The Best Horror Writers You’ve Probably Never Read (But Should): Part 5
Today is our final segment from AMAZING author and WANA International Instructor Kevin Lucia. Why horror? If you’ve followed this series, you now know many of the books you might already love are actually horror, but tend to be classified under different names—science fiction, dark fantasy, noir, etc. So for us to shiver and say, “Oh, I don’t like horror” is funny because most of us have been enjoying horror for a long time.
Sort of like how Mom hides the green veggies in a cheesy casserole ;).
Oh, what vegetables? Look at all the CHEESE!*whistles innocently*
Horror is a very important, but often misunderstood and overlooked genre. Yet, it is one of the most powerful. Much of the literature that has endured for generations and even altered society and science can thank horror. A great example? Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (every ambulance now has chest paddles to use electricity to restart a heart). It took a horror author to wonder about death and what constituted life. Could it be prolonged? Should it be? Horror authors are known for asking the tough questions and are unafraid to give real answers sans candy-coating.
Take it away, Kevin!
There are some writers’ whose work transcends the horror genre. And then there are some writers who can literally write whatever they please, virtual “jacks of all traders.” That’s the focus of today’s blog, a handful of writers who have written just about everything, and then some, “horror” being only one aspect of their talents.
Everyone should know Robert E. Howard. Hopefully, many folks reading this blog are nodding, thinking: “Of COURSE we do. He invented Conan the Barbarian. Solomon Kane. He wrote horror, sword and sorcery, Lovecraftian tales, weird fiction. He wrote fabulous westerns, and probably helped invent the weird western. He’s ROBERT E. HOWARD, for Pete’s Sake.”
However, if you DON’T know Robert E. Howard, you need to rectify that situation as quickly as possible. His bibliography is staggering, considering his career came to an abrupt end with his suicide at age thirty. And his prose his something behold. It drives with this rhythmic, pulsing power that, in anyone’s else’s hands would sound ridiculous and overwrought, but somehow, coming from Howard sounds powerful and unrelenting.
A caution: like Lovecraft, he did unfortunately indulge in racial caricatures at times. We don’t have the space to debate that here; but those who want to investigate his work should know that up front. That being said, “Black Canaan” and “Pigeons From Hell” are two of my all time favorite stories. For his westerns, I recommend The End of the Trail. For an eclectic mix of his fiction, The Black Stranger. For his Solomon Kane tales, The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane and for a collection of his horror stories, The Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard.
Who would I consider the contemporary equivalent of Solomon Kane? Well, even though he’s never neared the same kind of output, the obvious choice would be Norman Partridge. First of all, Norman’s blog is one of the few author blogs I actually read on a regular basis. Never pretentious, though he sometimes writes about writing and offers advice, most of the time he writes about what he loves: Universal horror films, pulp and Noir fiction, cars…you name it, be he blogs about. His fiction is not to be missed, either. It offers that same hard driving, rhythmic pulse that Howard’s does…but Partridge has his own unique voice.
And his tales vary. He’s written some of the best Halloween-themed fiction I’ve read in recent years, and his Stoker Award Winning Novel Dark Harvest should become an annual Halloween read, along with his short collection that’s linked to the world of Dark Harvest, Johnny Halloween: Tales of the Dark Season. His collection Lesser Demons was like a crazy mix of Bradbury, Howard, Lovecraft and King, all in one volume. Slippin Into Darkness is a crazy-fun Noir/Crime/Horror/Ghost Story mix, and I’m not sure WHAT genre his Jack Baddalach novels Saguaro Riptide and The Ten-Ounce Siesta fit into, but that doesn’t matter, because they’re adrenaline-laced crime/noir/mystery craziness that read faster than greased lightning.
Another writer whose reach extends past the horror genre is Al Sarrantonio. He’s written westerns and science fiction, but honestly, his horror fiction is the best. And, like a lot of the masters, his work has been re-released in ebook format, though used copies of the paperbacks are still readily available.
His “Orangefield” cycle (Horrorween, Halloweenland, Hallow’s Eve) novels invoke all the cider and autumn spice of Bradbury andare entertaining and lyrical. Totentanz, (think Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, but with bite) October and The Boy With Penny Eyes offer some fine, fine reading, and his short fiction collection, Toybox, offers short fiction that maybe outshines his novel-length work. And the best part? So much more Sarrantonio out there.
So we’re at the end of our journey, for now. I hope I’ve turned your attention on toward a group of horror writers who are (or, in some cases, were) among the best in the business. Again, I can’t claim I’ve read everyone, and there are still so many that I need to read myself, but these are the ones I’ve discovered and read over the past five years that have impacted me deeply, as I hope they impact you.
THANK YOU, KEVIN!!!! *stands and applauds*
Kevin Lucia has worked as an Editor for Shroud Magazine and a Submissions Reader for Cemetery Dance Magazine, and is now an Associate Fiction Editor for The Horror Channel. His podcast “Horror 101” is featured monthly on Tales to Terrify and his short fiction has appeared in several venues. He’s currently finishing his Creative Writing Masters Degree at Binghamton University, he teaches high school English at Seton Catholic Central High School and lives in Castle Creek, New York with his wife and children. He is the author of Hiram Grange & The Chosen One, Book Four of The Hiram Grange Chronicles and his first short story collection, Things Slip Through is NOW AVAILABLE from Crystal Lake Publishing.
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