To get an idea of what interests us here at InkerMen Press one of our authors has compiled a reading guide to get you started
INKERMEN PRESS READING GUIDE
Folklore, Myth & Legend
You have to start somewhere, so why not back in the mists of time? There are loads of British folktale collections, but my current favourite is:
The Penguin Book of English Folktales (Ed. Neil Philip), which includes famous tales like 'Snow White' & 'Jack & The Beanstalk' alongside lesser known gems such as 'The Old Man at the White House', 'The Story of Mr Fox', 'The Green Mist', 'The Dauntless Girl', 'The Pear Drum' and 'The Flyin' Childer' - surely the most disturbing folktale of all time.
Folk Tales of the British Isles (Ed. Michael Foss) is also wonderful and contains some of the same material plus 'The Little People', 'The Queen of the Planets' & 'Orange & Lemon'.
The Lore of The Land & Albion by Jennifer Westwood are useful and interesting surveys of legend & folklore across the counties; The Readers Digest Folklore, Myths & Legends of Great Brirain helpfully includes tales from Scotland and Wales too.
Also recommended are English Folktales (Ed. Sybil Marshall), The Real Middle Earth (Brian Bates) and The Fairies in English Tradition & Literature (Katherine Briggs)
Troublesome Things by Diane Purkiss discusses fairy beliefs past and persistent and, on a tangent, the same author also wrote a great study of A Witch in History. Whilst on that subject, Witchcraft in England by Christina Hole is one of the more sane books on the issue.
Beowulf is fantastic in just about any version, but the recent Seamus Heaney translation is a good one.
Morte D'Arthur (Thomas Mallory, 1485) is obviously the essential Arthurian text, but check out also the Welsh tales collected in The Mabinogion (including 'Taliesin' & 'The Dream of Rhonabwy') and Sir Gawain & The Green Knight.
The Canterbury Tales (Geoffrey Chaucer, 1386) is another Olde English classic. Political satire meets saucy, lowbrow comedy! At last! A nation's sense of humour is born...
Global folkore & tradition that I have read and enjoyed: The Nibelungenleid, East of the Sun West of the Moon (Peter Asbjornsen), The Arabian Nights, Chinese Ghost & Love Stories (P'U Sung-Ling), Kwaidan (Ed. Lafcadio Hearn). The Voodoo Gods is a fascinating study of Haiti's culture and religion by cult dancer/film director Maya Deren, and it is also worth plowing through that bible of anthropology The Golden Bough by Sir James Frazer.
As for fairytales, Grimms Fairy Tales is obviously the iconic collection, but try to avoid cute, sanitized versions. Good books about fairytales & folklore include three by Marina Warner: From The Beast to the Blonde, No Go The Bogeyman and Managing Monsters. The Freudian interpretation is offered in The Uses of Enchantment (Bruno Bettleheim, 1976), who also wrote a study of fear (The Informed Heart, 1961) drawn from his expereinces in a Nazi concentration camp. Loosely connected, good books on lycanthropy and the phenomenon of feral children are Savage Girls & Wild Boys by Michael Newton and The Beast Within by Adam Douglas.
Shakespeare: you may have heard of him, he had his moments, which include Macbeth, The Tempest, Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, Titus Andronicus. He's at his best when he's not trying to be funny, but A Midsummers Night Dream, A Winters Tale and Twelfth Night are still very good.
A couple of other things I really like from this era are Dr Faustus (Christopher Marlowe, 1596) and The Fairie Queen (Edmund Spenser, 1596).
Recommended books about these times include a biography of John Dee (The Queen's Conjuror, Benjamin Woolley) and a study of alchemy, which was very much in fashion throughout this entire period (The Philosophers Stone, Peter Marshall).
Gothic Romanticism & Revolt (1700-1837)
Everyone seems to agree that The Castle of Otranto (Horace Walpole, 1764) is the first Gothic Novel; its certainly memorable- a wild collision of pre-Freudian family romance and cod-Shakespeare.
