Free eBook Review: 4 Classic Horror Novels
For me the month of October has always been an excuse to read nothing but horror novels. Though, so much quality horror is now public domain and freely available for eReaders that the mind simply boggles, and I may have to start extending my horror binge from mid-September to mid-November. Of course there’s Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein, Turn of the Screw and so on, but they’ve always been readily available at libraries or in cheap paperbacks. Instead, I like to dig just a little bit deeper and find some hidden gems.
- Varney the Vampire by Thomas Preskett Prest: Varney was actually written anonymously—a victorian era “penny dreadful” meant for mass consumption—but many scholars have come to believe that Prest authored both this innovative vampire tale and The String of Pearls, the anonymous penny dreadful that Sweeney Todd is based on. Varney is a long novel but surprisingly fast paced. It’s exciting, episodic, funny (sometimes intentionally), and readable. You can easily see how this type of thing became the favorite schlock entertainment of its day. Available as a Free Download from Project Gutenberg.
- Ringstones by Sarban: Sarban was the singular pseudonym of John William Wall, a fairly high profile British diplomat who wanted to keep his penchant for writing horror fiction on the down low. Ringstones follows a young tutor who discovers that her wards are way more trouble than you’re average tweens. Sarban manages to mix the gloomy atmosphere of more traditional ghost stories with a terrifying take on British folklore and history. It’s a short, quick read with a great setting and an unexpected, somewhat perverse conclusion. Available as a Free Download from Munsey’s.
- The Witch of Prague by F. Marion Crawford: A mysterious wanderer is roaming central Europe in search of his long lost love. In turn he is pursued by the witch Unorna who, in her desperate love for the wanderer, must resist the temptation to win him by black magic. To complicate things further, Unorna herself is pursued by Israel Kafka who will stoop to anything to steal her away. It’s a long strange novel, slow in parts and tainted by a very Victorian attitude towards the Jewish residents of Prague. For all that though, there are incredible flashes of imagination, oodles of atmosphere, and some genuinely suspenseful moments. Available as a Free Download from Project Gutenberg.
- The Beetle by Richard Marsh: Absolutely one of my favorite horror novels, The Beetle follows the trail of an Egyptian curse as it victimizes a group of Londoners that cross the social spectrum from beggar to prominent politician. The shapeshifting monster at the heart of the story provides a few genuine chills, and the atmosphere of a stormy, horror haunted London is dead-on. Though longish, it’s still relatively well-paced for a novel of 1897, and is one of the rare examples of an imaginative early horror novel that won’t test your patience with a wandering or preachy narrative. Available as a Free Download from Project Gutenberg.
List by Matthew