Here are some of the most popular titles borrowed by you in 2022, our book-loving Dublin City library members. It’s great to see the One Dublin One Book choice, the Dublin Literary Award winner and some short-listed titles making the list. And always great to see Irish writers featuring so strongly as well.
This Dublin City Libraries publication is a treasure trove of information on a distinguished line of Irish horror writers, from Charles Robert Maturin, through the great J.S. Le Fanu to Ireland's most prominent cult-creator and proponent of the vampire myth, Bram Stoker, and beyond.
‘For the sake of your sanity, pray it isn’t true!’ (‘Legend of Hell House’ film poster tagline) Working from home may have its benefits – no commute, ‘walking to work’ in the local park, actual tea and lunch breaks away from the desk, heating and ventilation to order.
If you like it dark...fiction reviews for the brave
If you like odd, dark fiction – and I mean really dark – here are some titles you may have overlooked. The best horror stories share at least five elements in common: They explore 'malevolent' or 'wicked' characters, deeds or phenomena. They arouse feelings of fear, shock or disgust as well as the sense of the uncanny – things are not what they seem. There is a heightened sense of the unknown and/or mysterious..Blood Standard by Laird BarronFar better known for his Lovecraftian-style horror stories (see The Night Ocean by LaFarge, below), this is a shamelessly hardboiled thriller with a traditional plot (mob enforcer flees to rural New York to escape his violent past), but a great lead character and some compelling writing makes this more than worth your time. Lee Child or John Sandford fans will probably find a lot to like here. Best of all, if you enjoy this one it’s just the first in a series.The Devil Of Nanking by Mo Hayder (also published as Tokyo)Hayder may be best known for her grim and gothic police procedurals featuring troubled detective Jack Caffrey, but this is one of her stand-alone novels and probably her best – and darkest. Combining a mysterious quest through 1990s Japan with the historically-accurate horrors of the 1937 Nanking massacre, it’s absolutely not for the squeamish. You have been warned. Also available on Borrowbox at the time of writing are her novels Pig Island and Birdman (the first in the Jack Caffrey series).Broken Heart by Tim WeaverThe absolute master of missing-persons mysteries, CWA award nominee Weaver’s recurring character David Raker starts off investigating an impossible disappearance on the Somerset coast. Nothing new for dedicated Weaver fans, but his usual ingenious plotting takes an unexpected turn into the dark history of 1950s Hollywood, with a cult film director so well-drawn you’d be forgiven for looking up his movies on IMDB. Read all 10 in order to get the most from the intermittent story arc, but this is one that can be read out of sequence.Universal Harvester by John DarnielleThis may test your tolerance of oddness, but it’s well worth following Darnielle down his disorientating rabbit-hole to see where it goes. Customers of a video store in 1990s rural Iowa report troubling scenes spliced into their films, and the store owner’s amateur investigation leads... well, not where you might expect. Creepy as hell and excellently written (but if you like clear, tidy resolutions then this may not be the book for you...)The Calling by Inger Ash WolfeA quiet Canadian town is visited by a ghoulishly inventive serial killer; heading for retirement, Police Detective Hazel Micallef is dragged in his wake. The incredibly gothic plot is leavened by a real-as-hell central character with real-as-hell problems. If you think there’s not enough gore in Ann Cleeves’ Vera Stanhope novels then this could be right up your street. A film version made in 2014 starring Susan Sarandon is also worth a look. First in a compelling series.The Darkest Room by Johan TheorinThis is the second in a loosely-connected series of books set on the Swedish island of Oland. (Some characters recur but the books can be read in any order.) Theorin writes Scandinavian noir with a large helping of supernatural creepiness, the latter often based on local folklore. Filled with unease rather than sensation, this is the story of a family from urban Stockholm whose escape-to-the-countryside idyll turns into something much darker. A bit of a slow burn but well worth sticking with.The Night Ocean by Paul La FargeBeginning with Charlie Willett’s obsession with (real-life) controversial horror writer H.P.Lovecraft, and Charlie’s subsequent mysterious disappearance, this is a Russian doll of a book, one story giving way to another and another, combining a wife’s search for truth with speculative fictional biography, literary hoaxes, Mexican history, fandom and way too much more stuff to list. Not just for Lovecraft fans (and if you’re not, the footnotes are a real help), it’s a compelling, meticulous and tricksy literary labyrinth. Complex and mysterious, but highly rewarding.Disturbia by Christopher FowlerBetter known nowadays for his series of novels featuring Peculiar (with a capital ‘P’) English investigators Bryant and May, Fowler began his career as a horror writer. This is more of a dark thriller than straight up horror and features a desperate race around London to solve the riddles in a class-based and increasingly deadly game. Fowler has a passion for – and encyclopaedic knowledge of – the geography and architecture of London, and this turns a standard thriller into something far more interesting. (On the subject of