Friday, July 21, 2006

The Horror, The Horror

Mes Amis

Why is it so hard to find well written horror in the bookshops?

At least in the UK. Or at least round here.

In fact, why is it so hard to find almost any horror?

Go into Waterstones. Go on. Run. Look around. Find the horror section. No, wait, you missed it. Go back. Yeah, there's SF. Comic books and...

No, those three shelves there. Your horror section.

I know, even I didn't know there was only five authors ever wrote horror. King, Koontz, Laymon, some dude called Lovecraft (who, it seems, only every published omnibuses) and some chick called Anne Rice...

Okay, okay, there are a few more authors. But not many. And King and Koontz dominate the shelves along with Rice. Why? Is the majority of horror really that bad or unpopular?

I ask this because lately I took a few chances. Sara Gran's brilliant Closer is an example of the lean mean kind of horror I've been asking for all these years (160-odd pages and still more chilling that Koontz or co could ever dream of). Tom Piccirilli's Headstone City wasn't exactly horror (more supernatural drama mixed with crime) but I enjoyed the heck out of it. And yet it took a lot of searching to find these two authors and mostly because I'd had them reccomended to me. Actually the Picirilli I stumbled across because the Edinburgh shops happen to be better stocked than most places round here and included a few imports.

My point is: horror is a brilliant genre and yet it seems hopelessly ignored sometimes. With its popularity at the box office (even in the watered down form it often takes these days) I have to ask: why aren't the bookstores promoting more diversity in our chills? I love to be scared. I am searching for a book to creep the hell out of me. Same as I am with movies.

Or am I just shopping in all the wrong places?

Au revoir



Jennifer Jordan said...

I agree about the representation of horror in bookstores and about Sara Gran's book.

I've long been a fan of good horror but I know full well there is some cheesy stuff out there. But if any genre is the red-headed step child of writing, it's horror.

When I noticed a new genre, called Bizzaro literature, slowly rising, I was happy. Damned happy. You'll see none of it on the shelves and special orders are the only way i"ve gotten a hold of any of it. But, I crave it. Love it. Read it whenever I'm not buried in review books.

I read Sara Gran's COME CLOSER just days ago (after reading her MySpace profile) and utterly loved it. The pacing was perfect and it really was creepy as hell.

You're a smart boy, Russ-poo.

Charlie Williams said...

Russel - before I got DEADFOLK published I was writing horror novels and getting nowhere with them. Publishers hate the genre unless you are already made. King, Koontz, Rice, Laymon (RIP), Herbert... these guys were made back in the glory days of horror (actually Rice is a bit different but we'll lump her in). 70s and 80s, horror was the big genre and publishers threw money at it indiscriminately. As a consequence you got a lot of shit published, which in turn brought down the level of perceived quality in the genre and thereby destroyed it. So although publishers will say now that they are wary of publishing horror because the genre doesn't sell, it's THEIR FAULT. But like you say, the market is different now and it's time for some growth.

If you can find him, have a look at a British horror writer called Tim Lebbon (published by Leisure in the States, no one at all over here). I haven't read a couple of his more recent books but his earlier stuff rocked - especially a zombie novella called THE NAMING OF PARTS. The short stories of Steve Rasnic Tem are amongst the best I have seen of any genre. Other than that, I think you have to go back and rediscover some of the older horror. Recently the genre has seemed a bit cliquey and inbred. Talking of inbred, don't forget Joe Lansdale's contributions in this field. And if you want to push it out, Ed Lee.

I must read the Sara Gran book.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the kind words about HEADSTONE CITY, Russ. Much appreciated. It's nice to know there are a few venues for my work in the U.K.

Best, Pic