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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Horrors!

‘Tis the season to explore a genre loved by many -– horror fiction. Stephen King has just published his newest opus, Lisey’s Story. Other masters include Peter Straub, Thomas Harris and Robert McCammon. If you want to check out some recommendations from Fairfax County Public Library staff, browse their list of horror picks. Another source for good horror reading is the Bram Stoker Awards, presented by the Horror Writers of America each year. Creepers by David Morrell and Dread in the Beast by Charlee Jacob tied for first place last year.

Horror has its roots in the demons and vampires that populated the folklore of ancient Babylonia, India, China and Japan, but modern horror dates from the gothic tales of the late 18th and early 19th century. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker’s Dracula are among the best known. Other pioneers of horror fiction include H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Alan Poe.

Of course, you may be asking yourself: what’s the difference between a horror novel, and a thriller? The key ingredient is the presence of the supernatural. So for example, although Thomas Harris’ book about a debonair cannibal in The Silence of the Lambs is horrifying, there’s arguably no supernatural force involved in the story. On the other hand, Black House, which Peter Straub coauthored with Stephen King, has shape-shifters and an alternate universe in addition to the horror of cannibalism.

Inquiring minds want to know: which of your favorite authors have kept you up at night with the light on?

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