Fowler it’s well worth tracking down his excellent non-fiction work The Book Of Forgotten Authors – essential reading for those who like their books obscure or who have just run out of interesting things to read!)Cabal by Clive BarkerMaybe you last read this over thirty years ago (!); maybe you’ve seen Cronenberg’s Nightbreed; maybe you’ve never even heard of Clive Barker. This tale of a secret underworld of horrific monsters – who may not be as monstrous as the humans who persecute them – is a tightly-written thriller / horror story and more accessible than some of his much longer, more complex works. Barker is known for his disturbing ability to describe the almost unimaginable in stomach-churning detail, but the love story wound though the plot makes this both more tender and less gory than you may remember / expect.Access eBooks/eAudiobooks on your phone, tablet or reader. Once you have installed the app, search for Dublin in the ‘Library’ field provided and then sign in using your library membership card number and PIN. Watch our how to video on Borrowbox. Members of other library authorities will need to log in using a different link.Submitted by Jennifer in Finglas Library.
Vampires - From Dracula to Twilight and everything in between
Post by Fabienne Sauberlich.Are the Acheronian Dracula and the sparkling chick magnet Edward Cullen one and the same? Definitely not. But they are both vampires. Maybe there is not "That Vampire" anymore but a few very different types of vampires? And that is exactly how it is; they kind of spread over the whole media market placing themselves in different genres with different attributes. So if you think you know vampires, vampires fiction and vampires movies you might have missed some. What vampires do you like? The creature of human nightmares, the pitiless hunter of the night longing for your blood? You can find them with famous horror authors like Stephen King in Salem’s Lot, hunted by brave people like Van Helsing, Buffy and so on, or in classics like Dracula and Nosferatu.Or is it the more complex vampire you are looking for? The one struggling with his conflict between the need for blood and his reluctance to kill or hurt others. Fighting his own demons while losing everyone he loves, to be damned to an eternal life of loneliness while trying to find his way, like Louis in Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire, or like Darran Shan, and other characters of fantasy authors.If a vampire has human-like feelings as Louis and most modern vampires have, he is also able to love. But how can you be with the one you love when losing control might result in killing him/her? And if you did fall in love with a stranger, could you still love him if you knew his secret? Would you follow him into his world? Love, danger, secrets and dark passion. That is what you find in the stories of Lynsay Sands, Kerrelyn Sparks and many more.So that is what they are. Vampires. Murderers and gentleman. Passionate and cool as ice. And everything in between.------------------------About our Guest BloggerFabienne Sauberlich is a student of Library and Information Science in Germany with special interests in Psychology, Horror, Fantasy and Mystery Media.
Although the Dublin: One City, One Book choice for April this year is James Joyce's 'Dubliners', it is timely to remember that the choice for April 2009 was 'Dracula' by Dublin-born writer Bram Stoker; timely because April 20th this year marks the 100th anniversary of Stoker's death (20th April, 1912).About Bram StokerBram Stoker was born in Dublin's Marino Crescent on November 8th, 1847. After an early life plagued by illness, he went on to graduate from Trinity in 1868 with a Masters Degree in mathematics. His early work life was as a civil servant in Dublin Castle, while he was at the same time a freelance journalist and theatre critic.Stoker first met the actor Henry Irving in 1878, soon after his marriage to Florence Balcombe (who had spurned Oscar Wilde in his favour), and he left Dublin to become Irving’s theatrical agent and business manager in London. He afterwards became manager of Irving’s Lyceum Theatre, a position he held until Irving's death in 1905.Continuing the tradition of gothic fiction already established in Dublin by writers such as Charles Maturin and Sheridan le Fanu, Stoker's most famous novel, 'Dracula', was published in 1897. Bram Stoker produced several other writings with a supernatural theme, but none to rival 'Dracula' and its enduring popularity. Dracula - the BookI read 'Dracula' back in April 2009 when it was the Dublin: One City, One Book choice, and I found it a book I did not want to put down. And I did not find it at all hard to read; to the contrary, I found the diary style a refreshing change from the norm, and the language, while obviously reflecting the period in which it was written, to be beautiful, poetic and descriptive. It gets a definite thumbs up from me.Also available to borrow is an audio (CD) version, plus a number of film (DVD) versions; an old favourite being the 1931 version starring Bela Lugosi.The Bram Stoker CollectionDublin City Public Libraries houses the Leslie Shepard Bram Stoker Collection, and this valuable donation of books by and about Bram Stoker, gathered over a lifetime of interest by the late Leslie Shepard, is a treasure-trove for researchers and enthusiasts. The collection comprises in excess of 230 books and pamphlets relating to Bram Stoker and his creation, Dracula. The collection can be found at Marino Library and at the Dublin City Library and Archive, Pearse Street.