Personally, I think the conventions as we understand them today were actually created by Ann Radcliffe in The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794). This is one of my favourite books and gathers together all the essential gothic elements: imprisoned heroine prone to fainting at the most frustrating moments, shifty relatives plotting after an inheritance, gobby but superstitious maidservants, isolated European castles, moonlit flits through pine forests, candlelabras, secret passages, hysterical fear of Catholicism, and a ridiculously convoluted, top heavy plot that is hastily (and unconvincingly) explained away in the last two pages. Ignore any minor flaws, Radcliffe is the mistress of suspense! The Italian (1797) is more of the wonderful same, and also see earlier works The Romance Of The Forest (1791) (great title!), A Sicillian Romance (1790) and The Castles of Athlin and Dumbayne (1789).
The Monk (MG Lewis, 1796) was imagined as a direct response to Udolpho and, in that it seems to have been written with the aim of annoying as many people as possible, can probably claim the status of being the first 'punk' book. In contrast to Radcliffe's romantic and rationalised approach, Lewis exploits the Gothic format for all the sex and violence implicit within the format.
Even more outrageous is that naughty Marquis De Sade. Justine (1791) is funny, horrible, absurd, and it makes you think too. 120 Days of Sodom is pretty much unreadable, although excusably Sade was imprisoned in the Bastille at the time of writing, and at least deserves credit for using toilet paper as pages for the book, whereas with many books the reverse process is advisable.
Caleb Williams (William Godwin, 1794) is non-supernatural, more concerned with political injustice and man's inhumanity to man, yet still effectively borrows the gothic trappings for its obsessive narrative of persecution.
Godwin is, of course, father to Mary Shelley, whose masterpiece Frankenstein (1817) is open to any number of interpretations. Other impressive works by Mary are the short story 'Mathilda' (1819) an explicit confrontation of incest still shocking today, and The Last Man (1826), a slow but rewarding apocalyptic novel. Her diaries are worth a read too.
Mary was, of course, married to Percy Shelley, who wrote lost of brilliant poems like Mutability, Alastor or The Spirit of Solitude, Hymn to Intellectual Beauty, Ode to the West Wind, Prometheus Unbound and Adonais, all written between 1816 and his drowning in 1822.
Adonais was, of course, written about John Keats, who also wrote lots of good poems, including Endymion (1817), The Eve of St Agnes (1819), La Belle Dame Sans Merci (1819), Ode to a Nightingale (1819) and Lamia (1819) and also died young.
Present at the Villa Diodati when Frankenstein was conceived were Lord Byron (who wrote Childe Harold's Pilgrimage 1812/18, Manfred 1816, Don Juan 1818/23) and John Polidori, who wrote The Vampyre (1819). This is the first modern vampire story, transforming the creature from the pestilent beast of folklore into the suave, Byronic anti-hero that remains prevalent today.
Other important poets/poems of this era are ST Coleridge (The Rime of the Ancient Mariner 1797, Kubla Khan 1797, Christabel 1797, Frost at Midnight 1797, Dejection: An Ode 1802), William Wordsworth (Lyrical Ballads 1798, The Prelude 1798-), William Blake, Robert Burns (eg. 'Tam O'Shanter'). All of the above were influenced to some degree by John Milton's Paradise Lost (1667).
Melmoth The Wanderer (Charles Maturin, 1820) is another 'Catholic paranoia' novel, concerning the Spanish Inquisition, and has an incredibly lopsided structure (flashbacks inside of flashbacks, that kind of thing), but nevertheless succeeds in being one of the most intense books I have ever read. This achievement is rivaled by James Hogg's Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824), a great Doppelganger story. A close third in intensity is the short story 'The Sandman' (1815) by ETA Hoffman.
I also recommend Confessions of an Opium Eater (1821) by Thomas de Quincey, the Oriental Tale Vathek (1786) by William Beckford and especially Zofloya (1806) by Charlotte Dacre, an overwrought classic of inter-racial passion that defies class boundaries (you certainly wouldn't find that in Jane Austen!).
