Monday, October 17, 2011

every day is halloween

horror novels

i still read them. once upon a time i was a voracious consumer of horror fiction. and once upon a time bookstores had sections devoted to horror. i'm here to testify to their thrilling appeal and their lurid cover art. boobs, blood, gore and monsters galore! everything a teenage boy needs and wants.

even when i started reading poetry horror fiction was prominent in my reading life. i was balls out for stephen king. i discovered clive barker's seminal short stories collected in a series of paperbacks titled the books of blood. women writers like tanith lee and melanie tem were important voices in horror. i inhaled h.p. lovecraft and old pulp dudes like seabury quinn. there was also ramsey campbell whose elegant fiction belied its nastiness. there were also experimental writers like steve rasnic tem whose fiction was not bloody or gory but weird and disturbing.

perhaps the 1980s was a mini-golden age for printed horror. i recall anthologies of short stories published in abundance. i lost or gave away many of these old paperbacks. i've kept two, the best of masques ed. by j.n. williamson [berkley horror, 1988] filled with masters such as robert bloch [author of the novel psycho which was later adapted by hitchcock], and ray bradbury. the second anthology is night visions: in the blood ed. by alan ryan [berkley books, 1988], a three author series. the writers are charles l. grant, tanith lee and steve rasnic tem. i think i kept these two paperbacks because they are the only books i have with the fiction of tem who i think is quite a good writer.

i'm sure a few more examples of my horror book collection are tucked away in boxes here and there. i don't read as much horror fiction as i did. in fact i hadn't read a horror novel in many, many years until about five years ago when i picked up a paperback by brian keene. keene's a real gut-munching crazy whose prose reads like an exploitation movie. keene reinvigorated the zombie genre in horror fiction with novels such as the rising, city of the dead and dead sea. keene's fiction is fast-paced, gory and addictive.

another recent, for me, discovery is richard laymon who passed away 10 years ago, i think. laymon's fiction is the equivalent of drive-in horror movies. his prose is not as fast but is pretty twisted and damn well bloody. i've read only a couple of laymon's novels cuts and the cellar and they are an acquired taste.

it's a different age. laymon's and keene's publisher, leisure books, gave up the ghost a year ago. they no longer publish cheap paperbacks but have moved into print on demand and e-publishing. the age of pulp fiction, at least fiction printed on pulp, is over. bookstores still carry horror novels and short stories but now they are usually crowded in with fantasy and sci-fi or even tucked onto general fiction shelves. rarely is horror given its own shelf space. still, the internet has been a boon for some horror writers who have gone the route of self-publishing their fiction.

and yet, i miss the bookstore stacks where weird works were to be had for those stupid enough, and brave enough to seek them. i was -- i am -- just that idiot who loves a good lurid cover and a cheap, fast read. just a few nights ago i remember a piece of this dream. i was in a bookstore with a poet friend -- i don't know quite who -- and found a delicious cache of pulp novels. i bought one and said to my friend as i brought the book to my nose so i can smell the paper and print that i love these exploitation novels. here hold it, i said. you can feel the weight of it in your hands.



Post a Comment

<< Home