The Blagger's Guide To: Scary stories

All you need to know about the hottest literary topic of the week

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The Independent Culture

Forget Christmas: Halloween is the best literary event in the calendar, with some of the finest stories in the canon being the most absolutely terrifying ones. Curl up with a copy of Bram Stoker's Dracula, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, Henry James's The Turn of the Screw, W W Jacobs's "The Monkey's Paw", Daphne du Maurier's "Don't Look Now" or M R James's "Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad".

In Du Maurier's "Don't Look Now", which was published in the 1971 collection Not After Midnight, the Baxters' daughter, Christine, has died of meningitis, not from drowning, as she does in the 1973 film by Nicholas Roeg.

There's nobody better than a children's writer to terrify your little darlings, and many of them are involved in events nationwide to encourage the reading of creepy tales. Philip Pullman and Neil Gaiman will be at the Cambridge Theatre, London, tomorrow, talking about Pullman's new version of Grimm Tales: For Young and Old.

Meanwhile, Gaiman (the author of The Graveyard Book and Coraline) is spearheading All Hallow's Read (allhallowsread .com), a campaign to give scary books to adults and children. They're recommending The Shining and The Woman in Black for adults and The Witches and Goosebumps for kids.

Other events include Halloween Teen Fright Night at Waterstones, Cheltenham, with "bloodthirsty tales" from the authors David Moody, Adam Neville and KJ Wignall. Last night, the Pendle Heritage Centre in Lancashire hosted an evening of Pendle Witches – those who missed it should buy a copy of 1612: The Lancashire Witch Trials, by Christine Goodier (Palatine Books, £6.95).

The novel The Exorcist, by William Peter Blatty, was first published in 1971, inspired by a real life case of demonic possession that the author heard about while at a Jesuit college. Blatty had been a writer of comic novels and screenplays, until unemployment drove him to desperation and he settled down in a cabin in Lake Tahoe "where I was destined to resemble the caretaker in Stephen King's terrifying novel The Shining" to work on what would become his most famous novel. Last year's 40th-anniversary edition includes some new material, including a particularly scary six-page scene featuring a new character. Chapter One begins: "Like the brief doomed flare of exploding sun that registers dimly on blind men's eyes, the beginning of the horror passed almost unnoticed; in the shriek of what followed, in fact, was forgotten and perhaps not connected to the horror at all. It was difficult to judge …."

One of the biggest fans of The Exorcist is the film reviewer Mark Kermode, whose book about the movie, The Exorcist, is published in a revised second edition by BFI Publishing. Its publication "completes a journey of discovery begun by the author in 1997", apparently, which sounds scary enough in itself.

Naomi Alderman and her official mentor Margaret Atwood, co-authors of the brand new The Happy Zombie Sunrise Home, have teamed up for a Q&A about their feelings about zombies. Alderman's "favourite zombie virtue" is that "they are tenacious. Very admirable". Atwood admires the fact that "they don't prattle at the breakfast table when one is trying to read the paper." The story will be uploaded a chapter at a time at wattpad.com.

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