Book Club Nominees

6 Books of Attacking Animals

by @ChelseaPumpkinscurator of HOWLS Book Club nominees for August’s “Beast Mode” category

Animals in horror – we root for them, we cry for them, we plead with the author to let them make it to the last page alive. Putting innocents in danger is one of the oldest and most effective horror tricks in the book, and animals are frequently cast in this role. They become victims of violence to illustrate a character‘s descent into depravity. They’re used as test subjects for laboratories of torture. Sometimes their bones are bound into symbols or their pelts worn as costume to create a mystical, macabre atmosphere. The members of HOWL Society are no strangers to the emotional turmoil of an animal in peril. It’s about time for the animals to get their due! This list contains stories where animal characters bring the fear. Instinctual, insatiable, unstoppable – buckle up because these unrelenting beasts are in the driver’s seat this week!

Cover of Hell Hound by Ken Greenhall. Cover shows a picture of a bull terrier with glowing red eyes. The terrier's mouth is open and its canine teeth are gleaming.

Hell Hound by Ken Greenhall

This book follows Baxter, a sociopathic bull terrier, on his hunt for the perfect master. 

A classic 70’s horror novel with shifting POV between Baxter and his human masters, and an introduction by Grady Hendrix are all ingredients for a book I’m dying to try. As a dog lover and owner of a manipulative (yet loving) pittie myself, I’m enticed by a story where man’s best friend perhaps becomes something far more devious. 

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Cover of The Rats by James Herbert. Cover shows an evil looking rat with bloodshot eyes displaying its teeth.

The Rats by James Herbert

It was only when the bones of the first devoured victims were discovered that the true nature and power of these swarming black creatures with their razor sharp teeth and the taste for human blood began to be realized by a panic-stricken city. For millions of years, man and rats had been natural enemies. But now, for the first time—suddenly, shockingly, horribly—the balance of power had shifted. . .


Another example of 70’s horror, The Rats is lauded by Ramsey Campbell for breaking the mold of the horror genre in its time. These creatures have long been symbols of disease and filth, but Herbert transforms rats from passive harbingers of death into a horde with a mission of malicious intent. “The Rats … was deemed to be far too graphic in its portrayals of death and mutilation, and the social commentary regarding the neglect of London’s suburbs was said to be too extreme” (Wikipedia). One person’s trash (harsh criticisms) are a HOWLer’s treasure… that’s how the saying goes right?

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Cover of Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe. Cover shows an illustration of a black and white bunny with red glowing eyes and vampire fangs. The bunny casts a menacing, large shadow on the wall behind it.

Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe

Before it’s too late, Harold the dog and Chester the cat must find out the truth about the newest pet in the Monroe household — a suspicious-looking bunny with unusual habits…and fangs!


A hefty dose of nostalgia! Many of us grew up in the era of Goosebumps and Bunnicula, perhaps some of our earliest introductions to the genre. This vampire bunny is the first that comes to mind when I hear “evil animals”. 

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Cover of The Roo by Alan Baxter. Cover shows a kangaroo with well defined, very strong chest and shoulder muscles and glowing orange eyes.

The Roo by Alan Baxter

Something is wrong in the small outback town of Morgan Creek. A farmer goes missing after a blue in the pub. A teenage couple fail to show up for work. When Patrick and Sheila McDonough investigate, they discover the missing persons list is growing. Before they realise what’s happening, the residents of the remote town find themselves in a fight for their lives against a foe they would never have suspected.

And the dry red earth will run with blood.


This book is the reason I started exploring this theme – when this title popped up in my Goodreads feed I could not resist the pull. Not only does this story take us to an underrepresented horror setting (‘Sup, Australia!), but The Outback is well known to be full of creatures that can kill you. Hence I’m very excited by the prospect of some Aussie animal horror! Also, do you know how scary kangaroos are? Seriously, Google it. They’re frightening. 

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Cover of Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk. Cover shows stylized birch trees in black and pink against a blue backdrop.

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk

In a remote Polish village, Janina devotes the dark winter days to studying astrology, translating the poetry of William Blake, and taking care of the summer homes of wealthy Warsaw residents. Her reputation as a crank and a recluse is amplified by her not-so-secret preference for the company of animals over humans. When a local hunter meets a mysterious demise, Janina suspects animals may be out for revenge.


I came across this title in my mostly fruitless search for books about killer animals written by women (untapped market, ladies – let’s get on it!) It sounds like a whodunnit mystery novel, but I became so mesmerized by descriptions and reviews of this quirky genre-bender that I couldn’t not include it in this list. This book was shortlisted for a handful of awards, and in 2019 she was awarded the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature as the first Polish female prose writer “for a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life” (Wikipedia). 

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Cover of Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton. Cover shows a silhouette of a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton against a stark white background.

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

An astonishing technique for recovering and cloning dinosaur DNA has been discovered. Now humankind’s most thrilling fantasies have come true. Creatures extinct for eons roam Jurassic Park with their awesome presence and profound mystery, and all the world can visit them—for a price.


Do you remember the sense of wonder you felt as a kid learning about dinosaurs for the first time? Seeing the gigantic T-Rex skeleton in the science museum and rattling off your favorite species to any stranger who’d look your way? The fact that they roamed our ancient earth boggled the mind, and the thought of them returning is both tantalizing and terrifying. Jurassic Park brings our curiosity (and fears) to life.

Bookshop* | Goodreads | Amazon

And The Winner Is…

Out of these six books, HOWLers voted to read The Roo by Alan Baxter. Join HOWL Society on Monday, August 30, 2021 to begin discussion!

*The HOWLS affiliate storefront pays a 10% commission to HOWL Society and gives a matching 10% to independent bookstores

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