Horror Novels Based on Real Life

have always gravitated toward works of horror, even at a young age. At first, I read whatever Horror novels I could find on my friends bookshelves. John Saul. V.C. Andrews. Stephen King. They lit a fire in me that makes me curious about all the things that might be out there. All the things we cannot prove. Ghosts living among us, creatures in nature, parallel universes, monsters within ourselves, and so on!

As I got older, I began to appreciate a different sort of horror. Horror novels that made me interrogate the greater dangers we encounter in our day-to-day lives. The deeper evils that lie within us. What could be more terrifying?

If there is anything to inspire an even deeper dread within me, it’s stories that take already terrible events from real life and make them even more monstrous using the traditional elements of horror. Perhaps it’s because these stories hew so closely to reality, they almost seem to confirm the potentiality of dark magic and demonic creatures and other supernatural manifestations.

Here are 8 books that manage the balancing act of normalcy and impossibility in a way that is creepily satisfying.
The Terror by Dan Simmons
8 horror novels from mind on fire books

Simmons is known for the brand of horror that takes an event in history and twists it so it becomes darker. His most well-known work in this vein is The Terror, which takes the story of a ship on a doomed expedition through the Arctic in the mid-1840s to find the Northwest Passage—a story already filled with disease, starvation, and death—and adds in the possibility of something else unseen, something stalking them across the ice. The Terror is so popular, it was adapted for the small screen.

 
The Hidden People by Alison Littlewood
8 horror novels by mind on fire books

The myth of the changeling—a fairy child left in place of a stolen human child—ran rampant throughout medieval Europe. Perhaps it was so popular because it was such a convenient scapegoat for the afflictions that often beset children, diseases and disabilities that parents and medical professionals did not understand at the time. In some cases, even adults are accused of being changelings. One of the most well-known cases is Bridget Cleary who was killed in 1895 by a group of people that included her suspicious husband. In The Hidden People (a reference to the fairy folk), a man learns his cousin has been burned alive because her husband thought she was a changeling. When he arrives in town to investigate, he comes to wonder if there’s more than just silly superstition at play.

The Changeling by Victor LaValle
The Changeling by Victor LaValle

Victor LaValle has a knack for taking old folk tales and making them new. I adored his take on the changeling myth, in which he tracks trolls on their journey from Europe to America. In explaining how changelings have come to be in America, he digs into the “why” behind their existence. He also suggests a level of complicity in the humans that had previously been assumed to be victims alone.

 
Coyote Songs by Gabino Iglesias
Horror Novels based on real life by Willy Martinez

More than anything else, this novel is about la frontera, the U.S.-Mexico border. Rather than focusing in on a single historical moment or figure, this book uses six characters to tell the story of a shared Southwesterdn experience—with a dark twist. Among the six main characters are a child who turns cold-blooded after seeing his father killed; a young woman who progresses from performance art to murder; and a mother who begins to fear that the child in her womb may be something more sinister.

The Hunger by Alma Katsu
The Hunger by Alma Katsu
Horror Novels by Willy Martinez

Alma Katsu’s latest book takes one of the deadliest occurrences in Western history—the catastrophic wagon train journey of the infamous Donner Party—and adds a supernatural twist. Starvation and eventually death causes the body count to rise. Members of the party are pushed to the brink, inevitably turning against each other. But as people begin to disappear, they start to wonder if something even more malevolent is at play.

Black Fire by Hernan Rodriguez
horror novels based on life by Willy Martinez

In this graphic horror novel, Rodriguez places us in the midst of the Napoleonic Wars when, after an unsuccessful attempt to defeat the Russian army, his own military is forced to retreat. One unit is attacked by Cossacks during their journey homeward, but two survivors are able to elude the military warriors by fleeing toward an abandoned Slavic town—a place the Cossacks are unwilling to approach. But why? These men eventually come face to face with the Czernobog, a Slavic demon who proves to be a much more formidable opponent than the bloodthirsty warriors they only just barely escaped.

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
Horror novels based on real life by mind on fire books

This classic horror is one of those books I can’t believe my parents let me read. At that point, having made me way through most of the books on their shelves, they’d probably resigned themselves to having a weird and morbid child. What difference would a bit of adult content make? As you likely already know, Blatty’s novel is about the demonic possession of a 12-year-old girl, and the attempted exorcism undertaken by two priests. What you may not know is that the book is based upon the true story of an actual exorcism. Wherever you stand on the legitimacy of demonic possession, by the end of Blatty’s novel, you’re forced to believe.

Perfume by Patrick Süskind
Perfume by Patrick Suskind

Once upon a time (the early- to mid-1800s), a Spanish serial killer known as the Wolfman killed several women and children so he could extract their body fat and use it to make soap. Some postulate that Süskind’s novel—about a perfumer’s apprentice who is obsessed with possessing the particular scent that exudes from virginal young girls—is based upon this monstrous true tale. Whatever the origin, Süskind pushes the story further, imbuing the scents his serial killer acquires with outsized powers.

Mad Men

  • Mad Men is a collection of three disturbing horror shorts from authors living in the Midwest. The themes explored in this collection range from man versus self, man versus man, and man versus creature. [caption id="attachment_4742" align="alignleft" width="188"]Mad Men eBook Mad Men eBook at Mind on Fire Books[/caption] Mad Men begins with Matt’s tale, a thought-provoking thriller which causes the reader to question his reality and what he fears within himself. The second tale explores the grotesque juxtaposed with beautiful nature, where the ending unfolds into a horrific dream, waking in even more terrible pain. The third tale is by seasoned horror writer, A.R. Braun – and his diabolical creatures never disappoint!  A.R. Braun’s goal is to be on the banned book list; we think this tale may just be evil enough to be considered. A must read before it does get banned! Mainstream Horror Shorts don’t always satisfy us in the way they should. They don’t open conversations about what it is that we fear or why we fear such things, they focus mainly on pop culture and gore. The writers in the Mad Men anthology understand the need for literate horror, opening discussions of man’s psyche. When these writers set out to tell a story, they are less interested in conveying fear and more interested in wonder, the sublime, and the infinite strangeness that drives all man and woman. Highly recommended for tweens, teens, and adults. The Mad Men anthology published by Mind on Fire Books. Written by Willy Martinez, A.R. Braun and Matt Lavitt. No part of this book shall be copied without permission from the publisher.

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Mind On Fire Books

I have always been attracted to the metaphysical; this blog and press is my exploration of the interjacent genres of horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. ​

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