Jun 28

Michael tells about his stint as an NPR radio star; we talk about some new horror novels with a literary pedigree, and tell you about Adam Ross’ Ladies and Gentlement, and Josh Ritter’s Bright’s Passage.

Michael at the WBUR studios, recording NPR's On Point with Tom AshbrookRadio killed the podcast star (not really)

Did you all catch Michael’s appearance on NPR’s On Point with Tom Ashbrook? Michael tells us all of the details. If you haven’t had a chance to hear it, be sure to check it out — Michael gives us some great recommendations for Hot Summer Reads.

Literary Horror (5:28)

The Passage by Justin Cronin was a favorite of ours last year, and now it’s in paperback (with the first chapter of the sequel!). That made us think about some upcoming literary novels that have a supernatural element. These are not your average vampire, werewolf or zombie stories, but are written by authors who have serious literary chops, and they cross over into the mainstream of fiction. This fall, Colson Whitehead’s Zone One will feature zombies. One of Ann’s favorite books coming out this summer is The Last Werewolf, by Glen Duncan (on sale July 12th).  I talk a bit about my prejudices regarding horror novels, and speculate on what makes a novel “literary horror.”

The Passage by Justin CroninZone One by Colson WhiteheadThe Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan

And we’d like to hear from you: what other authors are writing literary horror?

Two books we can’t wait for you to read (15:08)

One of Ann’s favorite books from last year was Adam Ross’ Mr. Peanut. Ross has a new collection of short stories, Ladies and Gentlemen, that is simply wonderful. These stories are more straightforward than the convolutions that were so intriguing in Mr. Peanut, but they are still populated with characters who are dark and disturbing.  Michael loves Bright’s Passage, a novel by singer/songwriter Josh Ritter. Bright’s Passage tells the story of Henry Bright, a World War I veteran who has an angel at his side.

Ladies and Gentlemen by Adam Ross Bright's Passage by Josh Ritter

Michael is on vacation, so next week’s show will star you! We’ve got some wonderful voicemails, but there’s still time to add yours. Please call us (209/867-7323) by July 3rd and tell us what one book you are looking forward to reading this summer.



  • There are three books that I would consider “literary horror,” two of which are classics and one of which is a fairly recent release. In a genre-busting move, last year I started reading a little horror. It didn’t start out that way. It actually all began with the beautifully written novel, THE ANGELS ARE THE REAPERS (by Alden Bell; narrated by Tai Sammons) which led to I AM LEGEND (by Richard Matheson; narrated by Robertson Dean)… And I discovered, it’s not about the monsters, it’s about the humans and; the true horror is not in the ghoulishness of the zombie/vampire/mutants/monsters; but in what we as humans have allowed or will allow ourselves to become. Since then I’ve listened to one other horror classic that rises above the pulp muck, THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE (by Shirley Jackson; narrated by Bernadette Dunne.)*

    I do want to revisit a couple of other Classics, FRANKENSTEIN (by Mary Shelley) and DRACULA (by Bram Stoker.) I will admit that my last reading of FRANKENSTEIN last year left me disappointed. I had remembered it as much more touching and this last time I was pretty disgusted with both Frankenstein and the monster. I think I need to hit the mental reset button and take another look at it with the human element the focus.

    *BTW, “Angels” deals with zombies; “Legend” with vampires and, “Hill House” with Evil incarnate…

    • I love The Haunting of Hill House, and now you’ve made me want to read (or listen to) I am Legend. Thanks!

      • THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE is really *the* mother of all haunted house stories! After listening to it, I see its influence everywhere, from Richard Matheson’s HELL HOUSE to Scooby Doo!

    • Philip

      I’ve been meaning to recommend The Reapers Are The Angels to BOTNS for a while and I’ve been beaten to it. I Am Legend is a great recommendation as well. If you read the book, the title will actually make sense, unlike the Will Smith film adaptation which left me wondering about the title.

  • OMG MGK on NPR! 😀

  • Joanne in Canada

    Michael, I was impressed how quickly you can think on your feet under such incredible pressure from a very ramped-up host! (I’d never heard Tom before.) Nice literary nuggets squeezed into small amounts of time.

  • Literary Horror:

    I think I heard about this on BOTNS 🙂
    The one that came immediately to mind is Joe HIll’s Heart Shaped Box. I had my own prejudices when it came to this one. I figured “oh sure, Stephen King’s son’s a writer.” I was pleasantly surprised! Good plot, great characters and lots of suspense. An award winning debut.

  • And to think we knew him when…Michael Kindness that is. Good job on NPR, Michael. Truly enjoyed listening.

  • Great list. I love THE PASSAGE as a summer read. I’m going to try to get THE LAST WEREWOLF too but I still haven’t read Colson Whitehead’s last book so I’ll wait until I’ve got htat one down to add another of his, LOL.

  • Great job Michael on NPR. Your recommendations were my favorite 😉

    I also want to mention that I don’t think I ever used the word “fantastic” before I started listening to BOTNS and now I find myself using it all the time, both in book reviews and regular speech. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not but it shows what a strong influence your show has on me.

  • Ann and Michael, I’m a bit behind on my listening so I just heard episode #135 today and was excited to hear that you both are fans of literary w/supernatural or horror elements. Did either of you read John Harwood, and if so, what you think. I read his debut, The Ghost Writer, and thought it was wonderful…up until the ending. The most recent book of this type that I’ve read & adored was The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters.

    Ok, here’s the advert, you can hit delete now, but I hope you give The Taker a spin because it is exactly in this vein. No standard horror tropes but it has a supernatural element to it. It’s been compared to early Anne Rice. And for you, Ann, it’s very dark.

  • Ross Oakes Mueller

    To this list I would certainly add Mark Danielewski’s HOUSE OF LEAVES (http://www.amazon.com/House-Leaves-Mark-Z-Danielewski/dp/0375703764). It was far and away the best book that I read last year (though it has been a few years since it was published). My reading of the book is as one extended metaphor for the ways in which we respond to the knowledge of our mortality. In fact, I would highly recommend Ernest Becker’s THE DENIAL OF DEATH as a “companion piece” for the book. I’m not sure whether Danielewski was aware of Becker’s writing, but his book is a spectacularly (if bizarrely) rendered fictional take on humankind’s “sickness unto death.” For months after I finished, I was literally unable to resist recommending the book to nearly every person I encountered. A great “horror” novel!

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