Dead Trees: Others by James Herbert

When you bring up the pioneers of hardcore, extreme horror fiction, you’re most likely to hear names like Jack Ketchum and Richard Laymon. As well you should, because these guys were important—important to the fans who were raised on George Romero, Tobe Hooper, etc., and wished to read more than traditional supernatural horror. We wanted, or perhaps we needed, to see the genre tackle more explicit subject matter.

But as great as Ketchum and Laymon are, James Herbert was there first. It’s almost hard to believe now, but Herbert’s first book, a gruesome novel called The Rats, came out in the same year as Stephen King’s Carrie.Continue Reading

Brian Keene’s History of Horror Fiction, Chapter Five: 12th Century Feminist Werewolf Fiction

We’ve explored how the supernatural informed much of humankind’s early written works, from the various texts of the world’s religions to cultural folklore and myths to fiction. Eventually, one religion began to influence them all. Around the same time that anonymous writer was penning Beowulf, the Roman Catholic church’s first official accusation of real-life Satanism took place in the French city of Toulouse. 

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Revelations: J.N. Williamson’s DON’T TAKE AWAY THE LIGHT and “Privacy Rights”

When I first decided the horror genre was for me, (about twelve years ago now, believe it or not), I wrote some stories which were “okay” but were very bound by genre clichés (many of these are featured in my first short story collection, Things Slip Through). Monsters, werewolves, wendigos, women in white, haunted houses, evil doctors, Mothman knock-offs, a few campy vampire stories which thankfully never saw the light of day (one of them, embarrassingly enough, titled “Blood Diner”), serial killers, people who go mad and do terrible things, and some “okay” Lovecraftian pastiches. Continue Reading

Video Visions: I Killed the Video Store

As an early adopter of Netflix, I take full responsibility for my part in the demise of the neighborhood video store. Little did I know that my yearning to get a new DVD each week for a low monthly fee (my first Netflix rental being 1978’s remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers) would seal their doom. To be honest, I thought they would complement one another. There were just so many titles the little shop near me could handle. Netflix would simply fill in the gaps. And let’s not forget the biggest draw of Netflix back then—no late fees!

Ah, hindsight is always 20/20. Continue Reading

Brian Keene’s History of Horror Fiction, Chapter Four: Paving Stones

Minotaur at the National Archaeologic Museum of Athens.

As we’ve already established, supernatural elements informed much of mankind’s early written works, from the various texts of the world’s religions to cultural folklore and myths to one of humanity’s first pieces of fiction—The Epic of Gilgamesh.

Let’s examine some other early works of horror fiction from the dawn of civilization, starting in 1500 B.C. with the tale of Theseus and the Minotaur—a tale of bestiality, royal intrigue, and man-eating monsters. Continue Reading

My First Fright featuring Gemma Files

Painting from the NIGHT GALLERY episode “The Cemetery.”

In Night Gallery, the 1969 film that served as a pilot for the anthology TV series of the same name, there’s a segment titled “The Cemetery” that will forever haunt me. In this macabre tale, the lead character, Jeremy Evans, who has murdered his uncle and lives in his dead relative’s mansion, owns a painting which depicts the mansion and the family graveyard, where his uncle is now buried. As the story progresses, the painting changes. To Jeremy’s horror, his uncle rises from the grave in the painting and lurches closer and closer to the mansion, until….well, I won’t spoil it for you. But the image of that painting, of the undead uncle creeping toward the mansion, has been seared into my brain since I was a kid. Author Gemma Files knows that feeling. She happened upon a book when she was but a child, one filled with images that would haunt and thrill her for years to come. Continue Reading

Dead Trees: The Eighth Square by Herbert Lieberman

I’m going to ask you to bear with me here. Indulge your willing suspension of disbelief for a bit, please.

There was once a time when I thought that a novel about flesh-eating zombies was a great idea.Continue Reading

Brian Keene’s History of Horror, Interlude: Jack Ketchum’s Footprint

In last month’s chapter, we examined one of the world’s first examples of horror fiction—The Epic of Gilgamesh. This month, that was supposed to lead into a chapter on Beowulf, Theseus and the Minotaur, The Iliad and The Odyssey, The Oresteia, Dante’s Inferno, Lucian Samosata’s True History, and more.

