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Chillers and Thrillers by Arkansas Authors


Many of us grew up as Goosebumps readers, looking for the next mystery around the corner and eerily aware that mysterious creatures lurk in the woods around every bend. Whether it was a college night in a new town, walking down an abandoned set of railroad tracks, or sitting around the campfire at a Girl Scout meeting, many of us can remember an early spooky experience that forever changed our life or at least the way we traverse the dark.

A few Arkansas authors can help us navigate this spooky season with a chilling read. Whether it is a crime scene or murder investigation, a real story, or a fictional account of Arkansas’s past, an actual crime or one derived in the mind of a crime writer, this list of nine Chillers and Thrillers (a.k.a. spooky books) from Arkansas will give your chill bumps the chills.

An Undercurrent of Murder by Joe David Rice

An October male bonding trip between brothers-in-law goes array when a body is discovered under an Ozark Bluff. They join the search and rescue team and learn from Park Rangers that it’s being deemed an accident. With the fear of discovery, they embark on their planned hikes. Soon, they discover a packet floating in the water and what’s inside could mean life or death for their group and the guilty parties who do not want the enclosed information in the hands of federal authorities. The expertise of an author who’s traversed the Ozark wilderness is the gift of this story of secrets, suspense, and new family ties.

Follow this first book of Rice’s, with his other two thrillers,  “A Nasty Way to Die” and “A Piece of Paradise.”

Buy from your local bookstore or here.

The Ghost Variations: One Hundred Stories by Kevin Brockmeier

100 thought-provoking stories that will linger in your mind well after you are finished reading them.”

Brockmeier is known for incredible writing, but this novel takes it to the next level, where each of the 100 stories occupies two pages, revealing experiences that record the past but seem very present. The gift of discovering these ghosts is realizing how much real life marks us in all realities. For those interested in the paranormal, this is a journey through the seen, unseen and still evolving ghost behaviors.

Buy from your local bookstore or here.

Image provided by author Eli Cranor.

Don’t Know Tough by Eli Cranor

In Cranor’s debut novel, he unloads the story of a small Arkansas town and pulls back the curtain to the issues facing many towns. The timing is perfect at the end of football season as a coach, his family and the town unravel to find the hidden truth. It is a quick page-turner that will leave you wanting a sequel and imagining how you would end the whole thing if only you had the pen. This book won several awards, and a second novel, “Ozark Dogs,” intrigued the audience of a different Arkansas town.

Buy from your local bookstore or here.

The Devil’s Knot by Mara Leveritt

Mara Leveritt dives into the true story of the West Memphis Three and the trial process that resembled the Arkansas version of the Salem Witch Trials. A 2013 major motion picture starring Colin Firth and Reese Witherspoon follows a similar path of revealing a rural town’s desire for justice and answers and the possible misleading guilt of the accused. This trial changes the American legal system, and Leveritt’s details and digging are at the heart of a change of conversation.

Buy from your local bookstore or here.

Arkansas by John Brandon

Some consider this a great American tale of lower crimes. But Brandon’s writing style is sometimes similar to a mix of Quinten Tarantino, Mark Twain and Flannery O’Connor. It’s a dark novel that reveals the inside story of drug runners from Southeast Arkansas. Whether it inspired the Tom Cruise movie, “American Made” is still up for debate, but it brought a light to the same topics of hidden crime in small towns. The gruesome murders are sometimes brutal to navigate, but the storytelling is riveting and bounces the reader along.

Purchase at your local bookstore or here.

Haunted Legends of Arkansas by Layne Livingston Anderson

The author spends her days as an attorney and General Counsel with the Arkansas Development Finance Authority. But, in her spare time, she is chasing the real story behind many Arkansas legends and historic events in Central Arkansas and her hometown, Pine Bluff. Anderson helps us explore the supernatural state of the Natural State and scoops the dirt on Arkansas’s haunted mysteries.

Buy from your local bookstore or here.

What Follows is True: Crescent Hotel by Sean Fitzgibbon

Many bookstore owners in Northwest Arkansas will list this book as their best read for the Halloween season. The gripping stories of the Crescent Hotel, the most haunted hotel in America, make this an easy one-sitting page-turner. Fitzgibbon spent years researching the collection of stories that recount tales from the years at the Baker Hospital, where the 1886 hotel transformed into a unique cancer hospital in the 1930s after it was a women’s college at the turn of the century. Using Baker’s autobiography, research and oral histories, Fitzgibbon turned his childhood curiosities into a storied collection. The book also features hand-drawn and watercolor illustrations by the author, capturing his imaginative thoughts on each story through art.

Buy from your local bookstore or here.

Real Bad Things by Kelly J. Ford

Maud Bottoms, Arkansas, may not be a real place on a map, but many towns will resemble the story that unfolds here. A body surfaces after the Arkansas River floods, and Jane is back 25 years later to finally serve time for a murder she confessed to, but authorities could never prove. This story of hidden secrets in the River Valley unravels a town and unveils a family’s past. Ford’s descriptive prose captures readers and paints a scene that is too hard to forget.

Buy from your local bookstore or here.

Deep in the Hollow by Brandy Nacole

Deep in the Hollow is the first book in a 4-part series of young adult paranormal romance fiction by award-winning author Brandy Nacole. This paranormal suspense novel includes history, scientific research, and a family tie that might take stories to the grave, even if it is their own. While the book, the series debut with a strong heroine lead, has won awards in the YA space, it’s a quick piece adults will love, too. And Arkansans who love storied legends will find familiarity within the story’s undercurrent plot.

Buy from your local bookstore or here.

Meet the

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Keisha (Pittman) McKinney lives in Northwest Arkansas with her chicken man and break-dancing son. Keisha is passionate about connecting people and building community, seeking solutions to the everyday big and small things, and encouraging others through the mundane, hard, and typical that life often brings. She put her communications background to work as a former Non-profit Executive Director, college recruiter and fundraiser, small business trainer, and Digital Media Director at a large church in Northwest Arkansas. Now, she is using those experiences through McKinney Media Solutions and her blog @bigpittstop, which includes daily adventures, cooking escapades, #bigsisterchats, the social justice cases on her heart, and all that she is learning as a #boymom! Keisha loves to feed birds, read the stack on her nightstand, do dollar store crafts, cook recipes from her Pinterest boards, and chase everyday adventures on her Arkansas bucket list.

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  1. […] Tip: This large trip section does not have cellphone service. So, it’s a great place to have an audiobook ready to listen to. However, planning an overnight camping trip or exploring the trails in the park is a […]

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