Image Credit: Jeff WongBob Fingerman says that during his spell dwelling on Manhattan’s Upper East Side in the mid-’90s he came to the conclusion the area was not exactly the liveliest place on earth. “It felt zombie-like in a lot of ways,” says the writer and artist. “You’d see lots of old women eating alone in diners. There seemed to be a quality of just waiting for death.” Way to big the burg up, dude! “This is why I don’t work for the Upper East Side Board of Tourism,” laughs the now Upper West Side-dwelling Fingerman. “‘Come and see the living dead!’”
The author’s old neighborhood provides the setting for his new book Pariah, in which the inhabitants of an apartment block attempt to survive a zombie apocalypse. While the novel is not short of gore—the very first page finds the driver of a colliding taxi cab bursting through his windshield “like a meat torpedo”—the result is as much social satire as it is splatterfest. “The living grow accustomed to the zombies,” says Fingerman. “I think New Yorkers are very resilient and that carried through to these characters. The other thing is that I figured, ‘The ones who weren’t resilient? They’re all dead.’ They got eaten!”
Fingerman has considerable experience in the horror genre. Pariah is actually an unofficial sequel to Zombie World: Winter’s Dregs, a comic book miniseries he wrote in the late ‘90s, “back before zombies were cool.” He also penned the 2007 vampire novel Bottom Feeder and has a short story featured in the new collection The Living Dead 2, alongside contributions from Max Brooks and Walking Dead scribe Robert Kirkman.
Who better then, as we drag our zombie-infected carcasses towards Halloween season, to recommend five horror novels? You can check out Fingerman’s picks after the jump.
I Am Legend—Richard Matheson
Classic and frequently-adapted-for-the-big-screen 1954 tale of a man trying not to lose his marbles in a vampire-filled world
That’s one of my touchstone books. It’s very modern. It’s very intimate. Even though, during the day, he’s going out and killing as many vampires as he can, it’s a very internal book. The character spends a lot of time just thinking and introspecting. I just think it’s great. Every time they’ve made a movie of that, it’s been kind of a heartbreak. They’ve done it three times now and even though I’ve kind of enjoyed all three movies on different levels, none of them have approached the book. And curiously, the one that actually bears its name is the least like the novel. The movie had its strengths. But the fact that they just glommed onto the title and then threw everything out was so baffling to me. Matheson’s an elderly man, now. It would be nice if in his lifetime if somebody did it right. Ain’t going to happen, but…
The Complete Drive-In—Joe Lansdale
Freshly collected and utterly bonkers trilogy from the author of Bubba Ho-tep and the terrific “Hap and Leonard” crime novels
They’re insane. That’s what’s so great about them. They’re absolutely balls-to-the-wall insane. The basic set-up of the first book is: Guy and his pals in East Texas go to the drive-in and, midway through this horror triple bill, a giant comet comes out of the sky, flashes them a giant toothy grin, goes back into the sky, and then they’re trapped in this universe that doesn’t extend beyond the drive-in’s fences. It’s this exploration of how people devolve. There’s cannibalism. There’s new religions being born based on who’s the strongest. People mutate in bizarre ways: two of his friend fuse together into this horrible creature that then becomes the god of the drive-in. Lansdale has such a lively writing style, and his dialog is so great. Everybody is witty, but not in a way where you’re thinking, “Oh, this feels really false.” And the books are about as nutty as anything I’ve ever read.
Clive Barker’s Books of Blood—Clive Barker
Six, career-making, volumes of stories from the writer and Hellraiser director
It was horror the likes of which I had never read before. For one thing, he had a lot more sexuality in his work than I had ever encountered. The sexuality in a lot of the horror I had read had always been sort of chaste. And there was just f—ing in his stories. He was young when he was writing them and they had a kind of urgency. My favorite story is the one that they adapted into the movie Midnight Meat Train. That really had an impact, especially because I read it while I was on the subway. There was something very sensurround about that. I was the only one in the subway car and I was reading about these terrible murders and how this train is basically a conduit to hell. It was reading as a physical experience. It just felt so real. Even though he got some details wrong about the New York subway system! But you have to forgive that kind of thing.
The Overnight—Ramsey Campbell
Bad things happen to the employees of a U.K. bookstore in this novel from the cult British writer
He’s a favorite of mine, but I love Overnight. All the staff have to pull an overnighter and then this fog rolls in. And good things never happen when fogs roll in! Again, it’s very surreal, very dark. But the thing about Campbell is that there’s an inexorable quality to his horror. He’s a slow build kind of writer. He really takes his time setting things up. There are little portents of things. But by the time the horror really starts oozing in, you’ve really come to care about his characters. You need patience when you read a Ramsey Campbell book. But the patience is rewarded.
2004 zombie novel recently reissued as Xombie: Apocalypse Blues
After I read Xombies, I tried to find information about him and couldn’t find anything, which is unusual in this Google-friendly age. I became pretty convinced “Greatshell” was a pen name, because I had also never encountered that name before. The book had a really high quality of writing so I thought, “Maybe this is some well-established writer who considers horror ‘slumming,’ so he’s hiding behind a pen name.” Then I found him online and it turned out he was a fan of my comics, which was very nice. His zombies were something I hadn’t seen before. For one thing, his were completely gender-based. All the women become these blue-faced creatures—and they’re the really revved-up zombies, they’re not the old shamblers. And his book took the cast of characters to places I hadn’t seen before. Turns out, Walter was a technician on a nuclear submarine for a while, so the book is set largely on this submarine. The main character, Lulu Pangloss, is a 17-year-old girl who hasn’t turned. She’s the lone female presence and everyone is very nervous about her, considering what they’ve seen—all their wives and daughters and sisters and so forth going berserk. Again, it is claustrophobic, being set on a submarine, but it also really spans a huge amount of space. It’s a small book and a huge a book at the same time. It’s a neglected gem.