The Fright Stuff


If you’re like me, any horror movie that details someone GOING IN someplace is a big fat nu uh for me. You know what you should do when your car breaks down? Go in that barn full of chainsaws. (You thought what.) What should you do when you’re bored on spring break? Ignore the harbinger and continue driving your family into the desert in that rusted RV. (Oh hell no.) When you’re on the lam from boarding school? Hitch-hike and sell your soul to the devil. (You got the wrong one.) Those movies aren’t even scary, right? Like, why bother with the terror of how to escape Jaws when I can just. not. go. in. the water.

Ain’t nobody going nowhere right now, I HOPE, and that’s mostly because the horror of traveling is even more unfathomable than usual, what with germs lurking around every corner.

By the way, I’m Mary Kay McBrayer, and you’re in The Fright Stuff, Book Riot’s latest and greatest in horror. Join me, won’t you, on this journey (see what I did there?) through this realm of hell, Traveling.

Earworm: “What He Wrote” by Laura Marling

Fresh Hells (FKA new releases):

The Boatman’s Daughter by Andy Davidson

Miranda’s job is ferrying contraband across the bayou, but the situation gets more complex (yes, more complex than drug transport) when supernatural and human forces escalate, and the preacher she traffics for makes a peculiar request.



the deep alma katsuThe Deep by Alma Katsu

This novel takes place during one of the most famous travels gone awry, the Titanic. Rather than focus too much on the iceberg, though, something else has distracted Annie from her job as a maid: the ship is haunted.



Cryptkeepers (FKA horror from the backlist):

“Kneller’s Happy Campers” from The Bus Driver Who Wanted to be God by Etgar Keret

This collection of short stories holds many macabre and fabulist tales, like the bus driver who won’t hold the door when people are running late, but my favorite is “Kneller’s Happy Campers.” That story takes place in an afterlife populated only by people who have completed suicide–if this sounds familiar, it’s because it was adapted into the film Wristcutters: A Love Story. The short story is fairly different, though, and takes place at a campsite/makeshift way station for souls that are, they think, on their way somewhere else.

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

In this multi-racial, southern family, some members see ghosts, and others don’t. The mother of two ropes her friend into picking up their father from jail when he discharges, and the children are just along for the ride. In fact, the kids are the ones who see that they didn’t just pick up their dad but also a vengeful boy-ghost.


Harbingers (FKA news):

Why do women kill? And why is it so hard for us to understand their motivations? Check out this article to learn more.

Emily St John Mandel (author of Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel) talks about writing pandemic literature during an actual pandemic.

Want to know how people are reading during this pandemic? Click here.

Rest in peace, British horror actress and director, Hilary Heath.

So, yeah, we might not be able to hang out together, but did you know that Drive-In Theaters are making a resurgence? Because everyone watches from inside (or outside) their cars, we can still social distance. Tune in near you for the latest horror adaptations!

And speaking of film horror, Twede’s Cafe from Twin Peaks has been restored to its Lynchian glory.

One last thing about film adaptations: Mary Harron, director of American Psycho, says here that we never really left the era of Patrick Bateman.

I don’t know about y’all, but when we’re on lockdown and it starts raining, I feel suddenly so trapped. Here’s a list of some of the best rain in literature, from the southern Gothic of Faulkner to the contemporary genius of Jesmyn Ward.

Want to know what fiction gets right (and wrong) about pandemics? Click here.

Want to know what John Keats thought about being held in quarantine? Of course you do.

Y’all ain’t even ready for this collection of dissected skulls and medical marvel show and tell. I know that it’s not exactly literary, but you GOT to see it–and hell, maybe it’ll motivate you to write something horrifying!

Want to know about the long-lasting fallout from the 1894 plague in Hong Kong? How could you not.

Want ideas about what to read to distract yourself from IRL horrors?

Here are some reads about creepy kids, too.

It may not surprise you to know that two books about dystopias are among New York Public Library’s most borrowed.

Until next week, follow me @mkmcbrayer for minute-to-minute horrors or if you want to ask for a particular theme to a newsletter. I’m also on IG @marykaymcbrayer. Enjoy reading about this traveling and #stayhome. I’ll talk to y’all next week!

Your Virgil,


Mary Kay McBrayer
Co-host of Book Riot’s literary fiction podcast, Novel Gazing