Horror Means…Stephen King?

Horror, to me, means many different things. There’s monsters–vampires, werewolves, witches, demons, the blob, etc. Slashers like Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, Norman Bates, and Freddy Krueger. Books like Shirley Jackson’s THE LOTTERY, Richard Matheson’s I AM LEGEND, and Dean Koontz’s MIDNIGHT. From movies to comics to books, there’s plenty to love about horror as a genre.

The Shining

Then why do so many people immediately bring Stephen King into the mix, like he’s the be-all end-all when it comes to horror in literature?

I want to be clear about something. I have no animosity for Mr. King or his work. I own, and have enjoyed, a handful of his books (specifically THE STAND and SALEM’S LOT). He’s a passionate storyteller with a love for the creepy. He’s a man after my own heart who I admire and respect.

I don’t know what it is. I’ve been seeing it all over social media as people–authors and fans–give a nod to Mr. King because Halloween is coming. “Want to read something scary?” they say. “Read Stephen King.”

I can’t help but wonder why?

Is it because Mr. King’s name is easily recognizable to even casual readers? Perhaps Mr. King is the only name they know in horror literature because they aren’t well read in the genre? I don’t really have an answer. I also understand that some people genuinely enjoy Mr. King’s work and love talking up their favorite author, as is their right. I’m all for anything that shines a light on horror, especially in literature.

I can’t think of a better way to show your love for your favorite author than by investigating authors who they love. I would hope the people who love Mr. King’s work have looked into authors like Richard Matheson who heavily influenced SK. I’d recommend I AM LEGEND and HELL HOUSE (been a while since I’ve read this one).

DarkfallMy first reaction to hearing Stephen King’s name is always what about Dean Koontz? Mr. Koontz is a legend in the horror genre. His earlier books–DARKFALL, PHANTOMS, MIDNIGHT, STRANGERS, TWILIGHT EYES, WATCHERS, and LIGHTNING (just to name a few)–are hardly ignorable. Dean has spent a lifetime walking the line between literary and mainstream horror. He writes with an eloquence few others can match, except, of course, Stephen King. In my mind you can’t mention one without the other. For years these two writers dominated horror in literature.

I’m sure we could make a case for a few other authors too. We could make an argument for someone like Anne Rice, Clive Barker, or John Saul just to name a few. The point is there are plenty of other authors out there with a career’s worth of novels worthy of mentioning in this conversation.

I guess I fear readers are limiting themselves to only Stephen King. If you’re a fan of horror in literature I recommend exploring the genre to discover other authors, and books, you may like. Ask authors, book bloggers, publishers, or anyone else you can think of for recommendations. Try asking for multiple recommendations at once. You may just find you’ve been missing out on the greatest talents you’ve never heard of.

What horror books would I recommend? Keep in mind these are in no particular order. You can’t wrong with any of these.

  1. AFRAID, by Jack Kilborn
  2. THE STRAIN, by Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan
  3. I AM LEGEND, by Richard Matheson
  4. GHOST ROAD BLUES, by Jonathan Maberry
  5. THE DESCENT, by Jeff Long
  6. HOSTAGE TO THE DEVIL, by Malachi Martin (I can honestly say this is the only book I’ve ever been scared by…ever.)
  7. THE EDINBURGH DEAD, by Brian Ruckley
  8. NECROSCOPE, by Brian Lumley
  9. THE STAND, by Stephen King
  10. DARKFALL, by Dean Koontz

Check out Flavorwire’s Top 50 Scariest Books of All time here: http://flavorwire.com/419194/the-50-scariest-books-of-all-time/

If you’re anything like me, then you get excited around this time of year. October tends to be the month a spotlight shines on horror as a genre. While it may have much to do with Halloween, true horror fans keep that light shining all year round. This is our passion. We love, and welcome, everyone to the table no matter who you are or what level of knowledge you may possess. Just make sure you check your seat before you sit. We’ve got some wonderfully twisted individuals who won’t pass up the chance to scare your pants off. 😉

Does horror mean Stephen King? Yes. But it also means so much more.

You can find out more about Stephen King here: http://www.stephenking.com/index.html

You can find out more about Dean Koontz here: http://www.deankoontz.com/

What horror books would you recommend? What’s your favorite Stephen King book? What’s your favorite Dean Koontz book?

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9 comments

  1. This is so true. Stephen King is something of a blessing and a curse to those of us in the genre. His extreme popularity brings so many readers in, but at the same time he does dominate the field, as you mentioned. For me, King stands out because (some of) his books are actually *scary*. I’ve been truly, deeply scared by three novels in my life, and two of them were Stephen King books: The Shining and ‘Salem’s Lot. No one does fear like King. Of course that’s not the only thing good horror does (quality of prose, depth of thought, compelling characters, unique concepts, etc.), so I have many other authors I read and love, but maybe that’s why King sits at the top of the stack. Not to mention that is prose is very accessible to casual readers!

  2. Great points. If anything, Mr. King is a great gateway to horror in literature. We can only hope once readers discover horror they stick around and discover all the other talented authors.

  3. You’ve touched my favorite subject.

    Stephen King, for me, is not a horror writer at all. Salem’s Lot is the only creepy novel he has ever written. Novels like Cujo and The Dead Zone are fine thrillers/dramas, but hardly qualify as horror. Clive Barker and Ramsey Campbell are pretty good, but I like Clark Ashton Smith and H.P Lovecraft more. Also, I’m a fan of black magic novels of Dennis Wheatley.

    Have you read the anthologies edited by Stephen Jones (especially The Giant Book of Terror)? They are great.

    The case of Charles Dexter Ward by Lovecraft is probably the best horror book I’ve read.

  4. I was thirteen, sitting in Mr. Grimes’ class when I finished “Salem’s Lot” and I all but blew a gasket, trying not to throw the book at the wall. I loved it. Right up until chick stalked out with a fence post (or whatever it was) to check on the vamps and get’s herself killed. It took all my self control not to yell at her. Oh my goodness, he’s good at getting you pissed off at characters.

    I automatically think of Dean Koontz when I think of Stephen King. I must admit, I read more of Koontz’s work than King’s though.

    I will DEFINITELY check out your list of books. 😀
    #3 – I’ve read the third book in the series, and I have to say, I wasn’t impressed. I don’t know what about the book really annoyed or bored me, but yeah.
    I wanted to wait a few years after watching I Am Legend before reading the book. Now would be a good time. Thanks for the reminder. 😀

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