Good books about the philosophy/literature of this era are Natural Supernaturalism by MH Abrams and The Literature of Terror by David Punter ("realism is a bourgeois prejudice!").
Victoriana (Britain & Ireland 1837-1900)
The archetypal Victorian novelist will always be Charles Dickens, and Great Expectations (1861) is one of the best books ever, indeed great and fulfilling expectations. My other favourites are Bleak House (1853), the unfinished and therefore tantalizingly irresolvable Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870), A Christmas Carol (1843), and another ghost story 'The Signalman'.
Oliver Twist (1837), David Copperfield (1850) and others are also good but sometimes the use of coincidence and contrivance instead of plot structure can become grating.
The Bronte sisters were influenced by earlier gothics, and all magnanimously, wrote at least one iconic novel each: Emily (Wuthering Heights, 1847), Charlotte (Jane Eyre, 1847), Ann (Tenant of Wildfell Hall, 1848). See also 'Villette', 'Agnes Grey' etc, and their poetry.
Sheridan Le Fanu (the Irish 'Invisible Prince') wrote the late, great gothic novel in Uncle Silas (1864), and other good novels including House by the Churchyard (1863) and Wylder's Hand (1864). One of my favourite authors, his best work is the short story collection In A Glass Darkly (1872) which includes the influential and very scary psychological ghost stories 'Green Tea' and 'The Familiar', plus everybody's favourite lesbian vampire story 'Carmilla'. A posthumous supernatural collection is Madame Crowl's Ghost (including 'The Child That Went With The Fairies'); 'Schalken the Painter' is his most anthologized short story.
This is the era of Victorian Sensation, middle class novels of murder, madness and deceit, which could be subtle in their social subversion if not in their scandalous plots. They took Gothic traits into suburbia and could be considered forerunners of the modern soap opera (only better). The three great exponents of the style are Wilkie Collins (The Woman in White 1860, No Name 1862,The Moonstone 1868), Mary Elizabeth Braddon (Lady Audleys Secret 1861, Aurora Floyd 1862) and Mrs Henry Wood (East Lynne 1861). Collins also wrote overtly supernatural tales like 'The Haunted Hotel' and 'Mrs Zant and The Ghost'.
Robert Louis Stevenson was responsible for the first chiller I ever read The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde (1886) and also wrote the macabre short stories 'The Bodysnatcher', 'Thrawn Janet' 'Markheim' and 'The Bottle Imp'. The Master of Ballantrae (1889) is a family tragedy with gothic trappings.
Ever pessimistic, Thomas Hardy wrote some great novels, particularly Tess of the D'Urbervilles (1891), Jude The Obscure (1896), Return of the Native (1878), Far From The Madding Crowd (1874), plus the witchcraft short story 'The Withered Arm' (1885).
For strange children, there was Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1845) and Through the Looking Glass (1872) by Lewis Carroll, companions to A Book of Nonsense (1845) by Edward Lear. Rudyard Kipling wrote some good children's stories too; The Jungle Books (1894), The Just So Stories (1901), Puck of Pooks Hill (1906) and its sequel Rewards and Fairies.
Portrait of Dorian Gray (1891) by Oscar Wilde naturally has many quotable lines; and Wilde is caricatured in The Story of Venus & Tannhauser by Aubrey Beardsley.
HG Wells wrote the classic sci-fi novels The Time Machine (1895), The Invisible Man (1897) and The Island of Dr Moreau.
She (1897) by H Rider Haggard manages to be a ripping good yarn and decidedly peculiar at the same time.
Other recommended reads from this era are Lorna Doone (1869) by RD Blackmore, The Gothic Tales of Elizabeth Gaskell (especially 'The Old Nurses Tale', 1852), the bizarre short story 'Mysterious Maisie' (1895) by Wirt Gerrare, the creepy mummy tale 'Lot 249' (1894) by Conan Doyle and 'The Haunted and The Haunters' (1859) by Edward Butler Lytton, a scary haunted house story allegedly, like Amityville, based on a true story (I'd like to see the evidence).
