Recently Frightening Reads

I've recently finished two terrific books. Well, I finished one and sort of finished the other. My Friend Dahmer is Derf Backderf's amazing true account of growing up in the same town as, and briefly being friends with, the famed serial killer, Jeffrey Dahmer. It's a quick but chilling read that starts in high school and ends with Backderf's reaction to the astounding discovery when the news of Dahmer's ghastly crimes reached the press.

Backderf's background is in journalism, so, while it is a personal account, the book is well sourced and researched. Backderf's drawing style is deceptively simple but effective and compliments the material well. Backderf does a great job portraying high school from the eyes of high schoolers, a horror in and of itself. But what I love most about this book is that it gives us a glimpse into the horror not just of the mind of Jeffrey Dahmer, but also the environs that helped create him: 1970s suburban America.

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I've also finished — for all intents and purposes — Robert Kirkman's landmark The Walking Dead. The truth is, I read the first half of that thousand plus page tome and then skimmed the latter half. I took this approach both because I was so horrified by the story, and yet because I was so immensely compelled to find out what happens. It's not pretty.

My reaction to the book was surprisingly visceral. While the writing can be uneven at times, the art, the storytelling and the story itself are intensely compelling. You want to keep reading all the while wanting the book to end. As a friend described it, it's brutal.

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I admire The Walking Dead immensely, and I've been a big fan of the show. But The Walking Dead is a horror story in the most primal sense. This is a book not so much about zombies, but about what happens when people are completely dehumanized by the total collapse of a structured society. It's painful to read.

Kirkman masterfully weaves his fable around carefully crafted characters that perfectly express his thesis. It's brilliant, but stay away if you don't really like horror. It's truly disturbing.