Monday 18 October 2010
THE HORROR GENRE
Horror is a genre that spans all genres. Western, romance, sci-fi, murder mysteries - you name it someone out there could spin a horror yarn about it.
Fifty years ago Pan Books produced what would become a thirty year (volumes even) of the Pan Book Of Horror stories edited for the most part by Herbert Van Thal and, from volume 26 by Clarence Paget.
The anthology began with a short story by Joan Aitken called 'Jugged Hare' and ended with '...And The Sea Shall Give Up Its Dead' by Jonathan Cruise. Many authors filled in the years some well known like Robert Bloch, R. Chetwynd-Hayes, Agatha Christie, Bram Stoker, C.S.Forrester and, in later editions, Stephen King - many were not so well known. Plus an appearance in Volume 6 (1965) of a story by John Lennon called 'No Flies On Frank'.
This story also appears in 'Dark Voices' which is a 30th anniversary edition of the original series. The introduction by F.Paul Wilson is pure Lennonist writing. There are introductions to other tales from the likes of David Cronenberg, James Herbert, Clive Barker and Shaun Hutson.
Back in the 1960s it was these short stories that I read at night - the stuff of nightmares that came just before sleep. And I did sleep easy. Even today there are several volumes of horror short stories in my bedside bookcase.
Though I rarely venture into novels I do like the books by Shaun Hutson and Richard Laymon.
When it comes to horror it seems that bookshelves are filled with vampires, zombies, Frankenstein like monsters, haunted houses and the mummy. Although, Richard Laymon touches upon all these things it is when he makes what appears normal to be a scary place.
For example there are a couple in a car heading towards 'The Lake'. The male is remembering the time that he and his female companion first met at College. Then the author pulls the camera back and find that the female is tied into the passenger seat. The conversation, though still normal, takes on a darker hue.
This scene is almost a short story in itself.
One of the new wave of writers - I say new but he may have been around longer - is a chap called Neil Gaiman. I first came across him in an anthology 'Shadows Over Baker Street'. This is a collection of stories where 'Sherlock Holmes enters the nightmare world of H.P.Lovecraft' - and the Neil Gaimen story 'A Study In Emerald' opens up the proceedings. But Neil Gaimen stories can be found in a lot of new anthologies and ranked, on the covers, higher than Stephen King. What I like about this author is that he is a master of the short horror story.
And it was while I was reading Neil Gaiman's story that I recalled the days of 'The Pan Book Of Horror Stories'. Because I think that writing short stories is a darn sight harder than writing a book.
A skill in its own write.