Recommended poems: The Lady of Shalott (1832) by Tennyson, Childe Roland To The Dark Tower Came (1852) by Robert Browning, Goblin Market (1862) by Christina Rossetti, City of Dreadful Night (1874) by James Thomson and many by WB Yeats including The Stolen Child (1886), The Lake Isle of Innisfree (1890), When You Are Old (1891), The Second Coming (1919).
The Victorian age ended with Jack The Ripper and Dracula (1897). Bram Stoker can claim the rare accolade of having written one of the best books I have ever read and, in Lair of the White Worm, one of the worst books I have ever read (in his defence, he was on his deathbed at the time). The collection Midnight Tales includes stories such as 'The Spectre of Doom'. The Jewel Of Seven Stars (1904) is a quasi-philosophical mummy adventure, and we all need to read at least one of those in our lives, right?
Useful books on Victoriana are The Victorian Underworld (Donald Thomas), Victorian Sensation (Michael Diamond), The True History of the Elephant Man, People of the Abyss (1901) by Jack London (a study of the capital's homeless), the sexual confessions of My Secret Life by 'Walter' and The Complete History of Jack The Ripper by Philip Sugden (Stephen Knight's Jack The Ripper: The Final Solution is entertaining yet takes liberties with accepted notions of non-fiction). The Lodger (1913) by Marie Belloc Lowndes is better, honest fiction on the same subject.
Spiritualism was all the rage in the dying days of the 19th century, a good book on the subject is The Darkened Room by Alex Owen. The History of Spiritualism in Two Volumes (1926) by Arthur Conan Doyle is astonishing in its gullibility and ability to talk itself into (darkened) corners. All this from that man of reason who brought us Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902)!
American Gothic began, in a fairly lighthearted way, with Washington Irving. The Sketch Book (1819) includes the tales 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow', 'Rip Van Winkle' and 'The Spectre Bridegroom'.
The genre grew serious in the late 1830s under the guidance of Edgar Allan Poe, the undisputed master of psychological terror. Just about all of his short stories are must-reads, including the famous tales 'The Fall of the House of Usher', 'The Masque of the Red Death', 'The Murders in the Rue Morgue', 'The Purloined Letter', 'The Pit & The Pendulum', 'The Tell Tale Heart', 'The Black Cat', 'The Cask of Amontillado', 'William Wilson' (my favourite) and the not quite so famous tales 'The Oval Portrait', 'The Man of the Crowd', 'The Imp of the Perverse'. All are perfectly structured, show great attention to detail and have a wonderful spiteful, tormented narrative style. There is also a novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1838) and poems (The Raven, A Dream Within A Dream, Annabel Lee, Leonore).
Poe's contemporary Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote two excellent novels The Scarlet Letter (1850) and The House of the Seven Gables (1851), as well as a number of sinister tales collected in Twice Told Tales (1837) and Mosses From an Old Manse (1846). Picks: 'Rapacinni's Daughter', 'Dr Heideggers Experiment', 'Young Goodman Brown', 'The Ministers Black Veil', 'My Kinsman, Major Molineux', 'Wakefield'.
Moby Dick (1851) by Herman Melville is possibly my favourite book of all time, it has everything and reads like how I imagined novels would be when I was too young to read them. Melville also wrote The Confidence Man (1857) and Billy Budd, as well as the collection The Piazza Tales (1856), which includes 'Benito Cereno' and 'Bartleby' ("I would prefer not to...").
Inbetween society novels, Henry James wrote the classic ghost story The Turn of the Screw (1898), the key work in his Collected Ghost Stories. Related themes occur in the novels The Bostonians (1886) - set around the spiritualist movement - and What Maisie Knew (1897), as well as the novella The Aspern Papers (1888).
Prior to his mysterious disappearance in 1913, Ambrose Bierce wrote cynical and spooky short stories, presented in In The Midst of Life (1892) and Can Such Things Be? (1893). These include the famous 'An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge' alongside 'The Damned Thing', 'The Death of Halperin Frayser', 'The Middle Toe of the Right Foot' etc. He also wrote the satirical Devils Dictionary.
