Halloween is a mere few weeks away.
Can the candy corn and reach for something much more satisfying.
Some nifty books, sure to give you bloody good times.The story of the Salem Witch Trials continues to captivate us more than three hundred years after this colonial village was swept away by witchcraft hysteria. More than 82,000 tourists travel to Salem, Massachusetts annually, drawn by stories of fictional sorcery and the real-life prosecution of the accused. Too often, the names of the 255 individuals involved—including the nineteen hanged on Gallows Hill—are reduced to stock characters, the intricacies of their lives buried beneath the dramatic details and their legacies smothered by Salem’s modern day carnival atmosphere. In Six Women of Salem: The Untold Story of the Accused and Their Accusers in the Salem Witch Trials (Da Capo Press, $18.99), historian and author Marilynne K. Roach chronicles the lives of six specific women involved in the witch hunt who represent the accusers, the accused, or both, and uses their unique stories to illuminate the larger crisis of the trials.
Before stiff fingers pointed in blame, before local magistrates witnessed the “afflicted” writhing in pain caused by invisible hands, before the hangman’s noose swayed ominous in the autumn breeze east of Salem village, Rebecca Nurse rocked her infant by the hearth and cooked meals for her husband. Bridget Bishop was a married woman as well, though neither happy nor compatible with her hot-tempered husband. Mary English was a doting mother and wife of a selectman, and the whole family lived in constant fear of the next attack by hostile Native American tribes. Ann Putnam Sr., mother of one daughter, barely had two shillings to rub together. Tituba was kidnapped from Barbados and sold as a slave to the Parris household, trading her traditional queyua for a modest cap, bodice, and long petticoat. Mary Warren worked as a hired servant in the Procters’ home and, at twenty years old in 1692, she worried about finding a husband; marriage was the only way she would be freed from her mistress’ kitchens.
But that year, the lives of each of the women—and Salem Village—would be forever changed.
Six Women of Salem works to reconstruct the events of the trials, bringing to life this representative group of women, and examines the entire experience of the Salem Witch Trials through the eyes of those who lived through the hysteria. Roach delivers a historically intimate narrative that gives readers a front row seat to this desperate and dangerous time in history.
Murder in the 19th-century was rare. But murder as sensation and entertainment became ubiquitous. It was the idea behind novels, ballads, and operas—even into puppet shows and performing dog acts. Detective fiction and the new police force developed in parallel, each imitating the other—the founders of Scotland Yard gave rise to Dickens’s Inspector Bucket, the first fictional police detective, who in turn influenced Sherlock Holmes and, ultimately, the abundance of crime writers we have today.
In The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime (St. Martin’s Press, $26.99), Judith Flanders retells the gruesome stories of many different types of murder, both famous and obscure.
• The crimes (and myths) of Sweeney Todd and Jack the Ripper
• The tragedies of the murdered Marr family in London’s East End
• Burke and Hare and their bodysnatching business in Edinburgh
• Greenacre, who transported his dismembered fiancée around town by omnibus
• And many more
With an irresistible cast of swindlers, forgers, and poisoners, the mad, the bad and the dangerous to know, the book is both a gripping tale of crime and punishment, and history at its most readable.
Such creatures of the night! Just thinking of them gives us nightmares. Horrors! Genre historians usually trace the origins of horror films to the 1910 silent film Frankenstein. Since then, the ever-morphing genre has remained popular with audiences. But what makes a scary movie so cathartic? It isn’t just the algebraic application of the “jump scare” and all those low angles and tight shots. Some of the best horror movies, often forged outside the Hollywood mainstream, utilize social commentary to make a point about the culture that more milquetoast, widely accepted genres simply cannot, such as the existence of God (The Exorcist), the violence of rape (I Spit on Your Grave), or even fundamentalist religious redneck-ism in America (Stakeland).
In Horror Films FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About Slashers, Vampires, Zombies, Aliens, and More (Applause, $22.99), John Kenneth Muir looks at different subgenres and eras of horror filmmaking to reach a larger understanding of the circumstances that produced these films. The history of the horror film is truly the history of fear in the world, so fears and the movies that embody them morph with the changing times: the women’s liberation horrors of the 1970s, the rubber reality films of the late 1980s, the serial killers of the 1990s, the xenophobic terrors of the 9/11 age, and even the 3D revolution’s release of John Luessenhop’s Texas Chainsaw (2013).
Horror Films FAQ is not a behind-the-scenes tell-all about famous directors, performers, and producers, nor does it feature reviews of every horror film. Instead, this book delineates various subgenres of the horror film, explaining what those formats (such as evil children, comedy-horror, mad scientists, or torture porn) symbolize or represent. The chapters introduce the nature of the subgenre in question and then launch into a discussion of a handful of films that best explore that subgenre’s imagery and themes. Muir has selected films that are artistic and superb, but about which not much has been written. He provides insights on important characters and directors, history, and particular horror movie formulas—like the one seen in slasher films—to round out a deeper understanding of your old favorites in in new, fresh ways, and to introduce fans to movies they haven’t seen. So, lock your doors, bolt your windows, and discover what terrors lurk inside your guide to the best, strangest, and most terrifying horror movies ever made.