Archive for the 'Horror Masters' category

Dean Koontz: Subtle patterns in the darkness

May 05 2008 Published by under Horror, Horror Masters

I haven't done a "Horror Masters" post for a while, and it's long past due!

Even if you've never read a Dean Koontz novel, you're familiar with his work.  Airport bookstores are constantly stocked with his books; finding a horror author whose last name doesn't start with "K" can be quite a challenge when traveling (King, of course, being the other one).

Broadly speaking, it is easy at first glance to dismiss Koontz as a "pop" horror author of no serious depth.  Many of his novels, especially his early work, follow a certain well-defined plot structure: boy/girl hero meets girl/boy love interest, both are threatened by some mysterious entity, they flee, they have a final confrontation with said entity in some isolated location and live happily ever after.  Furthermore, his short stories, such as those compiled in Strange Highways, often seem clumsy and somehow 'inefficient'.

It would be easy to dismiss Koontz as another pop horror author showering the shelves with forgettable drek (I'm lookin' at you, Preston and Child!), except for one important, undeniable, unavoidable reality:

Dean Koontz's story ideas are incredibly, almost maddeningly, clever - and they're executed brilliantly.

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Mary E. Wilkins-Freeman: Domestic Darkness

Mar 05 2008 Published by under Horror, Horror Masters

Our next horror master is Mary Eleanor Wilkins-Freeman (1852-1930). I think it is fair to call her a 'minor' horror master, simply because horror was not her primary fiction focus. An early feminist writer, she penned numerous novels and short story collections, and was the first recipient of the William Dean Howells Medal for Distinction in Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Her goal in writing ghost stories seems less motivated to scare than to highlight or illustrate the lives of contemporary women, but she still manages to produce a number of stories of significant power.

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Graham Masterton: Ghosts (and demons) of the past

Feb 13 2008 Published by under Horror, Horror Masters

I knew almost nothing about Graham Masterton's work when I started this blog. I had read his very first novel, The Manitou, several years previously (and seen the charming yet silly movie version), but knew nothing else about his work. But he is a 'Horror Master', and I decided to give his books a more detailed look. Ten novels later, I feel like I'm ready to write a 'Masters' post about him...

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Roald Dahl: Master of macabre misdirection... and children's stories!

Dec 17 2007 Published by under Horror, Horror Masters

Our next horror master is Roald Dahl (1916-1990), Welsh author and screenwriter. Most people probably know Dahl as the author of such famous children's books as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and Matilda. A lot of these people would probably be surprised to learn that Dahl also wrote numerous nasty and exceedingly clever short stories, some of which are famous in their own right.

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Richard Matheson: The horrors next door

Nov 12 2007 Published by under Horror, Horror Masters

On December 15, a new action/horror film starring Will Smith will hit theatres: I Am Legend. The movie is based on a novella of the same name, written by the most famous horror author you've never heard of. This 'Masters of Horror' post is about that author: Richard Matheson.

American-born Richard Matheson has been a prolific author since his first published story in the 1950s, Born of Man and Woman. This story was an instant classic and catapulted Matheson to fame -- at least among those who knew his work. He has written numerous stories and novels in horror, science fiction, fantasy, and some more conventional drama.

Why do I call him the most famous author you've never heard of? Because I guarantee that even if you've never heard his name, you've seen his work. He has written so many classic novels, short stories, and screenplays that you're certain to know at least one of them.

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Ramsey Campbell: The Nightmare Man

Oct 26 2007 Published by under Horror, Horror Masters

I thought I'd start my discussion of 'Masters of Horror' by talking about my favorite horror author of all time, and perhaps one of the most unappreciated horror authors ever. The shelves of your local bookstores, which no doubt carry dozens of copies of the latest King and Koontz may at best have one recent Campbell novel lurking about. If you're a fan of horror, though, and you've never read any works of Ramsey Campbell, you haven't read horror.

The British native Campbell has been a published horror writer for over forty years now, and started his career like many of the greats: writing pastiches of H.P. Lovecraft's cosmic horror. He quickly distinguished himself as a unique voice with a beautiful, eloquent literary style. To me, horror has never sounded so good.

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Horror Masters: "Themes" of horror fiction writers

Oct 22 2007 Published by under Horror, Horror Masters, Lovecraft

I'm planning to write little posts highlighting the works of a lot of the true masters of horror fiction, including a bit about them and what I consider to be their most enjoyable yarns. One aspect that I will address is the main 'theme' of the author's work, and I wanted to say a few words about what I mean by that.

In all of creative writing, authors tend to have settings, topics, or metaphors that appeal to them and which they return to again and again. The one place I don't usually hear this discussed is in the genre of horror fiction, perhaps because horror is generally considered to be a 'low' form of writing. Such 'themes' of a writer can be very insightful, both in understanding the author himself and the times he lived in as well as in understanding what makes certain authors' fiction effective.

To consider a few illustrative examples, which we'll no doubt return to in detail:

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