The Next Chapter

Candy Palmater recommends 3 great horror books to send chills up your spine

The comedian and media personality reviews We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, Your Life is Mine by Nathan Ripley and Elevator Pitch by Linwood Barclay.
Candy Palmater is a comedian, broadcaster and voracious reader. (Fabiola Carletti/CBC)

Candy Palmater loves a good book — especially a horror or thriller novel that sends a chill up her spine. 

The comedian, broadcaster and columnist spoke with Shelagh Rogers about three horror and thriller novels: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, Your Life is Mine by Nathan Ripley and Elevator Pitch by Linwood Barclay.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson was an American writer, known primarily for her works of horror and mystery. (Penguin Classics, shirleyjackson.org)

"She is such a great horror writer. In my young years, I used to think only men wrote horror. When I found her, my first thought was, 'Where have you been all my life?'

"I started reading her short stories. I was also fascinated with the fact that she was a woman who was ahead of her time. She was the main breadwinner in her family, as well as raising her four kids — at a time when that didn't happen.

"She also battled with her weight and with smoking. In the end, she died at 48 from heart disease because she couldn't get control of those things. This was the very last novel she wrote. 

"The main character is telling you the story. She lives in this huge estate in Vermont with her sister and her uncle. And years before, there was a big tragedy that happened at the estate. As a result, they have become estranged from the little village. 

What grabs me about the book is that it is really about otherness. ​​​​​​

"Throughout the whole book, you're trying to figure out what exactly is happening here and what was the tragedy that took place. 

"What grabs me about the book is that it is really about otherness. It's about what it's like to not be like everyone else and to be ostracized as a result of it. I think right now so many people are having that experience in their own lives."

Your Life Is Mine by Nathan Ripley

Your Life is Mine is a novel by Nathan Ripley. (Simon & Schuster)

"The storyline — without giving anything away — is the main character's father died when she was very young. He went on a killing spree and then killed himself. She thinks that her past is far removed from her. She's in this life as a filmmaker and then her mother is murdered.

"What interested me and fascinated me about the book is this notion of, can we ever really leave our past, even right now when we are so heavily steeped in cancel culture? I'm very interested in the question of whether we can ever be forgiven. Is there ever a moment when we can say, that was my past, but I'm a different person now?

I'm very interested in the question of whether we can ever be forgiven.

"The other thing that fascinated me is this notion of, when you love someone who is who has done something really horrible — how do you deal with that?"

Elevator Pitch by Linwood Barclay

Elevator Pitch is a thriller by Linwood Barclay. (Doubleday Canada, Bill Taylor)

"This is a favourite author of mine. I would classify his books as being somewhere in between horror and thriller.

"An elevator pitch is that whole idea of if you have an idea for a project, you should be able to pitch it to somebody in the time it takes you to ride the elevator from the lobby to wherever you're going. 

"That's how this book starts. A guy is trying to push an idea and he jumps on an elevator with this producer and he's trying to get his elevator pitch across — except then the elevator shoots straight to the top of the building in a very high building in New York City. Then it plummets to the ground. 

This is a favourite author of mine. I would classify his books as being somewhere in between horror and thriller.

"I am claustrophobic. I do not like elevators at the best of times. Now I'm reading this story, where at any point, any elevator in New York could fail because day after day there is an elevator failing each day. And of course, that's the most vertical city in the world. 

"In true Barclay fashion, the characters are incredibly well developed. His characters are always flawed. I'm flawed. I feel we're all flawed. When I read, sometimes I get bummed out when authors make characters a little too perfect. 

"You're following this story as we're trying to quickly, before more people die, find out what is happening on these elevators all across New York. What a story to read!"

Candy Palmater's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

 

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