Book Club Nominees

6 Horror Stories from the Suburbs

by C.B. Jones, curator of HOWLS book club nominees for July’s “The Monsters on Nextdoor” category

In the middle of the 20th Century, the suburbs emerged as the pinnacle of family living.  Close enough to the city to reap its benefits, but far enough away to have a separate set of perks, the suburbs vowed to offer increased space, less crime, less air pollution, and more nature. Perhaps there was a sort of fear that led to the rise of suburbs, the idea that an enclave could be built to protect its inhabitants from all manner of things deemed offensive. This undercurrent has been the subject of various social commentaries over the years, especially in the popular media. From The ‘Burbs to American Beauty, the notion of the suburbs and the rot beneath the surface has always been fascinating.  

These attributes and contradictions are perfect for the horror genre to take a crack at. Here at HOWL Society, we have provided a short list of novels that we consider suburban horror. There are likely many more. Comment below for any that we might have missed.

Cover of The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin. In a vintage illustration, five women in nearly identical nightgowns walk away from a house on a hill. It is late and every light in the house is glowing.

The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin

For Joanna, her husband, Walter, and their children, the move to beautiful Stepford seems almost too good to be true. It is. For behind the town’s idyllic facade lies a terrible secret—a secret so shattering that no one who encounters it will ever be the same.

At once a masterpiece of psychological suspense and a savage commentary on a media-driven society that values the pursuit of youth and beauty at all costs, The Stepford Wives is a novel so frightening in its final implications that the title itself has earned a place in the American lexicon.


The town of Stepford is the suburban ideal, but like most books in this list, something is amiss. In addition to the commentary offered on the sterility and conformity of suburban living, the novel famously explores the themes of gender roles in the home in a satirical fashion. 

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Cover of The Association by Bentley Little. Cover shows a stone fence with a wrought iron gate. The gate is open, and in the distance is a house, with windows visibly lit as the scene is set at dusk. Lightning strikes in the distance.

The Association by Bentley Little 

Congratulations, Barry and Maureen: You’ve been approved by the Association and are encouraged to move into your exclusive gated community as soon as possible. Please be aware that we reserve the right to approve your decor, your landscaping, your friends, and your job. All relationships with neighbors should be avoided. Any interference from the outside will not be tolerated. Any attempt to leave will be stopped. Any infraction of the rules could result in severe fines, physical punishment, or death. Please send all other inquiries to the house on the hill. Preferably before dark. P.S. You’re being watched. Sincerely, THE ASSOCIATION


In this darkly humorous horror novel Bentley Little focuses his ire on one of the most horrific aspects of suburban living: the dreaded homeowner’s association. The satire is oftentimes as subtle as a sledgehammer, but this book is never not fun. 

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Cover of The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons. Cover shows a watercolor painting of an idyllic southern home.

The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons

Thirty-something Colquitt and Walter Kennedy live in a charming, peaceful suburb of the newly bustling Atlanta. Life is made up of enjoyable work, long, lazy weekends, and the company of good neighbors. Then, to their shock, construction starts on the vacant lot next door, a wooded hillside they’d believed would always remain undeveloped. Soon, though, they come to realize that more is wrong than their diminished privacy. Surely the house can’t be “haunted,” yet something about it seems to destroy the goodness of every person who comes to live in it, until the entire heart of this friendly neighborhood threatens to be torn apart.


Stephen King listed this as one of the finest horror novels of the 20th Century in his non-fiction book Danse Macabre. I’ve yet to read it myself, but hope to rectify this soon. An interesting factoid about the author: she lost her job at the college newspaper when she refused to alter a column that she had written supporting integration. Suburbs have long been criticized for their segregated attributes, attributes that were oftentimes put forth by design. 

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Cover of The Road Through the Wall by Shirley Jackson. Cover show an illustration of the heads of four people: a young woman, a teenage boy, a grown man, and a grandmother. The image of another woman, laying down with limbs splayed out, is superimposed on top of the images of the people's heads.

The Road Through the Wall by Shirley Jackson

Everyone knew the residents of Pepper Street were “nice” people — especially the residents themselves. Among the self-satisfied group were: Mrs Merriam, the sanctimonious shrew who was turning her husband into a nonentity and her daughter into a bigoted spinster; Mr Roberts, who found relief from the street’s unending propriety in shoddy side-street amours; Miss Fielding, who considered it more important to boil an egg properly than to save a disturbed girl from destruction. It took the gruesome act of a desperate boy who lived among them to pierce the shell of their complacency and force them to see their own ugliness.


Shirley Jackson’s first published novel is an exploration of the dark side of suburbia, based in part on her childhood and where she grew up. This is more of a deep cut of Jackson’s bibliography; her other works would become much more famous. She was in her late twenties when this was published, already showing the promise of the writer she would become.

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Cover of Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis. Cover shows a red crescent against a grey background.

Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis 

Bret Ellis, the narrator of Lunar Park, is a writer whose first novel Less Than Zero catapulted him to international stardom while he was still in college. In the years that followed, he found himself adrift in a world of wealth, drugs, and fame, as well as dealing with the unexpected death of his abusive father. After a decade of decadence, a chance for salvation arrives; the chance to reconnect with an actress he was once involved with, and their son. But almost immediately his new life is threatened by a freak sequence of events and a bizarre series of murders that all seem to connect to Ellis’s past.

Reality, memoir, and fantasy combine to create not only a fascinating version of this most controversial writer but also a deeply moving novel about love and loss, parents and children, and ultimately forgiveness.


In this meta novel, Mr. Ellis is the main character of his own book. The author has decided to move to the suburbs for the typical reasons: safety and security. Written as a sort of homage to Stephen King, this novel is what I like to call a “stealth” horror novel, i.e. you wouldn’t find it in the horror section, but it offers plenty of chills and heaps of dread. 

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Cover of The Happy Man: A Tale of Horror by Eric C Higgs. Cover is in red with a black line drawing. The drawing is of dozens of figures: some are animalistic creatures, some appear to be minor demons, some are centaur like creatures, and some are human. There is a giant winged creature in the center with a human in its mouth (the legs are dangling out of its mouth) and two additional human snacks in its hands. The figures are so numerous and detailed that it is hard to see what other carnage may be occurring in the image.

The Happy Man: A Tale of Horror by Eric C. Higgs

From its profoundly unsettling first pages, The Happy Man, Eric C. Higg’s’ riveting vision of the nightmare underside of the American dream, brilliantly echoes the grand Gothic horror tradition of Edgar Allan Poe and Roald Dahl.


Thank heavens for Valancourt Books for continuing to unearth these forgotten horror gems. The Happy Man is a tale of what happens when new neighbors move in next door, neighbors with certain proclivities. Maybe the monster was always there, lying under the surface, waiting for the perfect neighbor to fish it out.

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And The Winner Is…

Out of these six books, HOWLers voted to read The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin. Join HOWL Society on Monday, July 5, 2021 to begin discussion!

C.B. Jones is an author from somewhere in the middle of America. His work has appeared on The NoSleep Podcast and in Cosmic Horror Monthly. His debut novel, The Rules of the Road will be released in 2021. Find him on Twitter: @writersjones or

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