Sunday, March 24, 2013

Multitude of Favorites 1: Horror

My first literary love is dark crime fiction-- 'noir', for lack of a better word. But like most of you I read (and write) in many genres, some of which get short shrift here at the blog. My next few posts are aimed at telling you about some of my favorite writers in other genres.

I was a teen and young adult in the '80's, during the so-called Horror boom, and so there was no shortage of  stuff to read for a gorehound. And I read a LOT of it, man. I was more than a little obsessive, in fact. My favorite horror, ultimately, turned out to be in the short story category. There's something about a solid horror story that lends itself well to short tales. The horror writers who have stood the test of time for me are:

Stephen King. Sort of obvious, I guess, but reading THE SHINING at sixteen years old had a profound impact on me, and led me to search out the other writers on this list. I haven't kept up with King's novels in recent years, but whenever he puts out a short story collection, I'm ALL over it. I especially like EVERYTHING'S EVENTUAL, FULL DARK NO STARS, and SKELETON CREW.

Shirley Jackson. For pure mood and atmosphere, for that creeping sense of uneasiness, for sheer psychological terror, Ms. Jackson can't be touched. Her novels THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE and WE HAVE ALWAYS LIVED IN THE CASTLE are brilliant, but I've re-read THE LOTTERY AND OTHERS more often.

Manly Wade Wellman. My admiration for Wellman is based on one book, really-- WHO FEARS THE DEVIL? The strange adventures of John the Balladeer as he roams the Appalachians with his silver-stringed guitar thrilled me to no end as a young reader. I re-read my copy about three years ago and the stories in it stand up remarkably well.

Richard Matheson. One of the greatest short story writers of all time, in any genre. He wrote the teleplays for countless episodes of The Twilight Zone, as well as novels like THE SHRINKING MAN, I AM LEGEND, WHAT DREAMS MAY COME, and HELL HOUSE. But again, it was his short stories that really rocked my world. Some of his best can be found in NIGHTMARE AT 20,000 FEET. Back in the mid-60's, some insightful publisher put out a terrific three volumes in paperback, SHOCK 1, 2, and 3. I had an opportunity to buy them recently, and let the chance slip by. Been kicking myself about it ever since.

So there's my top four horror scribes for you. Who are some of your favorites?

Next post, I'll blather on about my favorite "speculative fiction" writers.


  1. I've always held the opinion that the short story, long story, and novella are vastly superior to the novel, and horror writers are largely responsible for at least the foundation of that belief. Aside from Jackson, King and Matheson, I'd add Robert Bloch, Livia Llewellyn, Fredric Brown, Joe R. Lansdale, Charles Beaumont, Karl Edward Wagner, Mehitobel Wilson and Norman Partridge. Wilson and Partridge in particular, if you haven't read them, shelve everything else you have queued up and go after their work.

  2. The first name that came to my mind after reading this post was Charles Beaumont. I'm sure it was the Matheson/Twilight Zone connection that triggered it.

  3. Pretty much have to agree with the names already mentioned. I'd add Charles L. Grant who had a great knack for quiet, unsettling stories. I'd alternate between the splatter-punk gang and Grant for a change of pace. Ray Garton was an early favorite. Robert McCammon too, although I only read a few of his novels. Can't go away without mentioning that Karl Wagner was a friend of mine who left us too soon. He always considered his Kane stories to be more horror than sword and sorcery. Karl was always planning a series of western novels, but left behind only two stories and a couple of chapters of an unfinished novel.