Tell About the South: 11 Southern Gothic Tales You Need to Read

May 14 2019
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Thanks to a high school English teacher with an interesting view of what New Jersey freshmen would be interested in reading, I was introduced to the Southern Gothic genre at an early age—and I instantly fell in love. From the eerie and grotesque short stories of Flannery O’Connor to the sensual novels of Anne Rice, Southern Gothic is a wide-reaching and diverse genre that explores universal issues in a distinct, vivid, and often haunting setting. With these novels, you can travel to the Spanish moss-covered trees of Savannah to the sultry streets of New Orleans without ever leaving your home.

Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
by Tom Franklin

In this atmospheric and poignant novel about male friendship and how the past continues to haunt us, two boyhood friends in rural Mississippi reunite under trying circumstances. When a girl vanishes under conditions similar to another disappearance decades earlier, the two friends are thrust back together, and both must confront their demons.

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Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
Tom Franklin

Seamlessly blending elements of crime and Southern literary fiction, CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER is the powerful and resonant story of two boyhood friends. Torn apart by circumstance, they are brought together again by a terrible crime in a small Mississippi town.

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Dark Debts
by Karen Hall

A Los Angeles reporter travels to Atlanta to discover the truth behind her ex-lover’s mysterious death. Her quest converges with that of an ostracized Jesuit priest whose family has hidden alarming secrets from him. What follows is a suspenseful and supernatural thriller that creeps under your skin and doesn’t let go.

Read the full review of DARK DEBTS.

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Dark Debts
Karen Hall

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MENTIONED IN:

Tell About the South: 11 Southern Gothic Tales You Need to Read

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By Loan Le | November 16, 2018

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The Violent Bear It Away
by Flannery O'Connor

From one of the trailblazers and perhaps the master of Southern Gothic, this dark and captivating novel explores the innate human struggle between faith and secularism. When two cousins defy the prophecies of their fervently religious uncle, they set off a series of events that change their lives forever.

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The Violent Bear It Away
Flannery O'Connor

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MENTIONED IN:

Tell About the South: 11 Southern Gothic Tales You Need to Read

By Kerry Fiallo | May 14, 2019

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Soil
by Jamie Kornegay

This darkly funny, vibrantly written page-turner follows a young scientist who is determined to maintain a sustainable farm with his wife and young son in the Mississippi Delta. But his dreams are shattered by financial troubles, backwoods neighbors, and the mysterious appearance of a dead body on his property. A sprawling and richly drawn modern noir.

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Soil
Jamie Kornegay

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Interview with the Vampire
by Anne Rice

Anne Rice launched the Vampire Chronicles in 1976 with this horror cult classic set in New Orleans. Evocative, eerie, and sensuous, INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE follows the vampires Louis and Lestat through the centuries and explores matters of life, death, faith, virtue, and evil with stunning prose.

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Interview with the Vampire
Anne Rice

Here are the confessions of a vampire. Hypnotic, shocking, and chillingly erotic, this is a novel of mesmerizing beauty and astonishing force—a story of danger and flight, of love and loss, of suspense and resolution, and of the extraordinary power of the senses.

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Blood Memory
by Greg Iles

When a forensic expert returns to Natchez, Mississippi, after a suspension from the FBI, the horrors of her father’s murder come rushing back to confront her. Now she must discover what happened and uncover the shocking truth in this psychological thriller that speeds along at a breakneck, white-knuckled pace.

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Blood Memory
Greg Iles

From the author of the New York Times bestselling Natchez Burning trilogy and the Penn Cage series, and hailed by Dan Brown (The Da Vinci Code) for his “utterly consuming” suspense fiction, Greg Iles melds forensic detail with penetrating insight in this novel that delves in the heart of a killer in a Mississippi town.

Some memories live deep in the soul, indelible and dangerous, waiting to be resurrected…

Forensic dentist “Cat” Ferry is suspended from an FBI task force when the world-class expert is inexplicably stricken with panic attacks and blackouts while investigating a chain of brutal murders. Returning to her Mississippi hometown, Cat finds herself battling with alcohol, plagued by nightmares, and entangled with a married detective. Then, in her childhood bedroom, some spilled chemicals reveal two bloody footprints…and the trauma of her father’s murder years earlier comes flooding back. Facing the secrets of her past, Cat races to connect them to a killer’s present-day violence. But what emerges is the frightening possibility that Cat herself might have blood on her hands…

“As Southern Gothic as it gets” (Kirkus Reviews), Greg Iles’s Blood Memory “will have readers turning pages at a breakneck pace” (New Orleans Times-Picayune).

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MENTIONED IN:

Tell About the South: 11 Southern Gothic Tales You Need to Read

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Sing, Unburied, Sing
by Jesmyn Ward

An intimate and powerful exploration of family, race, parenthood, and death, this award-winning novel is a new Southern classic. Teenaged Jojo embarks with his dysfunctional family on a life-changing journey to the heart of Mississippi after his father’s release from prison. Lyrical, hypnotic, and clear-eyed, SING, UNBURIED, SING is a captivating mix of Southern Gothic and magical realism.

