Anyone who’s spent time on this forum knows how much I love Jack Ketchum, in my opinion the greatest horror writer of his generation. His books are thought provoking, gut wrenching, heartfelt, and yeah, scary as hell. Like the great Richard Laymon, Jack Ketchum left us too soon. Today is a labor of love. I present five Jack Ketchum books every horror fan needs to read.
One note. If you want more information about any of these Jack Ketchum books, click on the book or title to visit their Amazon pages.
Let’s start with the scariest novel ever written. And that’s not hyperbole. I’ve read horror for most of my fifty-one years, and I’ve never encountered a book this terrifying.
A woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown holds a teenage girl hostage with the help of her sons. A simple premise, but boy does Ketchum let loose. This is a story of American depravity. If you find the plot frighteningly believable, keep in mind The Girl Next Door is based on a true story.
One warning. After the horrific ending, you’ll never wipe the memory from your mind.
The perfect little horror story. Among the many Jack Ketchum books in my collection, this is my personal favorite.
Weighing in around 200 pages, Hide and Seek doesn’t waste any time. It’s roughly part of the Off Season trilogy, set in the fictional Maine town of Dead River. What’s the plot?
Boy meets girl. Girl turns out to be a little (okay, a lot) psycho. Girl convinces boy and her friends to sneak into an abandoned (haunted?) house after sunset. Okay, sure. It sounds like a typical drive-in horror movie. And in the hands of an ordinary horror writer, that’s exactly what it would be. But Ketchum handles the scares better than any author could. Part ghost story, part serial killer thriller, Hide and Seek is a genre classic.
Between reading, re-reading, and listening to the audiobook version, I’ve immersed myself in Hide and Seek at least a dozen times. Trust me. It gets better each time.
It all started with Off Season, Jack Ketchum’s shocking debut novel about a family of cannibals terrorizing vacationers in the remote Maine town of Dead River.
Off Season gives off a decided Texas Chainsaw Massacre vibe, but with a plot and style that is distinctly Ketchum, who gives the story an eerie slow build before unleashing the monsters. The bad guys (and women) emerge with shocking ferocity, and the insanity never slows before the last word is written.
Derided by critics but beloved by splatterpunk and horror readers, Off Season is an all-time classic of the genre.
Jack Ketchum’s short story collection Peaceable Kingdom features two Bram Stoker award-winning tales.
It’s tough to make horror work in a short story, but Ketchum hits the ball out of the park in this collection of thirty-plus stories. Peaceable Kingdom starts with a bang — what dark secret lies buried in the root cellar?
After Ketchum shocks and frightens us throughout this collection, he concludes with the story Peaceable Kingdom, a tale which took to me down a most unexpected path. In so many ways, the final story is beautiful and full of hope. If you’re a reader of Jack Ketchum books but missed Peaceable Kingdom, fix that now.
A group of privileged boys discover an elderly fisherman and his dog by the river and shoot the dog out of spite. If you love animals, the premise alone will be enough to make you cringe.
How far would you go if someone murdered your best friend?
Ketchum answers this question in brutal detail, and what follows is a story of horror and vigilante justice, composed to perfection by the true master of modern horror.
Those are my five favorite Jack Ketchum books. Did I miss one of yours? Let me know how I did in the comments.