Everybody loves summer reading, even if you're not a student or teacher with the season free and clear. The heat makes you want to slow down and bask in the sun on a deck or at a pool or the beach, and paperback novels are an essential part of enjoying lazy summer days. Might I recommend two semi-forgotten bestsellers from yesteryear, by a one-time actor who turned to writing and became a well-known horror author in the days before Stephen King? While I'm not exactly sure how I came upon reading them, I fondly recall both of Thomas Tryon's early '70s novels, The Other and Harvest Home, as leisurely-paced and precisely written, slowly and surely captivating you as the settings are carefully drawn and characters, and readers, come to realize idyllic towns are always hiding some fucked-up thing or another. Ugh, it's always gotta be something.
The Other is set in a rural New England town in the 1930s, evoking both "The Waltons" and Bradbury's Dandelion Wine, with the young Perry twins, Niles and Holland, enjoying a carefree childhood. Except - well. I won't spoil it for you. Childhood is never quite "carefree" is it? Harvest Home takes place in a country village in Connecticut where a New York artist and his family relocate. The farmhouse they buy is ancient and charming, while the villagers in the town of Cornwall Coombe still hew to "the old ways." Which of course are always terrible, right? Right.
These were great summer reads when I was 17 or 18, quietly done chillers with subtle moments of breathless horror that I remember lo these many years later. The Other might still be in print as it's regarded as a minor classic in the field but I doubt Harvest Home is; I'm sure any good used bookstore will have some treasured old musty-smelling copies of them, their cool icy frights just the thing to help put the kibosh on the upcoming sweltering summer afternoons. I'm looking at a week of high-90s temps here after the first day of summer, so it might be time to dig my copies out for a revisit to the golden days of bestselling horror fiction...
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