The best books that combine real world drama with ‘a sense of something otherworldly at play’

Why am I passionate about this?

I have written seven novels to date that have at their heart the idea that there is a wider, unseen game afoot that is being played out in realms about which normal humans are unaware. Six of them form the Allie St Clair ‘Black’ series, and the seventh is a stand-alone novel called The Unforgiver. Why do I write about these things? Very probably my teenage reading of Stephen King’s early work, HP Lovecraft’s collection, and my personal connection to Satan. Just kidding. I’ve never read any Lovecraft. To be serious, how can you not gaze into the infinite cosmos above and not wonder if there’s a lot more going on than we comprehend?

I wrote...

The Black Net

By Steven Bannister,

Book cover of The Black Net

What is my book about?

The Black Net is the third in my ‘Black’ Series featuring Detective Allie St Clair. In this novel, Cornwall's ancient Midsummer Golowan Festival forms the backdrop to a series of brutal murders whose origins can be traced to an elemental force well-known to St Clair and her mysterious partner Michael. Human frailty and connections to the deep past are explored as the broader context of an insidious, otherworldly game. The Black Series novels don’t fit easily into one genre as they crossover into mystery, fantasy, and to some extent, horror. Don’t say I didn’t warn you…

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of American Gods

Steven Bannister Why did I love this book?

I enjoyed the juxtaposition of fantasy and present-day situations. This book was right in my wheelhouse if you like—the concept of ancient Gods still extant but having been marginalised by the modern world and its new technologies. It’s part murder mystery, road trip, and exploration of the mythical elements that have intrigued readers for generations. American Gods is fun and is written slightly tongue-in-cheek. What’s not to like?

By Neil Gaiman,

Why should I read it?

11 authors picked American Gods as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now a STARZ® Original Series – Season 3 premiere in January 2021

“Pointed, occasionally comic, often scary, consistently moving and provocative….American Gods is strewn with secrets and magical visions.”—USA Today

Newly updated and expanded with the author’s preferred text. A modern masterpiece from the multiple-award-winning master of innovative fiction, Neil Gaiman.

First published in 2001, American Gods became an instant classic, lauded for its brilliant synthesis of “mystery, satire, sex, horror, and poetic prose” (Washington Post) and as a modern phantasmagoria that “distills the essence of America” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer). It is the story of Shadow—released from prison just days after…

Book cover of Feast Day of Fools

Steven Bannister Why did I love this book?

James Lee Burke’s foray into the ‘world beyond us’ is the real evil that has entered Texan Sheriff Hackberry Holland’s corner of Texas. Burke really knows how to draw readers in to that inhuman world of psychotic killers, religious maniacs, and tortured souls. Sounds grim—and it is—but Burke is a master storyteller whose descriptive powers of time and place are unparalleled in my view. JL’s books are not horror stories, but they’re close. 

By James Lee Burke,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Feast Day of Fools as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A powerful and unforgettable thriller from 'one of the finest American writers' GUARDIAN

Danny Boy Lorca was used to having apocalyptic visions - the beatings he'd taken in jail and the booze he drank to forget them made sure of that. But what he saw and heard that night out in the desert was more terrifying than anything even his battered spirit could have conjured. A man tortured to death. Slowly and methodically and with inhuman cruelty.

When Danny Boy tells his tale to Sheriff Hackberry Holland, Hack knows something evil has leaked over the border into his corner of…

Book cover of The Stand

Steven Bannister Why did I love this book?

The Stand – almost a must-read for anyone who reads speculative fiction. Written forty-odd years ago, King nailed the post-apocalyptic theme and at the same time re-introduced us to the greater-than-us Good vs. Evil idea. I can remember the cornfields and their sinister presence to this day. But of course, fans of King will know that his real strength as a writer is his once-in-a-lifetime talent for characterisation. He is the master. Had he written in genre other than horror/fantasy early in his career, I believe he would still have made it as one of the greats. 

