Between the Lines: Spooky tales just in time for Halloween

Halloween arrives Oct. 31, giving readers a window to get in the mood for hearing some bumps in the night. Here’s a sampling of spooky reads for the occasion:

• “The Small Hand and Dolly” by Susan Hill (Vintage, $15, 288 pages): Hill continues the shivers (after the terrifying “The Woman in Black”) with two short stories that have it all: ghosts, hidden mysteries, family secrets, nightmares, madness, deserted mansions and remote estates.

• “Delia’s Shadow” by Jaime Lee Moyer (Tor Books, $24.99, 336 pages): Young woman of means Delia Martin, who lives in the atmospheric San Francisco of the early 1900s, can commune with ghosts. One of them is the victim of a serial killer; now the murderer is back after a three-decade absence.

• “This House Is Haunted” by John Boyne (Other, $14.95, 304 pages): The spooky gothic tale is an homage to 19th century British ghost stories. When a new governess arrives at Gaudlin Hall in remote Norfolk, she is met with a series of terrifying events. What secrets lie in wait, and what evil?

• “The Autobiography of Jack the Ripper” by James Carnac (Sourcebooks, $14.99, 320 pages): Scotland Yard never caught the infamous 19th century London murderer, so his identity has remained lost in the mists of time. But what’s this? A “recently discovered memoir from the 1920s” could well have been written by the killer himself. Is it genuine? Alan Hicken of the Montacue Museum in England calls it “a text that will be debated for years to come.”

• “Anno Dracula: Johnny Alucard” by Kim Newman (Titan, $24.99, 400 pages): Moving beyond the entertaining but predictable “True Blood” and “Twilight” books, TV series and movies is this literate vampire satire set in an alternative world. The premise: Count Dracula defeated Van Helsing and rose to power in England and Germany, dying in 1959. But one of his minion travels to New York City and Hollywood in the 1980s to become the Next Big Thing on the scene.

• “She Walks in Darkness” by Evangeline Walton (Tachyon, $14.95, 192 pages): What’s old is new again in this fantasy based on the medieval Welsh mythological epic “The Mabinogion.” When an archaeologist and his bride move into a Tuscan villa, there’s no end to the strange goings-on. The publisher describes it as “the first publication of a newly discovered novel from a classic fantasist.”

Provoking thought

The intellectual essayist-memoirist Richard Rodriguez, who grew up in Sacramento and lives in San Francisco, is shaking the literary community with his new “spiritual autobiography,” “Darling” (Viking, $26.95, 256 pages), his first book in 10 years. Like its author, “Darling” is thought-provoking and challenging.

The acutely rendered journey examines the “desert religions that have shaped and excluded” him — Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Along the way he considers terrorism, history, celebrity and the “green” ecology movement. The centerpiece is a lengthy conversation with a woman friend over lunch, which turns into a celebration of womankind and Rodriguez’s gratitude to the gender for helping shape who he is.

Listen to a good book

Audiobooks are good company on the daily work commute and long road trips. Here’s a sampling from an audiobook leader, Macmillan ( Next week, look for titles from Simon & Schuster (

• “Killing Jesus” by Bill O’Reilly: The political commentator explores the day-by-day walk-up to the crucifixion of Jesus; read by the author.

• “Accused” by Lisa Scottoline: More thrills and drama at the law firm Rosato & Associates, staffed exclusively by women.

• “How the Light Gets In” by Louise Penny: The ninth Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novel finds the troubled detective in a country village, investigating a missing-person case.

• “The Edge of Normal” by Carla Norton: A decade after escaping her kidnapper, 22-year-old Reeve is asked by her therapist to mentor a teen girl who recently escaped a similar situation. The twist is, the new girl’s abductor is stalking both victims.

• “Holy Orders” by Benjamin Black: Edgy pathologist Quirke is back to solve another murder in his sixth adventure, set in church-dominated 1950s Ireland.

• “Nine Inches” by Tom Perrotta: This potpourri of 10 short stories from the award-winning screenwriter is set in suburbia.

Launch event

The Sacramento Suburban Writers Club will host a book launch today at 4 p.m. for “The Moving Finger Writes,” an anthology by its members. Meet at La Placita Dos restaurant, 8036 Greenback Lane, Citrus Heights; (916) 728-1382. For more information, email to

See it, read it

The online newspaper Huffington Post recently assembled its list of “Movies That Are Just As Good As the Books They’re Based On.” Authors, actors and directors meet in a perfect storm:

• “There Will Be Blood,” based on Upton Sinclair’s “Oil!”

• “Jurassic Park” by Michael Crichton

• “American Psycho” by Bret Easton Ellis

• “The Shining” by Stephen King

• “Precious” by Sapphire

• “Drive” by James Sallis

• “The Silence of the Lambs” by Thomas Harris

• “The Godfather” by Mario Puzo

• “Fight Club” by Chuck Palahniuk

• “Hugo” by Brian Selznick

• “Jaws” by Peter Benchley

• “The Children of Men” by P.D. James

Stiff reads

You can call this book clever or silly, but at least lift a glass to author Tim Federle’s sense of invention. “Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist” (Running Press, $15, 160 pages) sources the titles of famous books for the names of cocktails. Consider the Wonderful Blizzard of Oz, the Rye in the Catcher, Gone with the Wine, the Turn of the Screwdriver, Gin Eyre and 60 more.


If you have information on author appearances or other book-related special events, email it to bookmarks@sacbee.comat least two weeks before the event. To read the online calendar, go to Questions? Call The Bee’s Allen Pierleoni, (916) 321-1128.