Five Reasons to Love the Dark by Sarah Hilary

Sarah Hilary, author of the Marnie Rome series of novels of which the latest QUIETER THAN KILLING is out now, explains what she loves about this time of year as the nights draw in...

Posted on October 9, 2017 in Guest Author
Tags: Box Sets, Cats, M R James, halloween, quieter than killing, sarah hilary

This is my favourite time of year, as the days get shorter and the dark rocks up around teatime. Hallowe’en is on the horizon, and the cinemas are full of horror films (my favourite kind). Long before Hallowe’en was popular in the UK, my mum would throw parties with candles, cauldrons and fortune fish (those little red cellophane fish which curl up in the heat of your hand). When I was older, I’d re-read Jane Eyre at this time of year, imagining myself behind the curtain on the window seat where Jane read or, if I was feeling brave, in the dreaded Red Room. My sister and I would play in the garden long after dark, by the light of a fire torch. Then go indoors for scotch pancakes hot from the frying pan. I’ve never been afraid of the dark, except in a good way; I love the thrill of being scared from the safety of my window seat. Here then are my top five recommendations for getting the best out of this time of year.

  1. Box sets. Autumn is the perfect time for guilt-free binge watching. In fact, the short days and long nights might have been made for this. My current obsession is Westworld, but I’m also very excited for the return of Stranger Things at the end of October. If the weather gets especially chilly, I might reach for my Scandi noir, and a blanket. Hygge never had it so good.


  1. Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad by M.R. James. A short story about paranoia that achieves levels of terror most crime writers can only dream of. Is there a monster? Is there a killer? Or has James somehow conjured heart-pounding dread from thin air? Filmed numerous times, most successfully with Michael Hordern in 1968, although the 2010 adaptation with John Hurt is also worth a watch. The story even exists as a web comic.


  1. If the dark gets a little too much you can always take refuge in nostalgia. When I was writing Quieter Than Killing, which is set in an ice-bound London, I re-read A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Its frozen streets made me shiver, but what a treat to revisit a childhood favourite.


  1. Coffee and crumpets. Or tea and muffins, if you prefer. Where would writers be without our coffee? I’m happiest when I’m walking through an avenue of golden trees on a crisp morning with a fresh cup from my favourite coffee shop. But coffee can be fun after dark, too. Especially if you need to stay awake to the end of your box set.


  1. Cats. This may seem like a cheap ploy to win the internet, but cats come into their own at this time of year. If you get a little chilly, they can take the place of a hot water bottle on your lap. And of course they can see in the dark. Cats are also experts at seeing ghosts — anyone who’s ever been in a quiet house with a cat will attest to their uncanny habit of sitting bolt upright staring at nothing until the hairs on the back of your neck take fright. Don’t worry, they’re just seeing the ghosts you can’t see (or not yet).


Enjoy the Autumn, make friends with the dark, and don’t forget to whistle …

Sarah Hilary’s QUIETER THAN KILLING is out now in paperback 

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