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

19 authors picked The Stand as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Stephen King's apocalyptic vision of a world blasted by virus and tangled in an elemental struggle between good and evil remains as riveting and eerily plausible as when it was first published.

Soon to be a television series.

'THE STAND is a masterpiece' (Guardian). Set in a virus-decimated US, King's thrilling American fantasy epic, is a Classic.

First come the days of the virus. Then come the dreams.

Dark dreams that warn of the coming of the dark man. The apostate of death, his worn-down boot heels tramping the night roads. The warlord of the charnel house and Prince of…

Book cover of Nightfall

Steven Bannister Why did I love this book?

U.K. author Stephen Leather has written so many books and in a variety of genres. His supernatural Detective Jack Nightingale series is of interest to me here. In Nightfall and subsequent Jack Nightingale novels, our hero is struggling against demonic forces brought into his orbit courtesy of his now-dead father. Unusual, certainly. Many readers, I suspect, enjoy the injection of a new element into the now-crowded police procedural genre. 

By Stephen Leather,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Nightfall as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'You're going to hell, Jack Nightingale': They are words that ended his career as a police negotiator. Now Jack's a struggling private detective -- and the chilling words come back to haunt him. Nightingale's life is turned upside down the day that he inherits a mansion with a priceless library; it comes from a man who claims to be his father, and it comes with a warning. That Nightingale's soul was sold at birth and a devil will come to claim it on his thirty-third birthday -- just three weeks away. Jack doesn't believe in Hell, probably doesn't believe in…

Book cover of The Wrath of Angels

Steven Bannister Why did I love this book?

John Connolly is simply a terrific writer. In this Detective Charlie Parker novel, the Maine woods are a character in themselves—sinister, overbearing, and almost certainly harbouring—you guessed it—real evil. Connolly’s Charlie Parker is haunted—literally—and dangerous. He’s a complex and darkly charismatic figure that I find compelling. The Wrath of Angels has at its core the battle between Good and Evil, but it is played out by imperfect characters in a very spooky atmosphere. It has all the ingredients of a horror novel, doesn’t it? But John Connolly manages darker themes believably and again, for me, it mixes genres beautifully—and believe me, that’s not easy.

By John Connolly,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Wrath of Angels as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Haunting, scary and addictive' Independent on Sunday

In the depths of the Maine woods, the wreckage of an aeroplane is discovered. There are no bodies. No such plane has ever been reported missing, but men both good and evil have been seeking it for a long, long time. Hidden in the plane is a list of names, a record of those who have struck a deal with the Devil. Now a battle is about to commence between those who want the list to remain secret and those who believe…

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The Strange Case of Guaritori Diolco

By Bill Hiatt,

Book cover of The Strange Case of Guaritori Diolco

Bill Hiatt Author Of Different Lee

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Insatiable reader English teacher Life-long learner Hiker Webmaster

Bill's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Guaritori awakens from a coma to find that he's lost twenty years--and his entire world.

Fiancée, family, and friends are all missing, perhaps dead. Technology has failed, and magic has risen, leaving society in ruins. Most survivors are at the mercy of anyone who has strong enough magic. Guaritori has none. He finds a protector, but his troubles are far from over.

The new society in which he finds himself is superficially friendly but surrounded by enemies and full of secrets. Guaritori doesn't know it yet, but the biggest secret is his. If his protector knew who he truly was,…

The Strange Case of Guaritori Diolco

By Bill Hiatt,

What is this book about?

Coming out of a coma after twenty years, Guaritori--Garth to his friends--discovers that the world he knew no longer exists.

Advanced technology has failed. Magic, which he didn't know even existed, has become much more powerful. Supernatural groups battle for supremacy, forcing human beings to seek shelter wherever they can find it.
Garth's only hope for survival lies with a varied group including a shape-shifter, an alchemist, a tarot card reader, a blacksmith with a flaming sword, and others. But a prophecy foretells that he will bring about the downfall of their leader, the mysterious Ms. M.

Even worse, Garth…

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