Yes, you heard right.
I’m a fraud.
I’m not the horror aficionado that you all think I am.
You may have thought that after reading For G.O.O.D., Collection and Black Man With A Gun, but, really I’m still a novice in this genre. I know Crawl (still playing out in serial format in the latest issue of Spectacular Speculations; by the way, the October contest for Speculations is closed) was written back in 2003, but it is mostly science fiction.
Even though I have been writing for more than 30 years and call myself a science fiction and horror writer, I got caught with my hand in the cookie jar with this week's topic -- my favorite horror novel or the one that influenced me the most.
A longtime horror writer should have a wealth of books to refer back to. He should have favorite authors he can't count on both hands.
Sorry if you thought that about me.
I have committed some egregious sins in the horror field. I did not read Bram Stoker’s Dracula until about five years ago.
Truth is, I’ve never been able to get through Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus because I still compare it to James Whale’s classic with Boris Karloff.
I did not get enough desire to go find Daphne du Maurier’s The Birds until after I had gotten the 40th anniversary DVD edition of Alfred Hitchcock’s masterful film version.
And, most serious of all, I moved away from Boston in the summer of 1982 without reading a single Stephen King story. Yeah, me, the guy who won an ACT-SO award for a chilling ghost story in 1981 did not read the Master of Horror while actually living in New England (the inspiration for the ghost story was The Screaming Skull, an absolutely dreadful film, even by my standards).
I saw Salem’s Lot on television and it did not lead me to a bookstore. When I was in high school in Texas, I found a copy of Night Shift and only then did I get into Mr. King. Oddly enough, I love his anthologies but have not been able to really read his full-length novels.
And I think I can blame it all on H.P. Lovecraft.
[caption id="attachment_3684" align="aligncenter" width="96" caption="H.P. Lovecraft, circa 1934"][/caption]
He was the one horror guy I did read at the library (and that was initially because of the fancy covers of his books). I found myself trying to get all of his books.
But, let’s face it, folks. H.P. Lovecraft was downright weird.
One glimpse into The Call of Cthulu, The Lurking Fear, The Colour Out of Space and The Shadow Over Innsmouth and you’d think you’ve entered another plane of reality (which you have). Fates you can’t escape, no matter if you’re a thousand years removed from the incident, deeply depressing circumstances and the inability for anyone to escape.
If I want that, I'll reread Thomas Tryon's Harvest Home.
To this day, I still can’t psyche myself into writing a Lovecraftian tale.
Thus, I read his books trying to understand them because it was a great challenge for a growing and maturing mind that had already dismissed the juvenile books about hot rods and wanted more than Johnny Tremaine. But, my brain was not up to the task yet and I made no trips to other sections of the horror shelves.
Finally, though, I was saved by Mr. King. Nightshift, a collection of the short stories he wrote and sold for various magazines in the 1970s, really got to me in a way that Lovecraft could not. I understood King’s stories, for one thing. Secondly, I could identify with the characters. Thirdly, King did not make New England into one horrible cesspool just a level or two above Dante’s Inferno like Lovecraft did (King was born in Maine; Lovecraft in Providence, Rhode Island).
King’s stories like The Raft where four horny teenagers get caught in the middle of a forbidden lake by a monstrous entity reminded me of my days as a horny teen sneaking up to Silver Lake in Halifax to watch Rachel and Michelle skinny dip (fortunately, the lake had no black gunk in it to spoil my experiences – there’s a joke in there but I’m not going to say it, you perverts).
Eventually, some of King’s works have found their way into my writing. Take a second look at For G.O.O.D. and you’ll see a bit of Quitters, Inc. in there.
The truth is, though, is that I’ve never really needed horror stories to influence my writing. I can look at everyday normal situations and think of some way they can become horrible and terrifying.
That’s how Palmetto bugs became the boogeymen of Red Herring.
And that scratching in the ceiling, is that from the squirrels running around in the eaves?
Or can it be something else?
Wait, I hear something more. More than just scratching. It sounds like…like…
My God, they’re gnawing through the ceiling. They’re coming after me.
They're...they're in the walls!
DAMN YOU, LOVECRAFT!!!!
Ah, another contest: Seems like I was just here. But, since my last contest went so well, I’ll take a cue from James and try again. If we can get some new reviews or comments over the next two weeks for at least one blogger this week and next, I’ll send the winner a copy of one of my favorite classic horror novels – Night Shift (Stephen King), The Birds (Daphne du Maurier), Pyscho (Robert Bloch), Stinger (James McCammon), The Keep (F. Paul Wilson) or Dark Tidings (Gregory Marshall Smith)