I'm currently taking part in the Seasons of Reading: Spring into Horror Read-a-Thon, which is intended to encourage readers to trying horror fiction (they also run events for other genres). I'm already a big fan of horror stories, and have been for many years, so I thought it would be fun to look at five of the books that defined my exploration into horror. There are of course many other fine horror authors out there, and discovering them is one of the fun aspects of the genre!
Dennis Wheatley might not be the first name that springs to mind when you think of horror writers as he's better known for his various adventure series. However he was the first introduction for me for horror subjects, in particular Satanism and the constant battle against evil. To the Devil a Daughter and The Devil Rides out were both read at a young age and inspired a desire to delve deeper into the darker forms of literature - up until then my staples were fantasy, science fiction and adventure or thriller books.
Hi writing is very much of its time and can seem almost ponderous compared to modern authors, but I recently re-read three of his books and still enjoyed them. I particularly liked the matter of fact way in which he portrayed the supernatural and didn't feel the need to try and justify the events - they just where.
Click here to buy To the Devil, A Daughter from Amazon
Clive Barker is probably my favourite contemporary horror authors, although my first encounter with him was with the Hellraiser film, and I discovered his books after that. Choosing a representative book of his was difficult as there are many fine examples. Weaveworld almost won, but The Books of Blood not only shows his skill as a writer, but also the breadth of his imagination. There's some real darkness within these pages, but also elements of wonder, and I often find that with the best horror stories there is a blend of the two.
He's also a firm favourite of mine through his word play. I sometimes despair when reading his works, because it puts my own efforts to shame and I know that I will never match the skill he wields!
Click here to buy The Books of Blood Volumes 1 - 3 from Amazon
Click here to buy The Books of Blood Volumes 4 - 6 from Amazon
Dennis Wheatley might have originally enticed me down the path towards horror, but it was James Herbert who helped me set up camp for the long stay. He also introduced me to a much more visceral form of horror with The Rats. Now he's written many better books since then, but this was the book that introduced me to the gore horror, which I'd seen in films, but not appreciated in books.
I enjoyed his straight forward style of writing, he sketches a scene or a character in a tighter form than many of his contemporaries, and with The Rats maintains a blistering pace. If you're squeamish then you might want to give this one a miss! As with Wheatley he has a practical approach for his stories that sinks them into possibility of them existing in the real world.
Click here to buy The Rats from Amazon
I don't think that any list of horror authors would be complete without Stephen King, he's probably done more to bring horror tales into the mainstream than any other author. IT is my most loved stories out of his works (although there are plenty to choose from) as it demonstrates the writing that King does well. He builds characters well and casts the reader throughout their lives. He writes small, peculiar towns in an amazingly vivid reality.
It also highlights what he doesn't do so well, and that is endings. There are few King books that I like the endings of, but it doesn't matter too much as the journey always make it worth the effort. And in this case it's worth the read for Pennywise alone :-)
Click here to buy IT from Amazon
My final choice is a relatively unknown author, who I believe should be much better known within the horror genre. I resisted the advent of the e-reader for as long as I could, but I finally capitulated and now I'm a fan. In particular it opened up a world of indie and self-published authors that I was previously unaware of. David Haynes illustrates what is exemplary about these lesser known authors. His writing is superb, but he brings a new imagination and unusual stories that really stand out. Even when he tackles familiar topics he brings something new to the table which sets him apart.
Of all the authors, picking just one of his books was the most difficult. He writes both period and contemporary horror stories, but The Scream of Angels is perhaps his finest. For the Read-a-Thon I'm reading his latest Boo!. If you're a fan of the genre, or looking to give it a try then he's a great place to start.
Click here to buy The Scream of Angels from Amazon