The Best Horror Writers You’ve Probably Never Read (But Should): Part 5

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Mr. Muggles.

Image via Flickr Creative Commons courtesy of Mr. Muggles.

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.”

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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.

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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.

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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 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*

Horror Author Kevin Lucia

Horror Author Kevin Lucia

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 ChannelHis 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.

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of December, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less). Comments for guests get extra POINTS!

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  1. #1 by Amber West on December 23, 2013 - 9:54 am

    Have you seen The Whole Wide World? It’s the story of the relationship between Novalyne Price and Robert E. Howard – worth the watch if you are a fan of Howard’s work.

  2. #2 by Kevin Lucia on December 23, 2013 - 10:05 am

    Definitely will check it out. Thanks!

  3. #3 by Kira Butler (@kirabutler) on December 23, 2013 - 10:08 am

    What an excellent introduction and a fantastic compilation of “People I’ve Never Read.” Totally going to remedy that now.

    I think we demonstrate a tendency to look at the big names (the Kings and Koontzes), but finding the guys and gals who are writing horror quietly under the guise of something else are easy to overlook. Thanks for the list.

    • #4 by Kevin Lucia on December 23, 2013 - 9:17 pm

      Kira, that’s exactly what I started out reading: King, Koontz, and occasionally some Peter Straub. Not that there’s ANYTHING wrong with that at all, and I still read those authors whenever they have something new out. But new doors in my brain opened when I was introduced to/or discovered these writers, and I’m glad it seems to be doing the same for others. Thanks for reading!

  4. #5 by Edward Owen on December 23, 2013 - 10:09 am

    Kristen,
    Thank you for letting Kevin into the sandbox again. He always brings the best toys!

    Kevin,
    Great job although I find myself a bit frustrated that you have easily quadrupled my TBR list. *sigh* One more excellent reason to win the lottery. Considering I have been reading horror for more than thirty years and writing it for five or more, I am a little embarrassed at the lack of depth in my author list. I will compile a list of every author you mentioned and attack the elephant with knife and fork. I look forward to hearing from you again. BTW, I am also reposting this series on my own blog (makes me look smart).

    Merry Christmas to both of you.

    • #6 by Kevin Lucia on December 23, 2013 - 10:21 am

      Don’t worry about the embarrassment – I felt the same, and really – these are only the authors I have *managed* to read. You should see MY TBR pile. There will always be far more authors out there then we’ll get a chance to read, but just like someone pointed some out for me, I just want to point them out for others. Maybe next Halloween I’ll produce another list of writers I’ve discovered/read for the first time over the coming year…

  5. #7 by davekheath on December 23, 2013 - 10:10 am

    Love Robert E Howard, I think he is a great yang yo Lovecraft’s Yin, will have to check the others out.

  6. #8 by 1WriteWay on December 23, 2013 - 11:56 am

    Sorry these posts are coming to an end :) By the way, would you put Shirley Jackson anywhere in the horror genre? I get chills every time I read The Lottery.

    • #9 by Kevin Lucia on December 23, 2013 - 6:30 pm

      Absolutely – I actually referenced her two novels in the third post. Definitely a must read.

      • #10 by 1WriteWay on December 23, 2013 - 7:22 pm

        My bad … I must have missed the references. Looking forward to more :)

  7. #11 by 1WriteWay on December 23, 2013 - 11:58 am

    Reblogged this on 1WriteWay and commented:
    Sadly, the last in this great series of posts about horror by Kevin Lucia and Kristen Lamb. Read on for more writers and books to add to your leaning tower of books to read.

  8. #12 by symplysilent on December 23, 2013 - 12:01 pm

    Kristen and Kevin – thank you so much for sharing. I skip slashers and don’t watch gory movies. You helped me understand how to read horror. Our hopes and fears are laid bare, forcing us to see ourselves as we truly are. Thank you – Silent

  9. #13 by sharonhughson on December 23, 2013 - 1:12 pm

    Okay, I added some from all three of these guys to my TBR list. If I have nightmares, I will find you, Kevin Lucia😠
    Thanks for the insight. I’m always interested in learning about writing craft from those who have mastered it.

    • #14 by Kevin Lucia on December 23, 2013 - 9:18 pm

      HA! I’ll take that as a compliment…

  10. #15 by Thomas Linehan on December 23, 2013 - 1:49 pm

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and to all of your readers.

  11. #16 by the_artist on December 23, 2013 - 4:28 pm

    These horror writer posts have been so illuminating and great to read…I keep jotting down a (now quite long) list of books I need to pick up. I have to say, all of your knowledge and research is quite spectacularly shared and I look forward to more. Happy holidays to you!

  12. #17 by JM Cogdell on December 23, 2013 - 5:05 pm

  13. #18 by Eli Pacheco on December 27, 2013 - 1:50 pm

    I hope there’s an element of horror in every book I read.

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