Read the full review of SING, UNBURIED, SING.

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Sing, Unburied, Sing
Jesmyn Ward

WINNER of the NATIONAL BOOK AWARD and A NEW YORK TIMES TOP 10 BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR

A finalist for the Kirkus Prize, Andrew Carnegie Medal, Aspen Words Literary Prize, and a New York Times bestseller, this majestic, stirring, and widely praised novel from two-time National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward, the story of a family on a journey through rural Mississippi, is a “tour de force” (O, The Oprah Magazine) and a timeless work of fiction that is destined to become a classic.

Jesmyn Ward’s historic second National Book Award–winner is “perfectly poised for the moment” (The New York Times), an intimate portrait of three generations of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle. “Ward’s writing throbs with life, grief, and love… this book is the kind that makes you ache to return to it” (Buzzfeed).

Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. He doesn’t lack in fathers to study, chief among them his Black grandfather, Pop. But there are other men who complicate his understanding: his absent White father, Michael, who is being released from prison; his absent White grandfather, Big Joseph, who won’t acknowledge his existence; and the memories of his dead uncle, Given, who died as a teenager.

His mother, Leonie, is an inconsistent presence in his and his toddler sister’s lives. She is an imperfect mother in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is Black and her children’s father is White. She wants to be a better mother but can’t put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use. Simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high, Leonie is embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances.

When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another thirteen-year-old boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.

Rich with Ward’s distinctive, lyrical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a majestic and unforgettable family story and “an odyssey through rural Mississippi’s past and present” (The Philadelphia Inquirer).

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Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
by John Berendt

A modern classic of nonfiction, MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL follows a shocking and mesmerizing true story in one of the queen cities of the Old South. When a prostitute is killed in the home of a respected antiques dealer, genteel Savannah is turned upside down. Featuring southern belles, drag queens, voodoo priestesses, con artists, and more eccentric characters, this colorful read spent a record 216 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

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Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
John Berendt

Shots rang out in Savannah’s grandest mansion in the early morning hours of May 2, 1981. For nearly a decade, the shooting and its aftermath reverberated throughout this beautiful and isolated remnant of the Old South. John Berendt’s sharply observed and suspenseful account of this landmark murder case is a sublime and seductive reading experience.

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The Past Is Never
by Tiffany Quay Tyson

In this evocative and spellbinding tale of how family secrets haunt us, adult siblings try to discover what happened to their long-missing sister. Spanning from the Mississippi Delta to the Everglades in southernmost Florida, this modern Southern Gothic is a remarkable look at how sometimes the past is best left in the past.

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The Past Is Never
Tiffany Quay Tyson

**WINNER of the 2019 Mississippi Institute of Arts & Letters Award for Fiction​**

**Finalist for the 2019 Colorado Book Awards for Literary Fiction**

"An ode to William Faulkner. . . . As Southern as it gets."—Deep South Magazine 

A compelling addition to contemporary Southern Gothic fiction, deftly weaving together local legends, family secrets, and the search for a missing child.
Siblings Bert, Willet, and Pansy know better than to go swimming at the old rock quarry. According to their father, it's the Devil's place, a place that's been cursed and forgotten. But Mississippi Delta summer days are scorching hot and they can't resist cooling off in the dark, bottomless water. Until the day six-year-old Pansy vanishes. Not drowned, not lost . . . simply gone. When their father disappears as well, Bert and Willet leave their childhoods behind to try and hold their broken family together.

Years pass with no sign, no hope of ever finding Pansy alive, and as surely as their mother died of a broken heart, Bert and Willet can't move on. So when clues surface drawing them to the remote tip of Florida, they drop everything and drive south. Deep in the murky depths of the Florida Everglades they may find the answer to Pansy's mysterious disappearance . . . but truth, like the past, is sometimes better left where it lies.

Perfect for fans of Flannery O'Connor and Dorothy Allison, The Past Is Never is an atmospheric, haunting story of myths, legends, and the good and evil we carry in our hearts.

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MENTIONED IN:

Tell About the South: 11 Southern Gothic Tales You Need to Read

By Kerry Fiallo | May 14, 2019

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Child of God
by Cormac McCarthy

A vivid and terrifying novel from one of today’s most beloved and acclaimed authors, CHILD OF GOD follows a violent man as he attempts to isolate himself from society. From squatting to murder and beyond, he embarks on an unsettling and disturbing descent into the darkest corners of humanity.

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Child of God
Cormac McCarthy

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The Elementals
by Michael McDowell

For those who prefer their Southern Gothic with genuine chills, THE ELEMENTALS is a haunted house story you’ll never forget. After the death of their family matriarch, the surviving relatives gather in a Victorian house on Alabama’s Gulf Coast, but they don’t expect to reawaken the deadly evil that seems to lurk there. Spine-tingling and suspenseful, this is one you won’t be able to put down.

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The Elementals
Michael McDowell

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MENTIONED IN:

Tell About the South: 11 Southern Gothic Tales You Need to Read

By Kerry Fiallo | May 14, 2019

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