Keaton's Haunted Corner of Horror: Horror Business

Welcome to the first installment of this literary celebration of all things spooky: Keaton’s Haunted Corner of Horror! Now, if you’ve spent any time at all around me, it’s no secret that I am a diehard fan and advocate for the horror genre. An advocate, you say? Why yes, because unfortunately horror--whether as film or literature--has always been treated as fiction’s derided stepchild, lacking any real artistic legitimacy and at best providing cheap thrills for the masses. But this humble horror nerd would argue that could not be further from the truth.

Horror is serious business. Jordan Peele’s Nope has topped more than $100 million at the box office, and Stephen King is still one of the top ten bestselling authors alive today. But far beyond the obvious popularity of the horror genre, at its best it can explore the darkest truths and fears of humankind like no other form of fiction can. Why is this important? Because abject horror goes right to the core of the human experience, all the way back to those terrified Homo habilis huddled together in their caves afraid of everything. And how did they cope with the unknowable horror surrounding them? They made up stories, of course. They created gods and monsters, folk and fairy tales to explain and stand in for all they did not understand. Because we fear that which we do not understand. So from ancient myths to the Brothers Grimm and all the way to today, horror has always been with us more than anything to help humanity make sense of a merciless and unforgiving world. 

Fast forward to our relatively modern times, and you still find the shadows of human fears cast all around us. They have always been with us, even (maybe especially) when we refuse to acknowledge their presence in our hearts and minds, in our history and our world as always a result of our own making. Take for example prolific Blackfoot author Stephen Graham Jones’ Native American take on US history. To paraphrase, for an Indian every inch of American soil is bloodsoaked and riddled with the ghosts of countless massacres and endless sorrow. How is that not horror? Or for instance the historical reality of slavery and the painful legacy of Black Americans to this very day? How is that not horror? Perhaps that is why the great Toni Morrison conceived of her masterpiece, Beloved, as a ghost story. 

And that brings me to August’s feature horror title--Brian Lumley’s grisly 1986 cult classic Necroscope. Re-released earlier this month, this is the first volume in the most imaginative take on vampire fiction you’ve never read. Set during the Cold War, the US and the Soviets are in a supernatural arms race involving powerful beings for whom death is no obstacle. Hmm, a terrifyingly powerful state apparatus from which there is no escape even in death? Sounds like Cold War paranoia to me. And considering the actual experiments into the occult and paranormal performed by the superpowers of the 20th century, are vampires all that big of a jump? Definitely not for Lumley, whose combination of otherworldly horror and political espionage is still shocking and incredibly unique more than 30 years later.   

Also be sure to check out The Devil Takes You Home by Texan author Gabino Iglesias. A desperate father takes a dark descent into crime, murder, and perhaps damnation when debt threatens to consume his precarious life. A ruminative yet action-packed thriller that revels in the horror of the impossible decisions from which no good can come. Then there is Haunted Tales: Classic Stories of Ghosts and the Supernatural, because honestly what is better than a great collection of spooky stories? Compiled by superstar anthologists Lisa Morton and Leslie Klinger, these are golden age horror stories that highlight the literary bona fides of the genre, with contribution from the likes of Virginia Woolf and Algernon Blackwood. 

But all of this is just a roundabout way for me to say that ironically the shadows of horror are among the most illuminating aspects of any literary genre. It is primal and unflinching, unafraid (again irony) to plumb the darkest depths of humanity. Because in the end, all the monsters are only ourselves…in one form or another. 

So what are you afraid of?   

Necroscope By Brian Lumley Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9781250862471
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Tor Nightfire - August 16th, 2022

The Devil Takes You Home: A Novel By Gabino Iglesias Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780316426916
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Mulholland Books - August 2nd, 2022

Haunted Tales: Classic Stories of Ghosts and the Supernatural By Lisa Morton (Editor), Leslie S. Klinger (Editor) Cover Image
By Lisa Morton (Editor), Leslie S. Klinger (Editor)
$26.95
ISBN: 9781639361977
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Pegasus Books - August 2nd, 2022

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