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Paul Tremblay: Where to Begin with the Stoker Award-Winning Horror Author of A Head Full of Ghosts

His horror and dark fantasy tales are just what you’ve been looking for.

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  • Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Even before the publication of his breakout novel, A Head Full of Ghosts, Paul Tremblay was considered a voice to watch in the horror genre. His name was often mentioned in the same breath as folks like Laird Barron, John Langan, and Nathan Ballingrud as an author turning out new work that both honored the conventions of the form and turned it on its head in fascinating new ways.

Short stories like “We Will Never Live in the Castle,” “Headstones in Your Pocket,” “The Harlequin and the Train,” “It’s Against the Law to Feed the Ducks,” “Swim Wants to Know If It’s As Bad As Swim Thinks,” and “There’s No Light Between Floors” helped to cement Tremblay’s reputation as a purveyor of chills, while his early noir novels starring narcoleptic P.I. Mark Genevich showed his range.

When A Head Full of Ghosts came out in 2015, Tremblay “rightfully rocketed to fame as one of the best horror authors alive today,” as GQ put it—and, if you’re a horror writer and they’re talking about you in GQ, you’re probably doing something right. The novel won a Bram Stoker Award and was optioned for film by Robert Downey Jr.’s production company. Not to mention that Stephen King said that A Head Full of Ghosts “scared the living hell” out of him.

Related: Brian Evenson: 8 Tales of Psychological Terror by the Modern Horror Author 

But those of us who were lucky enough to be familiar with Tremblay and his work before A Head Full of Ghosts knew that it was just a matter of time. His work is profoundly human, but not at all afraid to turn the screws, creating believable and lived-in characters whose lives and worlds fragment in tragic and painful ways.

Since the publication of A Head Full of Ghosts, Tremblay has written several other novels—close to one a year—and each one has been hailed as a new horror classic. His latest, Survivor Song, feels particularly resonant right now, as it tracks an apocalyptic virus that lays waste to Massachusetts.

Not one for letting his stardom go to his head, Tremblay has continued to write acclaimed short stories and support other writers, working as a member of the board of directors for the Shirley Jackson Awards and penning introductions to collections by some of the next wave of horror’s greatest voices, such as Nadia Bulkin’s She Said Destroy (2017). 

Are you intrigued yet? For both new readers and old fans alike, these are the best Paul Tremblay books, hands down.

Available on July 7, 2020

paul tremblay books

Survivor Song

By Paul Tremblay

The retail description calls Tremblay’s latest a “chilling and all-too-plausible novel,” and that was before we were caught in the grip of a global pandemic. Survivor Song follows Dr. Ramona “Rams” Sherman as she tries to help her extremely pregnant friend survive a deadly outbreak of a rabies-like virus that is sweeping across Massachusetts. Unfortunately, her friend has already been bitten, so the clock is ticking for both her and her unborn child…

paul tremblay books

A Head Full of Ghosts

By Paul Tremblay

The book that rocketed Tremblay to stardom, A Head Full of Ghosts won the Bram Stoker Award and has been optioned for film, set to be directed by Scott Cooper (whose Antlers is also due out later this year). Publishers Weekly called it “a work of deviously subtle horror,” while Stephen Graham Jones—with whom Tremblay had previously collaborated on the YA novel Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly—said that, “You’ll be thinking about this one long after you’ve read it.” An exorcism novel for the Internet and reality TV age, A Head Full of Ghosts charts the lives of one beleaguered and relatable family as they confront what might be either a hoax or a haunting.

Related: William W. Johnstone: Take a Twisted Ride Through the Mind of the Bestselling Old-School Horror Author 

paul tremblay books

Disappearance at Devil’s Rock

By Paul Tremblay

Take Picnic at Hanging Rock and Lake Mungo, put them in a blender with Tremblay’s unmistakable voice and unshakable humanism, and you have the author’s eerie, haunting follow-up to A Head Full of Ghosts. 13-year-old Tommy Sanderson has disappeared at the landmark that local teens call “Devil’s Rock,” and the police have no leads. But in the midst of their grief, Tommy’s mother and sister begin seeing strange things that illuminate Tommy’s secret inner life, and may lead to a shocking revelation about his disappearance in this book that B&N Reads called “gripping and truly scary.”

paul tremblay books

The Cabin at the End of the World

By Paul Tremblay

“It will shape your nightmares for months,” NPR said of Tremblay’s 2018 novel, “that’s pretty much guaranteed.” While his previous books have tackled topics like possession and mysterious disappearances, The Cabin at the End of the World takes aim at the home invasion thriller, but overturns expectations in typical Tremblay fashion. Stephen King called it “thought-provoking and terrifying” and said that it’s “Tremblay’s personal best.” With a stamp of approval from the King of Horror, how much more convincing do you need?

Related: Stephen King Recommends 16 Creepy Horror Movies & Shows You Should Watch on Netflix 

paul tremblay books

Growing Things

By Paul Tremblay

Before the publication of A Head Full of Ghosts, Paul Tremblay already had a reputation as an author of shivery short stories, and Growing Things collects several of his best—many of which have overlapping connections with his novels. The title story in Growing Things is a tale shared between the sisters depicted in A Head Full of Ghosts, now available here in full. “Notes from the Dog Walkers” serves as a prequel to Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, while “The Thirteenth Temple” picks up years after the events of A Head Full of Ghosts. Stephen King called this Bram Stoker Award winner “one of the best collections of the 21st century.”

paul tremblay books

The Little Sleep

By Paul Tremblay

Years before A Head Full of Ghosts, Paul Tremblay had already turned the hardboiled detective genre on its head in this “promising debut” with a supernatural bent (Booklist). Private investigator Mark Genevich has an unfortunate problem: he suffers from severe narcolepsy, which not only causes him to fall asleep at inopportune times, but also prompts hallucinations. And that’s the biggest problem with his latest case— it might not even exist in the first place. Originally published in 2009, The Little Sleep appears set for a re-release in early 2021. You can pre-order the upcoming release using the buttons below, or seek out a paperback copy of the 2009 edition. In 2010, Tremblay published another thrilling tale that follows his narcoleptic PI, No Sleep Till Wonderland. 

Related: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark: 6 Spine-Tingling Tales by Horror Master Guillermo del Toro 

paul tremblay books

Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly

By P.T. Jones

P. T. Jones is the pseudonym of two of contemporary horror fiction’s brightest stars—Paul Tremblay and Stephen Graham Jones—who collaborated on this dark yet heartfelt YA novel. A girl named Mary falls in love with a boy she sees floating past one day, and has to save her town from a mad scientist before all the children become untethered from the earth. The cause of the strange phenomena remains unknown. Can Mary solve the mystery while also contending with her own issues, including a history of self harm?

Featured image: Wikipedia