The best books to test your endurance for the dark and disturbed

Ryan C. Thomas Author Of The Summer I Died: The Roger Huntington Saga, Book 1
By Ryan C. Thomas

Who am I?

I’ve always been a fan of horror because a good scare makes the adrenaline flow. Personally, I don’t think ghosts and demons are real, and they don’t scare me. But humans…humans can be downright evil. This is why I gravitate toward serial killer and slasher fiction when I’m looking for a scare. Sometimes I just want to test my endurance for the dark side of human nature. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to write a really depraved book without taking the time to make the reader care about the characters, which is why these novels are my favorite works of darkness. These are great, disturbing books with genuine pathos.


I wrote...

The Summer I Died: The Roger Huntington Saga, Book 1

By Ryan C. Thomas,

Book cover of The Summer I Died: The Roger Huntington Saga, Book 1

What is my book about?

Dubbed one of “The Most Intense Horror Novels” ever written by many thriller review sites, The Summer I Died is the first book in the Roger Huntington saga and a cult classic among fans of dark thriller fiction. Best friends, Roger and Tooth, are shooting beer cans at Bobcat Mountain, catching up on lost time, thinking about their futures, when they are suddenly thrust into the middle of a nightmare. Forced to fight for their lives against a sadistic serial killer, they must decide: are heroes born, or are they made? Blumhouse.com says “You’re in for a surprise!” and Bloodydisgusting.com says, “If you want to freak yourself out on your next camping trip, you can’t really do any better than The Summer I Died!”

The books I picked & why

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Off Season

By Jack Ketchum,

Book cover of Off Season

Why this book?

Ketchum’s classic survival horror novel about cannibals attacking a cabin of vacationers is pure 80s slasher goodness. It was perhaps the darkest book of its kind for a long time and pulls no punches with the intensity of its chase scenes. Ketchum’s economical writing style makes it a very easy read, one where you will root for the good guys, and be left emotionally drained by the end.

Off Season

By Jack Ketchum,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

September. A beautiful New York editor retreats to a lonely cabin on a hill in the quiet Maine beach town of Dead River―off season―awaiting her sister and friends. Nearby, a savage human family with a taste for flesh lurks in the darkening woods, watching, waiting for the moon to rise and night to fall…

And before too many hours pass, five civilized, sophisticated people and one tired old country sheriff will learn just how primitive we all are beneath the surface…and that there are no limits at all to the will to survive.

This novel contains graphic content and is…


Island

By Richard Laymon,

Book cover of Island

Why this book?

Laymon provides the perfect mix of psychological horror and serial killer madness in this cult novel that is part murder mystery and part survival horror. In Island, a family boat trip to a remote island goes horribly awry when someone starts offing family members one by one. It will leave you shocked and satisfied with its overwhelming tension and disturbing ending.

Island

By Richard Laymon,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Island 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.

When eight people are shipwrecked on a deserted island they take solace in the fact that at least they have fresh water, food and firewood. Now all they have to do is sit tight until they're rescued. There's just one problem - they're not alone. In the jungle behind the beach, there's a maniac on the loose and he's plotting to kill them all, one by one...


Prodigal Blues

By Gary A. Braunbeck,

Book cover of Prodigal Blues

Why this book?

This coming-of-age revenge novel includes brilliant twists, excellent characters, and a villain that is pure evil. It’s bad enough when adults have to fight off sadistic killers, but it’s downright harrowing when children have to do it. Written with all the noir stylings of a Jim Thompson novel but with the darkness of a Clive Barker film, this is a difficult story to experience, but a very rewarding one.

Prodigal Blues

By Gary A. Braunbeck,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

From award-winning author Gary A. Braunbeck comes Prodigal Blues, his first foray into non-supernatural horror.

After he finds himself stranded at a truck stop in Missouri, Mark Sieber gets one of the biggest shocks of his life when he recognizes the face of a little girl on a Missing poster as belonging to the same little girl he saw only a few minutes before. Looking around for some sign of her, he comes back to his table in the restaurant to find the little sitting there, waiting for him.

"I'm sorry, mister," is all she seems capable of saying.

As…

The Painted Bird

By Jerzy Kosinksi,

Book cover of The Painted Bird

Why this book?

Unlike the other books on this list, The Painted Bird forgoes bloodshed and serial killers and instead shows us a dark side of human nature plagued with apathy and senseless violence. The book follows a young, abandoned boy during WWII as he travels from village to village only to find that humanity is, despite popular belief, not mostly good. It’s beautifully written and has long earned its place as one of literature’s best novels, but it is also possibly the bleakest story ever written. Unfortunately, humans can be downright awful to each other, and The Painted Bird shows you how.

The Painted Bird

By Jerzy Kosinksi,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Painted Bird as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Jerzy Kosinski's mythic, master-work of a shattered post-War Europe.

Originally published in 1965, The Painted Bird established Jerzy Kosinski as a major literary figure. Kosinski's story follows a dark-haired, olive-skinned boy, abandoned by his parents during World War II, as he wanders alone from one village to another, sometimes hounded and tortured, only rarely sheltered and cared for. Through the juxtaposition of adolescence and the most brutal of adult experiences, Kosinski sums up a Bosch-like world of harrowing excess where senseless violence and untempered hatred are the norm. Through sparse prose and vivid imagery, Kosinski's novel is a story of…


The Folks

By Ray Garton,

Book cover of The Folks

Why this book?

The Folks is pure drive-in backwoods horror goodness, chock full of all the slum and sludge and inbred, mutated teeth-gnashing mountain men that made horror fans fall in love with films like The Hills Have Eyes and Wrong Turn. It’s disturbing, but it also has heart, thanks to a likable protagonist who may have more in common with the deadly family chasing him than he wants to admit.

The Folks

By Ray Garton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Andy Sayer knows what it’s like to feel like a freak. Ever since he was badly burned in a fire started by his drunken mother, the horrible scars on his face have set him apart from others, isolated him. Now, the patriarch of a prominent but mysterious family, Matthew Bollinger, has taken an interest in Andy. The Bollingers own the entire area and just about everything in it. They live in an enormous house built on the side of Mount Crag, but they are never seen. Matthew Bollinger wants Andy to come live with them. In the Bollingers, Andy finds…

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