The Yellow Wallpaper (1892) by Charlotte Perkins Gilman terrified me when I was a kid; it is not only 'creepy' but a potent attack on 19th century medical/social attitudes towards women.
Also recommended from this American era are Wieland (1798) by Charles Brockden Brown, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1845) by Mark Twain, short stories by Gertrude Atherton such as 'The Bell In The Fog' and 'The Dead and the Countess', the scary 'invisible presence' tale 'What Was It?' by James O'Brien and the accursed The King In Yellow (1895) by Robert W Chambers (now a fine play available from the Inkermen website!). Later Chambers books like The Slayer of Souls (1920) have their moments but are not as good.
European Decadence 1830 – 1930
There were some strange things happening on the continent at this time, particularly in France (where else?). Recommended reads include:
The Queen of Spades (1833) by Alexander Pushkin.
'The Beautiful Dead' (1836) by Theophile Gautier.
'The Diary of a Madman', 'The Overcoat' etc. (1830s) by Nikolai Gogol.
Struwwelpeter (1845) by Dr Henreich Hoffman, still upsetting generations of children even today, no doubt for their own benefit.
'Solange' (1849) by Alexander Dumas is a great conte cruel/satire on the French Revolution.
Le Fleurs de Mal (1857) by Baudelaire and Une Saison En Enfer (1872) by Rimbaud.
Maldoror (1869) by Lautreamont is an early example of surrealism and is suitably weird, blasphemous and offensive.
Les Diaboliques (1874) by Barbery D'Aurevilly is nothing to do with the famous French film but is a fine collection of short stories; the opener 'The Crimson Curtain' is especially good.
Next are my two favourite writers of the period, firstly Guy De Maupassant, who only turned to fantasy and horror when the advanced stages of syphilis had ravaged his brain (don't try it at home kids!). Many great, strange stories including 'The Horla', 'Diary of a Madman', 'The Head of Hair' and 'Who Knows?', which just about says it all.
Secondly, Gaston Leroux is justly famous for the excellent The Phantom of the Opera (1911), yet he also wrote the influential 'locked room' detective novel The Mystery of the Yellow Room (1908) and its sequel The Perfume of the Lady in Black (1909), which ingeniously alters readers and characters perceptions of the first book. Leroux also wrote a series of gruesome short stories, collected in The Real Opera Ghost & Other Tales, including 'A Terrible Tale' (if ever a story tried to live up to its title!), 'The Mystery of the Four Husbands', 'The Inn of Terror' and 'The Woman With the Velvet Collar'. Gallows humour and enforced amputations feature heavily.
A Rebours (1884) by Huysmans was the manifesto for the 'Art for Arts Sake' movement, and is also laugh out loud funny, featuring the best ever use of a painted tortoise in the history of literature.
The Dark Domain (1922) by Stefan Grabinski is an excellent collection of short stories by the Polish writer, among which are 'The Area' (surely the best 'writer's story' for the morbidly inclined), 'Szamota's Mistress', and a number of unsettling train tales ('The Motion Demon', 'In The Compartment', 'The Wandering Train'). See also 'In Sarah's House' by the same author.
Other recommended reads: Fantomas (1911) by Marcel Allain & Pierre Souvestre, The Golem (1915) & The Green Face (1916) by Gustave Meyrink and 'The Glass of Blood', a short story by Jean Lorrain.
This era concludes, appropriately, with Freud: 'Beyond The Pleasure Principle', 'Civilization and its Discontents', 'The Uncanny', 'The Wolf Man' etc.