I’ve decided we will get to those next month.

Instead, I’d like to use this month’s space to remember a mentor and dear friend of mine. I knew him as Dallas Mayr, but I first met him as Jack Ketchum (which is probably the name you know him by). Continue Reading

My First Fright featuring Grady Hendrix

If you’ve read Paperbacks from Hell, you know that Grady Hendrix is an expert on horror fiction, most specifically mass-market paperbacks produced during the boom of the ’70s and ’80s, with their often eye-popping—some might say “garish”—cover art. What, you might ask, inspired such a fascination for weird, macabre books? In Hendrix’s case, it was a lot of things, but it certainly had something to do with a strange book he discovered while living abroad in England in the late ’70s. A book not intended for kids.

Grady Hendrix is a writer and public speaker based in Manhattan. Along with the aforementioned Paperbacks From Hell (2017), he is the author of the novels Horrorstör (2014) and My Best Friend’s Exorcism (2016). He is currently working on a new novel. Continue Reading

Revelations: T.M. Wright

At one time, T. M. Wright was like Alan Peter Ryan, Charles L. Grant and so many others—just another name I’d heard here and there, most often in a quote from Ramsey Campbell (also, at that point, just another name), which said: “T. M. Wright is a one-man definition of quiet horror.”Continue Reading

Exhumed: “Better Than Breadcrumbs” and “Pelingrad’s Pit” by Ronald Kelly

Welcome to Exhumed, my humble attempt to read and review every story and novel excerpt ever published in Cemetery Dance magazine.

Each month I’ll summarize and analyze a pair of related works. Usually this means comparing one “older” and one “newer” piece by the same author.

In their 29+ years of publication, CD has already printed 560 pieces, spread out over 75 issues. I think I’m going to be doing this for a while…Continue Reading

Stephen King: News from the Dead Zone #204

Stephen King News From the Dead Zone

The Year in Review and a 2018 Preview

Last year was been a banner year in the Stephen King Universe, particularly with respect to the diverse cinematic adaptations of his novels. Let’s take a look back at the various treats we received during 2017, and a peek ahead to what we can look forward to in 2018.
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Doc Savage Forever!

I often tell people that the first book I ever read was (Robert) Heinlein’s Have Space Suit-Will Travel. It’s sort of true, and it sort of isn’t true. In one sense Space Suit is the first novel I read, yes, but that does not count Doc Savage books.Continue Reading

My First Fright featuring Edgar Cantero

I saw Edgar Cantero’s new book Meddling Kids pretty much everywhere I looked this year. On Instagram, Twitter, displayed prominently in both Barnes & Noble locations and independent bookstores (just look at that stunning cover!) The book is often described as, get this, “Scooby-Doo meets H.P. Lovecraft.” That’s some pitch—simple, with recognizable inspirations. I mean, who doesn’t love Scooby-Doo? So with that in mind, I probably should have seen the answer a mile away when I asked him, “What was your ‘first fright’?”

Edgar Cantero is a writer and cartoonist from Barcelona, Spain. He is the author of the punk dystopian thriller Vallvi (2011), The Supernatural Enhancements (2014), and the aforementioned Meddling Kids (2017), which, as of this writing, was nominated for a 2017 Goodreads Choice Award for Best Horror.Continue Reading

Brian Keene’s History of Horror Fiction, Chapter Two: Thurg Life

In the opening sentence of his seminal 1927 essay Supernatural Horror in Literature, H.P. Lovecraft wrote, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear.”

Decades later, in the Introduction to 1982’s Prime Evil anthology, Douglas E. Winter wrote, “Horror is not a genre, like the mystery or science fiction or the western. It is not a kind of fiction, meant to be confined to the ghetto of a special shelf in libraries or bookstores. Horror is an emotion.”

In his posthumously released 1993 song “Thug Life,” 2Pac (Tupac Shakur) rapped, “Thinkin’ of dead niggas that I knew that died young. Is there a heaven for a nigga up to no good, or is it another fuckin’ hood?”

Three seemingly disparate quotes, connected only tenuously, and yet all speaking to one universal truth that is as old as humankind itself. Three quotes that serve to interpolate the work of the Upper Paleolithic era’s version of Stephen King—an artist known as Thurg.Continue Reading