Book Club Nominees

Bless Your Heart: 5 Southern Horror Books

by @ghostlygnocchi, curator of HOWLS Book Club nominees for August’s “Southern Harm” category

I’m from Alabama, and while I’m not always overjoyed about that fact–especially during summer and election cycles–I nevertheless feel it’s important to acknowledge the good things about my home, many of which get overlooked in favor of stereotypes and jokes. So many talented artists have come out of the South, and I’d like to take this opportunity to showcase some horror literature written by Southern writers.

Cover of Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice

Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice

This is the story of Louis, as told in his own words, of his journey through mortal and immortal life. Louis recounts how he became a vampire at the hands of the radiant and sinister Lestat and how he became indoctrinated, unwillingly, into the vampire way of life. His story ebbs and flows through the streets of New Orleans, defining crucial moments such as his discovery of the exquisite lost young child Claudia, wanting not to hurt but to comfort her with the last breaths of humanity he has inside.

Louis and Claudia travel Europe, eventually coming to Paris and the ragingly successful Theatre des Vampires–a theatre of vampires pretending to be mortals pretending to be vampires. Here they meet the magnetic and ethereal Armand, who brings them into a whole society of vampires. But Louis and Claudia find that finding others like themselves provides no easy answers and in fact presents dangers they scarcely imagined. (Goodreads)


New Orleans native Anne Rice was a huge influence on me as an aspiring writer and horror lover (second only to Mr. King), and it is an absolute CRIME that we have yet to read anything by her! I’m hoping we might amend this grievous error with one of my all-time favorite books (and movies, and now a pretty good show too!).

Bookshop* | StoryGraph | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite

Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite

At a club in Missing Mile, N.C., the children of the night gather, dressed in black, look for acceptance. Among them are Ghost, who sees what others do not; Ann, longing for love; and Jason, whose real name is Nothing, newly awakened to an ancient, deathless truth about his father, and himself.

Others are coming to Missing Mile tonight. Three beautiful, hip vagabonds–Molochai, Twig, and the seductive Zillah, whose eyes are as green as limes–are on their own lost journey, slaking their ancient thirst for blood, looking for supple young flesh.

They find it in Nothing and Ann, leading them on a mad, illicit road trip south to New Orleans. Over miles of dark highway, Ghost pursues, his powers guiding him on a journey to reach his destiny, to save Ann from her new companions, to save Nothing from himself. . . . (StoryGraph)


Poppy Z. Brite, born in Kentucky but spending much of his life in New Orleans, is another big influence on me (I remember first being recommended this book by a coworker at Blockbuster and regularly reading Brite’s LiveJournal, if you want an idea of how far back my love for PZB goes 🤣) and even though we’ve read a book by him before, there’s always room for more goths and more vampires, imho.

Bookshop* | StoryGraph | Goodreads | Amazon

Cover of A Lush and Seething Hell by John Horner Jacobs

A Lush and Seething Hell by John Horner Jacobs

Bringing together his acclaimed novella The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky and an all-new short novel My Heart Struck Sorrow, John Hornor Jacobs turns his fertile imagination to the evil that breeds within the human soul.

A brilliant mix of the psychological and supernatural, blending the acute insight of Roberto Bola o and the eerie imagination of H. P. Lovecraft,
The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky examines life in a South American dictatorship. Centered on the journal of a poet-in-exile and his failed attempts at translating a maddening text, it is told by a young woman trying to come to grips with a country that nearly devoured itself.

In My Heart Struck Sorrow, a librarian discovers a recording from the Deep South–which may be the musical stylings of the Devil himself.

Breathtaking and haunting, A Lush and Seething Hell is a terrifying and exhilarating journey into the darkness, an odyssey into the deepest reaches of ourselves that compels us to confront secrets best left hidden. (StoryGraph)


While only one of the two novellas are actually set in the South, I found a lot of good reviews here in HOWLS for this book by John Horner Jacobs, from Little Rock, Arkansas. I’m intrigued to see what he does with the old “devil went down to Georgia” trope.

Bookshop* | StoryGraph | Goodreads | Amazon 

Cover of When the Watcher Shakes by Timothy G. Huguenin

When the Watcher Shakes by Timothy G. Huguenin

The walls were meant to keep evil out–but they only hid the evil within.

John has given up his ordinary life to find wisdom traveling the country and enjoy the freedom of living as a nomad. But when he stumbles across a mysterious town tucked away in the Appalachian Mountains, walled off from modern society, he discovers a group of people who could use some freedom of their own. Are they a harmless religious sect, or is there something malignant beneath the surface?


I saw Tim on a panel about rural horror at StokerCon this year and immediately knew I wanted to check out his work. Many of his answers about wanting to portray rural people who didn’t fit into the negative stereotypes about us really resonated with me, and while I haven’t read his work yet, I’m interested to see this West Virginian’s take on the religious cult trope.

Bookshop* | StoryGraph | Goodreads | Amazon 

Cover of The Toll by Cherie Priest

The Toll by Cherie Priest

Take a road trip into a Southern gothic horror novel.

Titus and Melanie Bell are on their honeymoon and have reservations in the Okefenokee Swamp cabins for a canoeing trip. But shortly before they reach their destination, the road narrows into a rickety bridge with old stone pilings, with room for only one car.

Much later, Titus wakes up lying in the middle of the road, no bridge in sight. Melanie is missing. When he calls the police, they tell him there is no such bridge on Route 177 . . . (StoryGraph)


This is another one that I found positive reviews for here! Priest currently lives in Washington but is originally from Florida, which I’m hoping will inform the lush, swampy setting of this story, nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award for Best Horror in 2019.

Bookshop* | StoryGraph | Goodreads | Amazon 

And The Winner Is…

Out of these five books, HOWLers voted to read Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice. Discussion starts on August 21, and you can read along by joining the Discord!

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

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