As the lights went black

Halloween is around the corner! And with all the hubbub over Stephen King movie adaptations in the news lately, I’ve had some recent conversations with friends about my personal favorite classic horror authors. I was shocked at how many people hadn’t heard of some of them. So I’m sharing some of my recommendations here, in case anyone else out there has yet to meet them.

I should add that, while I don’t generally write horror, I lived on horror books for many years in my youth. The authors I’m listing have had a huge influence on my writing style. So, big thanks to them for that. Also, I’m not listing Mr. King, although his books are included in those I devoured. IT and The Stand and The Talisman are among my all-time favorite books. But I’m pretty sure he needs no introduction.

Robert R. McCammon

I don’t even know where to start. OK, I’ll start here: As crazy as most of the rest of the world is about King, that’s how crazy I am about McCammon. If you ask me which of his books to read, my response will be ALL OF THEM. GO NOW. BUY THEM ALL.

OK, fine. Top picks:

  • Boy’s Life. Not strictly a horror story, although there are horror elements. It’s largely a coming-of-age story, but there is so much other awesome packed into it. You can’t really describe it. You just have to experience it. It will break your heart—in all the good ways.
  • Swan Song. If you love The Stand, you will love Swan Song. All the standard book blurb descriptions apply: breathtaking, epic tour-de-force, and a cast that will steal your heart.
  • Gone South. Quirky and dark and full of truth.

Peter Straub

Straub is actually the author responsible for this post. I spotted a headline for the upcoming adaptation of “Stephen King’s novel The Talisman,” and went ballistic. The Talisman had TWO authors, thanks much, and Straub is a heavyweight storyteller in his own right. Fun fact: Word has it that King based the character of Bill in IT on his good friend Peter Straub.

Top picks:

  • Floating Dragon. Filled with characters who will capture your heart. Also contains one of the most heart-rending scenes I’ve ever read.
  • Shadowland. Dark and creepy and full of… well, shadows.
  • Ghost Story. My first Straub experience. As with much of his writing, it’s less in-your-face horror and more whispering-madness horror. Which is something I love.

Dean Koontz

Koontz is a little less horror (sometimes) and a little more thriller. He is also incredibly prolific, so good luck catching up on his backlist.

Top picks:

  • Watchers. One of my favorite characters of all time is in this story. Hint: It’s not the humans.
  • Lightning. The twists! The turns! The OMG moment when you finally understand what’s going on! (Actually, you can say that about all Koontz books. But this one had an extra special “that is SO COOL” factor, in my opinion.)
  • The Bad Place. Or maybe Strangers. Both are chock full of the aforementioned twists and turns and amazing characters.

I’m trying really hard to keep my blog posts to a reasonable length, so I’m cutting myself off with my top three personal favorite authors and top three personal picks of their books. If you’re a book person like me, you know exactly how painful that is. (Yes, I know, I cheated. Did I mention it was difficult?)

Feel free to toss out some of your favorites in the comments! (Edit: Which would of course have been a whole lot easier if I’d remembered to enable comments. Oops. Sorry about that, guys!)


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