The best small town horror novels

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up as a kid, I was obsessed with R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books, most of which took place in small-town settings. Horror could hide anywhere in those towns, whether out in the woods or on the shelf at the local general store. I loved those books to death because they taught me (or perhaps reminded me) that darkness existed within daily life. As I grew older, my passion for the subgenre led me to consume more stories and eventually write my own.

I wrote...

Bad Parts

By Brandon McNulty,

Book cover of Bad Parts

What is my book about?

When guitarist Ash Hudson suffers a career-ending hand injury, she seeks out the only thing that can heal it—her hometown’s darkest secret. That secret involves an organ-swapping demon who has trapped Ash’s family and neighbors within the town for decades. Now Ash must bargain with the demon as she attempts to heal both her hand and her broken relationships back home.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of 'Salem's Lot

Brandon McNulty Why did I love this book?

This was my first Stephen King novel, and it remains my absolute favorite. As vampires quietly infest a small town, writer Ben Mears must uncover the truth and hunt down their leader. Few books create an atmosphere like ’Salem’s Lot, and even fewer manage to be so terrifying. Reading this one after dark should be mandatory, but even daytime readers will get sucked in by the suspense.

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked 'Salem's Lot as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 BESTSELLER • Ben Mears has returned to Jerusalem’s Lot in hopes that exploring the history of the Marsten House, an old mansion long the subject of rumor and speculation, will help him cast out his personal devils and provide inspiration for his new book.

But when two young boys venture into the woods, and only one returns alive, Mears begins to realize that something sinister is at work.

In fact, his hometown is under siege from forces of darkness far beyond his imagination. And only he, with a small group of allies, can hope to contain the evil that…

Book cover of Covenant

Brandon McNulty Why did I love this book?

This Stoker Award-winner nearly caused me to miss a connecting flight to Los Angeles. I started reading it in an airport restaurant and got completely swept away until the final boarding call. In Covenant, a big-city journalist visits a small Midwest town to investigate a series of mysterious suicides. What unfolds is a gripping supernatural tale filled with mysterious characters, riveting conflict, and unthinkable twists.

By John Everson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In a small town with a strange history of teen suicides, a group of five women have made a pact with a demon and must sacrifice their firstborn.

To the residents of the sleepy coastal town of Terrel, the cliffs of Terrel's Peak are a deadly place, an evil place where terrible things happen. Like a series of mysterious teen suicides over the years, all on the same date. Or other deaths, usually reported as accidents. Could it be a coincidence? Or is there more to it? Reporter Joe Kieran is determined to find the truth.

Kieran's search will lead…

Book cover of HEX

Brandon McNulty Why did I love this book?

Some claim the Small Town Horror subgenre is dead, but HEX argues otherwise. Set in a New York town haunted by a witch who both wanders the streets and invades living rooms, HEX depicts the daily struggles of families who can’t escape town without becoming consumed by suicidal thoughts. This book had a strong influence on my novel, in which people risk losing certain body parts if they leave the local area.

By Thomas Olde Heuvelt,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked HEX as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The greats of fiction Stephen King and George R. R. Martin lead the fanfare for HEX, so be assured that Thomas Olde Heuvelt's debut English novel is both terrifying and unputdownable in equal measure.

Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay until death. Whoever comes to stay, never leaves.

Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a seventeenth-century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Blind and silenced, she walks the streets and enters homes at will. She stands next to children's beds for nights on end. So accustomed…

Book cover of In the Dark

Brandon McNulty Why did I love this book?

Long before Squid Game popularized the “Game” subgenre, Richard Laymon wrote a wildly fun tale of a young woman running around town completing bizarre requests for money. As the payouts increase, so too does the ridiculousness of each request. Laymon is a guilty pleasure and one of my favorite authors, and In the Dark is one of his best.

By Richard Laymon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'If you've missed Laymon, you've missed a treat' Stephen King

Nothing much happens in Donnerville. Then librarian Jane Kerry receives an envelope containing a fifty-dollar bill and a note from 'MOG' (Master of Games) instructing her to 'Look homeward, angel'. Jane pulls Thomas Wolfe's novel of that title off the shelf and finds a second envelope with more money and another clue...

This 'game' soon pushes Jane into crazy and immoral actions, but when she ties to quit, 'MOG' has other ideas.

Book cover of Uzumaki

Brandon McNulty Why did I love this book?

Is it cheating to put a manga novel on my list? It shouldn’t be. Not when the storyline is this mesmerizing and original. Drawing influence from H.P. Lovecraft, Junji Ito created a masterwork about a small Japanese town overtaken by mysterious cosmic spirals. Spirals in all forms—everything from snail shells to swirling birthmarks—plague the town and disrupt reality. Ito’s mind-bending artwork enhances the horror as the story explores some of the most imaginative concepts in the genre.

By Junji Ito,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Uzumaki as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Kurozu-cho, a small fogbound town on the coast of Japan, is cursed. According to Shuichi Saito, the withdrawn boyfriend of teenager Kirie Goshima, their town is haunted not by a person or being but by a pattern: uzumaki, the spiral, the hypnotic secret shape of the world. It manifests itself in everything from seashells and whirlpools in water to the spiral marks on people's bodies, the insane obsessions of Shuichi's father and the voice from the cochlea in our inner ear. As the madness spreads, the inhabitants of Kurozu-cho are pulled ever deeper into a whirlpool from which there is…

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The Midnight Man

By Julie Anderson,

Book cover of The Midnight Man

Julie Anderson Author Of The Midnight Man

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I write historical crime fiction, and my latest novel is set in a hospital, a real place, now closed. The South London Hospital for Women and Children (1912–1985) was set up by pioneering suffragists and women surgeons Maud Chadburn and Eleanor Davies-Colley (the first woman admitted to the Royal College of Surgeons) and I recreate the now almost-forgotten hospital in my book. Events take place in 1946 when wartime trauma still impacts upon a society exhausted by conflict, and my book choices also reflect this.

Julie's book list on evocative stories set in a hospital

What is my book about?

A historical thriller set in south London just after World War II, as Britain returns to civilian life and the men return home from the fight, causing the women to leave their wartime roles. The South London Hospital for Women and Children is a hospital, (based on a real place) run by women for women and must make adjustments of its own. As austerity bites, the coldest Winter then on record makes life grim. Then a young nurse goes missing.

Days later, her body is found behind a locked door, and two women from the hospital, unimpressed by the police response, decide to investigate. Highly atmospheric and evocative of a distinct period and place.

The Midnight Man

By Julie Anderson,

What is this book about?


Winter 1946

One cold dark night, as a devastated London shivers through the transition to post-war life, a young nurse goes missing from the South London Hospital for Women & Children. Her body is discovered hours later behind a locked door.

Two women from the hospital join forces to investigate the case. Determined not to return to the futures laid out for them before the war, the unlikely sleuths must face their own demons and dilemmas as they pursue - The Midnight Man.

‘A mystery that evokes the period – and a recovering London – in…

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