I went to the used book store today, and passed over the racks of uniform fantasy, to gaze glumly at the shelves of horror novels, and thought “Crud, I don’t know any of these people.” I mean, I’ve read everything Stephen King’s written, and enough Dean Koontz that I really don’t need to read any more, and Clive Barker’s stuff for kids is fabulous, but his work for adults is so complicated and laborious that I cannot follow it for beans. And Straub, I suspect, is a genius, but he’s tough going–I practically needed sherpas and a yak to scale “Shadowland.” (Now, I loved the Talisman dearly, but I suspect King did a lot of the heavy lifting in the readibility department.) And Anne Rice, of whom the less said the better, has apparently written a whole bunch of books in the period since I stopped caring.

And that’s all the horror writers I know. I gazed aimlessly across the shelves–there’s enough V.C. Andrews that you could tie ’em to somebody’s feet and send them to sleep with the fishes. Hmm, think I saw a movie about that once. There was incest and arsenic or something. There’s a bunch of single books by names I don’t recognize. There is something by the guy who did Goosebumps. Meh. I pull books out at random, read the backs, and they tell me nothing much useful, except that apparently Stephen King will give a nice jacket quote to practically anybody.

It took me a long time to find high points of fantasy. My entire adolescence, for example. It’s like wading through a dung heap, really–you’re in a vast sea of crap, looking for the brilliant carapaces of scarabs wandering by the edges. For every China Mieville, there’s a dozen Piers Anthony. I assume that horror as a genre is no different.

So, O readers! Recommend me some good horror, I beg of you! (You came through so well with mystery and science writing, I figure what the heck.) I enjoyed Caleb Carr and Thomas Harris, but my great love was the stuff with supernatural and fantasy overtones, to no surprise. (But nothing with vampires, I beg. So very bored of vampires. Also, anything with werewolves would have to hold up to brutal unromanticism.) And here’s the thing–it doesn’t have to be great. It doesn’t have to be literature. It can be the sort of book you hide under the table from your spouse in shame. I am a great fan of readibility. I did read quite a lot of Koontz, and I devour the Harry Potter books like everybody else. I am perfectly willing to read fun crap. I want entertainment, not ephiphany. This book does not need to change my life. I am not hoping for a horror version of “Perdido Street Station” (although I’d love one, of course.) Readable and captivating for an hour or two is all I ask.


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