Weird Fiction 1900 – 1945
Arthur Machen is personally my favourite writer, mystic Welsh visionary that he was. The Great God Pan (1894) is his most famous book and his trashiest, but is still unique, romantic and disturbing. My favourite book by him is the fictionalized autobiography The Hill of Dreams (1904), about a writers mystical experiences in Wales and London; it is also the ultimate 'doomed artist' novel. Machen's real biography Far Off Things (1922) good The Three Impostors (1895) is another great 'London' book, a series of interlinking tales, including the scary folklore segment 'The Novel of the Black Seal' and also 'The Novel of the White Powder', about a man whose addiction to a mysterious substance eventually reduces him to a mess of sticky goo on his bedroom floor (apparently this story is a fave of Keith Richards). 'The White People' (1904) is Machen's best short story and the only work that the author of Inkermen's 'Just Maybe...' stories will admit to being influenced by. Written in a type of childhood code, it seems to relate the experiences of a young girl being lured into a pagan cult. Also very good are the novella 'The Terror' (1916), about nature in revolt, and the short stories 'The Red Hand', 'The Shining Pyramid', 'The Inmost Light', 'Opening The Door', 'The Bowmen' etc. With Machen, just walking down the street carries mythic overtones.
Another Christian writing mystically tinged fiction at the time was George Macdonald, whose Lilith (1895) and Phantastes (1915) are the strangest religious allegories (?) I have ever read.
Also from a religious background, the king of the English ghost story is unquestionably MR James. He wrote dozens of subtle, controlled and occasionally gruesome tales between 1904-1911, all of which are worth a read. Picks: 'Oh Whistle & I'll Come To You My Lad', 'The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral', 'Lost Hearts', 'The Haunted Dollshouse', 'An Episode of Cathedral History', 'The Mezzotint', 'Number Thirteen', 'Casting The Runes', 'Canon Alberics Scrapbook', 'A Warning to the Curious'.
More worldy wise and cynical was Saki aka Hector Hugo Munro, as evidenced in savage little tales like 'Srendi Vashtar', 'The Music on the Hill', 'Laura' and 'Gabriel Ernest' (my favourite werewolf story!).
William Hope Hodgson was allegedly an authoritarian gym teacher, who just happened to write the most whacked out horror-fantasy fiction on the side. All of his novels are recommended: creepy maritime adventures The Boats of the Glen Carrig (1907) and The Ghost Pirates (1909) - presumably read by someone working on the 'Pirates of the Caribbean' films - The House on the Borderland (1908) and the unrelentingly bizarre The Night Land (1912). Borderland is the best one, how can you go wrong with a plot like this? It begins simply enough as an incest horror with a neurotic man and his sister besieged in their isolated house by horrible 'swine things' that appear out of cracks in the earth, before proceeding to morph into a hallucinatory cosmic voyage through space and concluding, aptly, with the end of time itself. Carnacki The Ghost Finder (1913) is a precursor to the X Files, a collection of short stories centred around a psychic detective, the best of which are 'The Whistling Room', 'The Hog' and 'The Horse of the Invisible'. Also look out for the isolated short stories 'The Derelict' and 'The Island Of The Ud' (in case you are wondering, the Ud are women with crab claws - admit it, that’s your greatest fear too).
Aylmer Vance: Ghost Seer by husband and wife team Claude & Alice Askew is an undervalued, minor Edwardian classic. This series of stories follows a pair of, refreshingly ineffective, psychic detectives investigating mystical mysteries. 'The Stranger', 'The Fear' and 'The Indissoluble Bond' (concerning a churchman who hypnotizes the ladies with his mighty organ) are particularly good.
Other great weird fantasy from this era includes Lord Dunsany, who wrote the novel The King of Elflands Daughter (1924) and whose short stories 1905-1916 are collected in Time and the Gods , as well as Hope Mirrilies (Lud in the Mist, 1926) and Clark Ashton Smith, whose tales like 'Genius Loci' (eerie) and 'The Seed of the Sepulchre' (disgusting) are collected in The Emperor of Dreams.
'The Willows' and 'The Wendigo' by Algernon Blackwood are simply the two scariest stories I have ever read, they actually kept me awake the night I read them. A prolific author and broadcaster, other recommended stories are 'Ancient Sorceries' (the inspiration behind my favourite film 'Cat People' by Jacques Tourneur), 'The Glamour of the Snow', 'The Dance of Death', 'The Touch of Pan', 'The Doll', 'The Man Whom The Trees Loved', 'The Camp of the Dog' (scary werewolf story). There seem to be quite a lot of collections around at the moment, mostly recycling the same, best stories.
