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.
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.
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.
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: