MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
And I'm Robert Siegel. We frequently tell you about the latest novels or works of nonfiction, but today, for our series You Must Read This, a book from the past. Writer Seth Grahame-Smith made his name with some twisted tales, including "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies." Here, he tells us about a novel that he fell in love with as a child.
SETH GRAHAME-SMITH: I worshipped at the altar of Stephen King in those days. In fact - and this is the hand-on-the-Bible truth - I was holding a copy of "The Shining" when I saw my first dead body. Why am I telling you this? Well, because Stephen King frightened and thrilled me, but he didn't haunt me. I didn't even know a book could do that, not until I read "Something Wicked This Way Comes" by Ray Bradbury. It crawled under my skin and stayed there, like the face of that corpse.
I read it in middle school, not for class, but on the advice of my stepfather. He was a used-book dealer, and we had around 5,000 horror and science fiction books in our basement. I'd already tried some other Bradbury books. They didn't grab hold of me with sharp claws. But then I was 12 and not quite ready. "Something Wicked," however, was tailor-made for me. I was almost the same age as its young heroes, Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway, best friends born just two minutes apart: one right before the midnight stroke on Halloween and one right after. Darkness and light, baby.
I was part Jim, daring and brash. But I also felt like the calculating Will. Things get going for the two boys when a thunderstorm rolls into their town, then a carnival. It's led by the aptly named Mr. Dark, who makes promises to the town elders - restored youth, second chances, fulfilled dreams - all for a price, of course - namely, their souls. Bradbury's carnival is everything we fear. It's age and death and failure. It's a foreign body invading the small town the way a virus invades a cell.
But for me, the real horror of the book was this: Our parents aren't always the heroes we need them to be. Bradbury's adults were weak with temptation, worn down by regrets. They were real, and that was the worst part.
SIEGEL: That's Seth Grahame-Smith. A movie version of his novel "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" comes out this summer. He was talking about Ray Bradbury's novel "Something Wicked This Way Comes."