I'll come clean from the start - I had an extra credit and nothing I particularly wanted to spend it on this month. My first credit went on Joe Hill's excellent new book, Horns - the second went on The Waiting Room almost at random. I've been pretty disappointed by a lot of the new horror that's come out over the last year or so, but it's books like The Waiting Room that make me try to keep abreast of them as much as possible.
The concept of the book is hardly the most original - listening made me think of Stephen King's Pet Sematary, M.R. James, Lovecraft and the like, and the ghost hunter angle's also fairly popular now - but most horror is very derivative now, and the way this book is written, coupled with David Ritoul's excellent reading, results in a subtle, genuinely disturbing but oddly comforting narrative. The atmosphere it creates reminds me fondly of the kind of ghost story classically told around the fireside, which I enjoyed immensely. There's very little violence and hardly any gore - the horror aspect is more atmospheric and subtle than that, which I admire in a genre increasingly affected by movies. Not that there's anything wrong with gore if it's done well, I just like to have the option.
Um - that probably got a bit wordy. Basically though, if you have a spare audible credit & are looking for a good piece of horror fiction, I'd really recommend The Waiting Room. If you enjoy this, you might enjoy Dark Matter (Michelle Paver) or maybe The Passage (by Justin Cronin), both of which are available on Audible (unfortunately I don't know a lot about F.G. Cottam's other works).
If you've listened to or read Bentley Little's The Collection (also on audible), you may well be wary of trying this book - even as a pretty hardcore fan of horror as a genre, I found stories in The Collection difficult to listen to (and often to stomach). Don't worry though - The Haunted is a much easier listen, and well worth the download.
It's a fairly standard haunted house story, but it's very well written and honestly compelling. From the comfortable, engaging trials and troubles of an american middle class family, the narrative turns in a heartbeat to something much more disturbing and other worldly. You find yourself waiting for the next thing to happen, but you're often genuinely surprised when it does. Unlike The Collection, which was very much about short, massive shocks, this is much more subtle. I've been very disappointed with horror releases on audible lately, but this book is a very welcome change from the general trend and well worth a credit.
The Green Mile is one of my all time favourite books. It's not easy to pin down to a genre - it's more an insight in to the highs and lows of human nature than a horror or paranormal fiction title. It?s six part, episodic structure only adds to its appeal, giving each part a tension and sense of expectation that makes reading or listening to the next part a must rather than an option. Despite the fact that, when you download the recording, you?re effectively getting all the episodes at once with no significant pause in between them, the way in which King links each part together somehow preserves this feeling, which only adds to the enjoyment. The feeling of needing to know what happens next is more or less constant throughout.
For me though, it?s Frank Muller?s incredible reading that makes this download really exceptional. Frank Muller and Stephen King are a incredibly potent mix ? Muller has an ability to absorb the minutia of each character and bring them to life with an ease that?s almost eerie, especially in first person, narrator driven stories like this, or the Shawshank Redemption. I understand that Muller won several awards for his performance in this recording ? listen to it for half an hour and I guarantee that you?ll see why. As King himself says '[When Frank reads], the blind will see, the lame will walk, and the deaf will hear.'
If you enjoy this reading, I highly recommend the Shawshank Redemption, The Talisman, and Black House (also on Audible) ? all of these are powerfully read Stephen King stories (the last two being co-written with Peter Straub) with Muller as narrator.
Muller is unfortunately now deceased, and was unable to make new recordings since 2001 following a motorbike accident ? somehow, that knowledge only makes this brilliant, haunting narrative all the more poignant. There will never be another like it. Treasure it.