home
by William Gay
"In Willam Gay's debut novel...the devil comes to Tennessee in the form of one Dallas Hardin, a vile and violent man who brings tragedy in his wake....If Gay's themes are big--nothing less than the battle between good and evil--and his metaphors drawn unabashedly from that old-time religion, his novel is nonetheless firmly grounded in the flesh-and-bone world--sometimes nightmarishly so. There is a lot of blood spilt over the course of this novel, in myriad ways and in graphic detail. Indeed, one quality that The Long Home shares with most of Cormac McCarthy's work is that it is definitely not for the faint-hearted. But Gay balances the horror with moments of true beauty, and his novel is undeniably compelling."
by The Cryptkeeper