Book festival punctuates city's spooky reputation

COURTESY PHOTO Haverhill author Christopher Golden is organizing the fifth annual Halloween Book Festival to be held at the Haverhill Public Library Saturday, Oct. 12. Golden founded the festival in 2015.

HAVERHILL — It has happened every year since 2015, but many Haverhill residents know nothing about it.

Once again the public will have an opportunity to meet authors and illustrators from across the country and Canada when the fifth annual Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival takes over the public library Saturday, Oct. 12, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Every year since the festival was founded, authors and publishers debut some of their most hotly anticipated new releases.

This year's lineup includes "Hex Life," an anthology of witchcraft stories by 18 women authors. Six of them will be at the festival, including bestselling authors Kelley Armstrong and Jennifer McMahon.

Also being debuted is a Haverhill House publication of poetry and prose titled "The Rhymes of my Times" by Gabriela Vargas of Haverhill, the younger sister of State Rep. Andy Vargas. Gabriela will be among the authors participating in the festival, too. 

More than 50 authors and illustrators sell and sign their work and conduct panel discussions at the event. Halloween costumes are encouraged. 

Founded in 2015 by local New York Times bestselling author Christopher Golden, the father of City Council candidate Nick Golden, the event has helped turn Haverhill into an unlikely mecca for horror literature.  

Christopher Golden said over the years, major bestselling authors of fantasy, mystery, and horror have flocked to the event.

Joe Hill, Holly Black and Owen King, Stephen King's son, are just some of the authors who’ve made the trek, he said. This year’s luminaries also include international bestsellers Catherynne Valente, Paul Tremblay, and Brian Keene.

This festival is just one aspect of a growing connection Haverhill has with horror fiction and film. 

Joe Hill’s TV series "NOS4A2 ," a supernatural drama, is set in the city, Christopher Golden said. Stephen King’s series "Castle Rock," has filmed here numerous times. Hill is King's son.  

Author John M. McIlveen founded a local publishing company, Haverhill House, and many of its bestselling titles are horror and fantasy. 

Scott Goudsward, president of the New England Horror Writers Association, is a lifelong Haverhill resident. Horror and fantasy author James A. Moore and author/illustrator Cat Scully have both moved to Haverhill from Atlanta, Georgia, in recent years, in part because of the community of horror writers who make their home here. They will all attend this event.

"It’s no wonder that last year’s Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival drew more than 1,000 people through the door, many of whom traveled across the country or down from Canada to attend," Christopher Golden said.

While the event has been a huge success, Christopher Golden hopes to encourage more Haverhill and Merrimack Valley residents to take advantage of this one-of a-kind festival.

Authors pay nothing for their table space and volunteer for the programming, which this year will include discussions about witches in modern fiction, creating a short story anthology, and writing frightening fantasy tales, among others.

Authors also donate at least 10% of their day’s sales to Haverhill Public Library. 

For more information, including a full list of participants, visit www.christophergolden.com/mvhbf

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