EF Benson is a touch more serene but still scary in stories like 'The Man Who Went To Far', 'And No Bird Sings', 'Mrs Amworth', 'Caterpillars', 'How Fear Departed From The Long Gallery', 'The Bus Conductor', 'The Horror Horn' and the wistful 'Pirates', probably the most beautiful ghost story I have ever read.
HP Lovecraft: we are all aware of his faults (repetition, hyperbole and anti climatic endings usually featuring cosmic fungi from Yoggoth), but the later stories are still damn scary - 'At The Mountains of Madness' (1931), 'The Case of Charles Dexter Ward' (1928), 'Dreams in the Witch House' (1932), 'The Call of Cthulu' (1926), 'The Colour Out of Space' (1927), 'The Dunwich Horror' (1928), 'The Whisperer in the Darkness' (1930), 'The Shadow Over Innsmouth' (1931), 'The Thing On The Doorstep' (1933), 'The Haunter of the Dark' (1935). Even some of the tales actually written by August Derleth are quite good.
Recommended children's books from this era: The Wind in the Willows (1908) by Kenneth Grahame, Peter Pan by JM Barrie (1911), The Little Grey Men (1945) by BB, The Tree That Sat Down (1945) plus its superior sequels by Beverley Nicholls, and Mathilda who told lies and burnt to death (1907) by Hilarie Belloc (Mathilda was my first heroine). Finally, The Hobbit (1937) followed by The Lord of the Rings (1954) by JRR Tolkien. If nothing else, in these books Tolkien deserves credit for his vigorous promotion of homosexuality at a time when it was still illegal in Britain.
Other recommended novels/stories/poems from these years: O Henry 'The Furnished Room', Mary Wilkins-Freeman 'The Lost Ghost' (1903), Frank Bellknapp Long,The Hounds of Tindalos (1929), WW Jacobs 'The Monkeys Paw' (1901), Oliver Onions 'The Beckoning Fair One' (1911), Heart of Darkness (1902) by Joseph Conrad, Dubliners (1914) and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) by James Joyce, Father Brown Stories (1911-1935) by GK Chesterton,The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers, As I Lay Dying and 'A Rose For Emily' (1930) by William Faulkner, No Bed of Her Own (1932) by Val Lewton, The Wasteland (1922) and The Love Song of Alfred J Prufrock (1917) by TS Eliot, Malpertuis (1943) by Jean Ray, a few Robert E Howard tales, and two more all time personal favourites: Rebecca (1938) by Daphne Du Maurier and Valerie & Her Week Of Wonders (1945) by Vitezlav Nezvala .
Modern Classics 1946 – 2006
Mervyn Peake's Titus Groan (1949) and Gormenghast (1950) deserve the acclaim currently heaped upon Lord of the Rings. It is the best saga ever written, and the best book about England ever written, even if the third installment Titus Alone (1957) is superfluous.
Another personal favourite is Shirley Jackson, who wrote two great novels The Haunting Of Hill House (1959) and We Have Always Lived In The Castle (1962), as well as lots of good short stories, often dealing with urban paranoia, sometimes telling a 'chilling tale about conformity taken to extremes' - 'The Lottery' (1949).
When not farming chickens, Flannery O'Connor specialised in Southern Gothic with the novel Wiseblood (1952) and short stories like 'A Good Man is Hard to Find', 'The Enduring Chill' and 'Everything That Rises Must Converge'.
On similar themes, Tennessee Williams wrote A Streetcar Named Desire (1947) and Baby Doll (1956).
Also wandering this pioneer territory, the Manly Wade Wellman collection Who Fears The Devil (1963) features the tales of John the Balladeer, fighting folk demons in the Apallachian mountains with his silver stringed guitar. The closest comparison is a sort of supernatural Grizzly Adams. My favourite stories are 'The Desrick on Yandro', 'Nine Yards Of Other Cloth' and 'Shiver In The Pines' (which makes good use of the 'In The Pines' folk song as covered by Leadbelly and Nirvana).
