The best books set in graveyards

Richard Farren Barber Author Of Twenty Years Dead
By Richard Farren Barber

Who am I?

In case it isn’t obvious, I have a thing about graveyards. Maybe it’s being Irish-Catholic – it must be infused into my blood. It’s a rare family holiday that doesn’t involve a visit to the local cemetery. I think it’s the combination of gothic architecture with the sense of a social history collected. I have my own favourites (of course!) from Rock Cemetery in Nottingham to Pere Lachaise in Paris where the family spent an afternoon dodging the most unusual tour guide I have ever come across.

I wrote...

Twenty Years Dead

By Richard Farren Barber, Crystal Lake Publishing,

Book cover of Twenty Years Dead

What is my book about?

Six feet is not deep enough in this Mystery Thriller…

After twenty years in the ground, the dead briefly rise. At his father’s grave, this is Dave’s last opportunity to discover why a man would abandon his wife and young son. Against the protests of his mother and his girlfriend, Dave is determined to learn what happened all those years ago. Sometimes you have to risk everything, but the dead don’t give up their secrets so easily.

The books I picked & why

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The Graveyard Book

By Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean (illustrator),

Book cover of The Graveyard Book

Why this book?

The clue is in the title, but with Neil Gaiman you always get more. What is great about Neil Gaiman’s stories is the way he balances the ordinary with the unusual, but what I love about his writing is that invariably I connect with the characters and they have an emotional heft. Bod Owens is a perfect example of that. (and what a clever name!) I challenge you to spend time in Bod’s world and not be affected by his story: it’s just not possible. You’ll find yourself desperately hoping Bod succeeds in achieving his dreams.

Pet Sematary

By Stephen King,

Book cover of Pet Sematary

Why this book?

Of course any list about books connected to graveyards is going to have to include the King of horror. And if that author happened to have a book that was rumoured to be so scary he didn’t think it should be published? Well, you’ve got me hooked right there!

I’m a huge Stephen King fan so it would be odd not to have one of his novels on my list, but Pet Sematary is a particular favourite from his early years. From the journey to the Sematary (wandering Wendigo, anyone?) to the very creepy output of that stony soil, for me this book is exactly what is great about horror fiction – an exploration into what it means to be alive… and dead.

Unbury Carol

By Josh Malerman,

Book cover of Unbury Carol

Why this book?

I loved BirdBox, but then I read Unbury Carol and discovered Josh Malerman had managed to peer directly into my brain and write a book just for me. I don’t know how he did it, and I don’t really want to know because it’s possibly more than a little freaky, but there you go.

This is not your typical horror novel. I’m not sure if it’s even horror, but who cares? It feels like a real olde-worlde adventure yarn where steampunk meets western and they have a scrap to decide who is best, and the only winner is the reader.

The Window In the Ground Tapa

By Steve Stred,

Book cover of The Window In the Ground Tapa

Why this book?

I know what you’re thinking: is this really a graveyard? To be honest: Who knows?

But… there are things buried underground, so I’m including it because this is a great book. Sometimes you read something which has such a perfect idea at its core that all you can do is devour it with a curl of envy growing in your heart as you think to yourself “I really wish I’d come up with that.” The window in the ground is most definitely one of those books. 

It is.. odd. But good odd. The sort of odd where you recognise the world being described and yet is it different enough from reality to make you question what else might be hidden out there.

Paupers' Graves

By James Everington,

Book cover of Paupers' Graves

Why this book?

I have a bone to pick with you, Mr. Everington! What are you doing stealing my settings for your stories?

It just so happens Paupers’ Graves is set in the city of Nottingham, where I grew up, and uses as its main location Rock Cemetery which was on my route to and from school every day. It’s a fascinating place, not least because it’s not your run-of-the-mill array of graves in a green field. As the name suggests; Rock Cemetery is built around a great rock, creating multiple levels and layers. I had every intention of using it as the location for one of my stories but James Everington got there first!

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