One of the subjects I touch on occasionally is Karl Edward Wagner's famous 3 lists of best horror novels and they have been a source of inspiration for horror readers to expand their horizons and maybe see something in the genre they haven't before. I'd like to continue in the spirit of that and share my enthusiasm for relatively obscure works of horror. For this project to have any meaning, I laid out some ground rules:

--No doubling up on the titles that Wagner already mentioned. As much as I would like to put Psycho on any list, Wagner already covered it. That doesn't mean you can't list a different title by the same author.

--Try avoiding obvious choices. By obvious, I mean books that everyone, including non-horror readers have read. That means the likes of Stephen King, Clive Barker, William Peter Blatty, and Peter Straub. I'm not knocking any of these writers but by no reasonable stretch can we say that Carrie or The Books of Blood are obscure. Wagner probably chose Frankenstein because although everyone has seen one of the movies, much fewer have read the book.

I'd like to encourage anyone to come up with lists if they feel so inclined. For this article I will share the list I finished first which is Psychological/Non-Supernatural horror. In another month or so I'll share one on supernatural horror. I'm still working on list for Science Fiction Horror but I'm coming up short on candidates.

10 Unjustly Neglected Psychological Horror Novels

1. The Scarf by Robert Bloch: although Bloch is rightly recognized for writing Psycho, most of his novels are out of print. This novel (Bloch's first) counts as a crime noir novel as well. It's about a psychotic strangler who kills every woman he gets involved with then fictionalizes his experiences in novel form. This gem displays Bloch's acute insight into abnormal criminal psychology. Case in point, one of the killer's fantasies (which was excised the original 1947 and didn't see print until the 80s ) involves him climbing a tower and shooting at random citizens not unlike the Texas Tower shooter twenty years later.

2. A Killer Is Loose by Gil Brewer: he was a big name as a paperback original writer in the 50s and his work is undergoing a renaissance thanks largely to Stark House Press. A Killer Is Loose is a fast-paced nail biter about a fanatical spree killer and the innocent man he drags with him. The suspense is nearly unbearable and represents Brewer at the top of his game.

3. The Corpse In the Waxworks by John Dickson Carr. For one thing, the title is awesome, sounding like a story from Tales from the Crypt. JDC was memorable for successfully mixing the macabre with his mysteries and this one is especially good. This book stars Henri Bencolin, the protagonist of his most outrageously gothic novels.

4. One Hell of a Woman by Jim Thompson: I go back and forth as to which Thompson novel to list. I didn't mention The Killer Inside Me since it was his most famous. Thompson had a knack for writing noir that edged into horror. This one in particular depicts a sleazy salesman's descent to murder and madness. Pop. 1280 and Savage Night were also strong candidates. You can say what you want about his plotting ability or how braindead his characters are but Thompson wrote convincing criminals and depicted the dreams of lowlifes as cheap and short-sighted as the best work of James M Cain accomplished.

5. Terror Over London by Gardner Fox: a prolific writer and giant in the comic book field, Fox also penned this tale about Jack the Ripper with a plausible and unique theory about the Ripper's murders. Is he a religious fanatic, royal prince, or an occultist? Not in this one. Mandatory reading for Ripperologists.

6. Beast in Shadows by Edogawa Rampo. This short novel was written in 1928 by a leading writer and pioneer of Japanese mystery and horror fiction. Beast in Shadows is a tale of sadomasochism and darkness in the human mind. So often these days, a story like this would be over-the-top but Rampo achieved a sense of brutality and disquiet with economical writing and restraint.

7. Black Alibi by Cornell Woolrich: he was called the Poe of the 20th century. He was one of the most adapted mystery writers of all time and somehow several of his works, including this brilliant book we're out of print for decades. Woolrich's work was generally bleak, devastating, and illogical but when it comes to noir, logic in character and plot tends to take a back seat. Black Alibi qualifies as one of his most terrifying books. The most effective parts were Incorporated in the classic film The Leopard Man.

8. The Running of Beasts by Bill Pronzini and Barry Malzburg: Pronzini is one of the hardest working mystery writers out there and he doesn't get the respect he should. He penned several works with Barry Malzburg including this one about an elusive serial killer stalking a small town. The solution seems to wrap things up in the end but I like said this one is a horror novel.

9. The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum: a relentless and brutal tale about exploitation, torture, and sins of omission. Ketchum said that this book has a moral center and it does but we have to see the lowest depravity in humanity and then empathize with the character who suffered the most to see it.

10. The Walter Syndrome by Richard Neely: written by the author of the classic crime noir The Plastic Nightmare, this one is a serial killer story set in the 30s. This one is a chilling and gruesome take on multiple personalities.

That's it. Most of these works are easy to find in one form or another. Fox's book can be found on a website dedicated to him and his work. You'll hear from me again but until then start your book hunting.

Written by Nicholas Montelongo

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