Other good horror writing has come from Richard Matheson (I Am Legend 1954, Hell House 1971), Thomas Tryon (The Other 1971, Harvest Home 1973 - an American 'Wicker Man'?), Stephen King (Carrie 1974, Salems Lot 1975, The Shining 1976), Anne Rice (Interview With The Vampire 1976), Frederico Andahazi (The Merciful Women 2000), Mark Danieslewski (House of Leaves 2001) and Stewart O'Nan (The Night Country 2004 - just ignore all the references to horrible American rock music).
Susan Hill wrote The Woman In Black (1983), a genuinely frightening homage to the Victorian ghost story, and also the disturbing teenage book I'm The King of the Castle (1970), as well as the inevitably disappointing sequel to Rebecca, Mrs De Winter (1997). Her last book was a return to the supernatural, The Man In The Picture (2007).
Magic realism brought us some fine books: The Magic Toyshop (1967), Fireworks (1974), The Bloody Chamber (1979) and Night at the Circus (1984) by Angela Carter, Midnights Children (1981) and Haroun & The Sea of Stories (1990) by Salman Rushdie, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) and Love In The Time Of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and 'Two Women of London' by Emma Tenant, a timely updating of the Jekyll & Hyde theme.
Childrens Literature flourished during this period, and some of my favourites are:
The Dark Is Rising Sequence (1968-1979) by Susan Cooper i.e. Over Sea Under Stone, The Dark is Rising, Greenwitch (the best of the series), The Grey King and Silver on the Tree. Later came King of Shadows (1999), set at The Globe Theatre in the days of Shakespeare.
Diana Wynne Jones is another great writer: Howls Moving Castle (1986), Fire and Hemlock (1985) and my favourite The Time of the Ghost (1981).
The best book by Alan Garner is the 'Taliesin' inspired The Owl Service (1967), but his others are good too i.e. The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (1960), The Moon of Gomrath (1963), Elidor (1965) and Red Shift (1973).
Marianne Dreams (1958) and The Mirror Image Ghost (1984) by Catherine Storr are both excellent.
Other recommended children’s books: The Moomin Books by Tove Jansson (1940s/50s) as well as the moominless The Summer Book (1972), The Ghosts (1969) by Antonia Barber, Charlotte Sometimes (1969) by Penelope Farmer, Come Back Lucy (1973) by Penelope Sykes, Echoes of Louisa (1981) by Gail Renard, Coraline by Neil Gamain (2002), The Cat In The Hat (1957) by Dr Seuss and Where The Wild Things Are (1963) and Outside Over There (1981) by Maurice Sendak.
Also recommended reading: Philip Larkin (Mr Bleaney, The Whitsun Weddings, Dockery & Son, The Old Fools etc), My Cousin Rachel (1951) by Du Maurier, Peyton Place (1956) by Grace Metalious, Lolita (1959) by Vladimir Nabokov, A Clockwork Orange (1962) by Anthony Burgess, Last Exit To Brooklyn (1963) by Hubert Selby Jr, The Man Who Fell To Earth (1963) by Walter Tevis, Our Mothers House (1963) by Julian Gloag, The Tenant (1966) by Roland Topor, Picnic at Hanging Rock (1967) by Joan Lindsay, The Borribles (1976) and sequels by Michael Larrabaiti, The Ice Age (1977) by Margaret Drabble, The Cement Garden (1978) by Ian McEwan, Tales of the Unexpected (collected 1979) by Roald Dahl, The Wasp Factory (1984) by Iain Banks, The Vanishing (1984) by Tim Krabbe, Beloved (1987) by Toni Morrison, The Secret History (1992) and The Little Friend (2002) by Donna Tartt, The Virgin Suicides (1993) and Middlesex (2002) by Jeffrey Eugendies, The Underground Man (1997) by Mick Jackson and, finally, my current new favourite author Susanna Clarke: Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (2004) and the short story collection The Ladies of Grace Adieu (2006).