Halloween seems to be as good as time as any to peruse the Gothic section of your local library. Horror supremo Stephen King recommended that everyone should have a favourite reading place in their home. A comfy seat, adequate lighting, sufficient distance from domestic distractions and your favourite tipple to hand are prerequisites. Try some of these 'delights' over this coming Samhain. Beats bobbing for apples anyway... Casting the Runes and Other Ghost Stories by M.R. James (1987)The Master. If you haven't yet read James's short stories of the occult then you're in for a treat. Although 'Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad' and 'Casting the Runes' are justifiably renowned, its 'Canon Alberic's Scrapbook' that gets me every time. Best Horror Stories of Arthur Conan Doyle (1989)Conan Doyle mastered every genre he turned his hand to from science-fiction (The Lost World) and historical fiction (The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard), not to mention a certain detective from 221B Baker Street. In 1892 he published a true classic of horror fiction, 'Lot 249'. The tale concerns the reanimation of an Egyptian mummy in an Oxford College by the mysterious Edward Bellingham. 'Lot 249' was the first story to depict a mummy as a monstrous figure. Reputedly, Rudyard Kipling was terrified out of his wits by the tale when he first read it. The Terror by Dan Simmons (1990) This 900 page thumper posits a demonic reason for the mysterious disappearance of Sir John Franklin's 1845 expedition to find the fabled North-West passage. In Simmons' re-telling, the ice-bound crews of the HMS Terror and HMS Erebus are stalked by a monstrous predator who picks off those who have not yet succumbed to disease or starvation. As compelling and tense a narrative as you will read, 'The Terror' is gripping, grisly, and indisputably bonkers. IT by Stephen King (1986)IT follows the lives of seven misfits (who call themselves 'The Loser's Club') from Derry, a small town in Maine. From its foundation in the eighteenth century, Derry has been subject to a malevolent demon - known as 'IT' - who preys on the town's children. The novel tracks the children's journey from childhood to adulthood and the various degrees of devastation wreaked upon them by IT. Probably King's most successful evocation of life in smalltown America, IT is also practically a love-letter to Maine's public library service - key scenes are set in the library and one of the main characters - Mike - is the town librarian. Reason enough to include it in a library blog. If, for some strange reason, you are sceptical of Stephen King's powers as a novelist, IT is the place to start your re-evaluation. The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (2009)A throwback - or should that be an 'homage' - to the sprawling nineteenth-century novel, The Little Stranger sees Dr Faraday called to a crumbling pile in Warwickshire where he meets the Ayres - an aristocratic family on the skids - and treats their accident-prone servant. Tension mounts through a series of bizarre, unexplained incidents. It is left to the reader to decide whether the answer lies in the supernatural or in the psychopathologies of the characters. Naming The Bones by Louise Welsh (2010)A young academic in Glasgow, Murray Watson is on sabbatical and is researching the brief career of Archie Lunan, a local poet who died in mysterious circumstances in the early 1970s. Watson finds himself in a world of black magick and ritual sacrifice as he untangles the more bizarre fringes of bohemian life in Glasgow as the idealism of the 1960s soured. With shades of The Wicker Man, Naming the Bones is simply terrifying. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (1983)A solicitor travels to an English village to attend to an old woman's estate. He learns about a local spectre that haunts the village - 'The Woman in Black' - whose appearance heralds the death of a child. In my bid for 'understatement of the year', things end badly for all concerned.