Reading Room Service: Delivering a list of literary recommendations for fans of Inside No.9

It’s always exciting when Inside no.9 returns to our screens. To celebrate I’ve put together a little list of reading recommendations inspired by my love of the anthology series. Here are 9 reading treats that I think you’ll love if you’re a fan of Inside No.9. Let me know in the comments what you would include in your lists.

Nudibranch by Irenosen Okojie

Nudibranch is a collection of short stories that brings the unexpected to the reader. Okojie expertly mixes fantasy and dark themes with the ordinary everyday world to create a truly unnerving experience. I have added this collection to the list because just like when I watched the darkest of Inside No.9 episodes, like The Harrowing or Séance Time, I was glued to the tales out of some sort of morbid desire that creeps deep with in the best of us. Just to give you a flavour of what you’re about to get yourself into, the first story in the collection is about a woman who is slowly turning in to liquorice. Will she come to a sticky end?

An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestley

I read this at school and it is still a play that I think about. The plot centres on a family who have gathered for a celebratory dinner when An Inspector calls to investigate the death of a young woman. He interrogates each family member in turn. Slowly secrets emerge and the family learns that they may just be sitting on a scandal. As the family unravels it is a sudden realisation that makes their blood run cold with fear. An Inspector Calls makes me think of the episodes Cold Comfort, Sardines and Tom and Gerri with their connected storylines and secret reveals.

Re-Heated Cabbage by Irvine Welsh

This short story collection is for those fans of the more extreme episodes of Inside No.9 such as La Couchette, Once Removed, To have and to Hold and The Devil of Christmas. Irvine Welsh peels back the skin of humanity to show you all the worms and maggots squirming away next to a heart suffocated with fatty deposits cushioned by rotting blackened lungs. Welsh’s stuff is not for the fainted hearted with some of it written not in Standard English but with a Scottish dialect. He is one of my favourite authors and I revisit his work over and over.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

She is Queen of the scary story and masters of the horror genre from Stephen King to Jordan Peele love her work. So many of her stories have seeped in to popular culture and have been turned in to series or films. There is also a quiet tragedy to a lot of her work and I have chosen this novel for that very reason. Like the sorrow we feel when watching The 12 Days of Christine, we feel for the characters Jackson creates to inhabit her chilling novels.

Hex-Life by various authors

Hex-Life is a collection of witchy tales all with women authors. These stories include modern magical revenge, historical inspired bewitchings and fantastical folktales. In my favourite stories from the collection we take a truly terrifying trip to The Last Stop on Route Nine thanks to the writing genius of Tananarive Due. In another story, Chesya Burke gives us a macabre scare as she paints a tale of terror using the dark history of the American south in Haint Me Too. Obviously this reminds me of The Trial of Elizabeth Gadge but I also think there are stories in this collection that remind me of The Understudy, Tempting Fate, And the winner is…. and Empty Orchestra.

Dutchman by Amiri Baraka

Dutchman is a play I read and went to see last year and I’ve added it to this list as bit of a curve ball. It is a play that has stuck to my bones. It literally changed my way of seeing things and that is something I feel Inside No.9 has made me do when thinking about the films, TV and fiction I consume. As much as the political message of Dutchman is devastating, the skill Baraka demonstrates as a writer gives the play an earth shattering punch. Like with The Riddle of The Sphinx, Bernie Clifton’s Dressing room, The 12 days of Christine and Diddle Diddle Dumpling the audience is left reeling with the events that unfold in front of them.

The Bloody Chamber By Angela Carter

Angela Carter drills dark twists in to my mind while dazzling me with beautiful sparkling literary gems. I’m in awe of her work. Much like I am in awe of Inside No.9. I think that all of Carter’s work is incredible. Like some sort of fictional linguistic candy that I just can’t get enough of and The Bloody Chamber is great place to start. As these are retellings of fairy tales they hum with the sort of folk horror glow that Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton have voiced a love of. If you like A Private View and To have and to Hold, this short story collection is for you.

Abigail’s party by Mike Leigh

Abigail’s Party is one of the greatest comedy plays that I can ever remember seeing. The great thing about it is the growing intensity that accumulates as the plot evolves. With fantastic dialogue and a undercurrent of suppressed emotions that eventually bubble this play is in the same vein as the chaos that we love in Nana’s Party and The Bill. It is a classic that you should definitely give some time to. After you have read it, try to get a copy of the made for TV recording starring Alison Steadman to watch. You won’t be disappointed.

The Doll and other stories by Daphne Du Maurier

Have you read Rebecca? Oh! You have? Well this is nothing like that. The Doll is an incredibly creepy short story but I also think there is a bit of humour in there. It is something that Inside No.9 does so well so it seems only right that this collection of short stories goes in the list. As much as I could have added much more obvious classics I think these tales are far more interesting.

So there you have it. 9 reading suggestions for fans of Inside No.9. What are your favourite episodes? Let me know in the comments below…

Catch Inside No.9 on BBC2 or find it on BBC iplayer at a later date. Episodes of Inside No.9 series 1-6 are currently available on BBC iplayer and Brit Box US.

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