Today’s Guest DJ post reminds me of playing The Monster Mash on a 45 record with my cousins, Bonnie and Jennifer. There were two beds in the room and we leaped from one to the other, screaming the words. So it’s a big ol’ “wah-wah-woo” for John Koloski and his special Halloween Creature Feature!
John Koloski is a teacher and published author who holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University. His first novel, EMPYRES:BLOODBLIND, was published by Northampton House Press and is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
John Koloski’s Top Five Horror Reads
1. Stephen King
Stephen King is the gateway drug of horror writing. So well known that his life story appears in graphic novel format, King is a gypsy fortune teller of writing: he sees all, knows all, and tells all.
When he sees all, King is an excellent non-fiction reporter on the subjects of writing and horror. King’s nonfiction work DANSE MACABRE is an insightful classic that covers horror writers and horror movies.
When he knows all, King produces works such as ON WRITING, a book filled with true stories and extremely practical advice for authors. Called “The best book on writing. Ever” by The Plain Dealer (Clevland), this work bristles with King’s wit and wisdom. ON WRITING is a must own for every curious reader and aspiring author.
When he tells all, his genre coverage is encyclopedic. He offers readers telekinetic prom murders in CARRIE, a Las Vegas-style battle of Armageddon in THE STAND, and a psychic determined to stop the political career of the Antichrist (THE DEAD ZONE). Anything by this master is worth reading, but I recommend his early short stories from NIGHT SHIFT and his first novel, CARRIE. These are King’s exquisite love letters to his twin mistresses, Horror and Terror.
Revered by many horror fans for his Cthulu Mythos, Lovecraft was virtually unknown before his death in 1937. Most of his work appeared in pulp magazines, like Weird Tales and Amazing Stories, and his reputation as a master of horror rightly clawed its way up from the grave. Lovecraft’s idea of a mechanistic universe filled with uncaring gods (Old Ones) becomes truly terrifying when readers learn that all humans who glimpse this truth are doomed to descend into madness from the knowledge. Barnes & Noble has released a beautiful leather-bound edition of Lovecraft’s stories, but for those who read favorite books into dog-eared shreds, I recommend THE ANNOTATED LOVECRAFT published by Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group. Historical background information that accompanies stories in THE ANNOTATED LOVECRAFT make it a real gem for readers.
3. Mary Shelley
Ah, Frankenstein! Not much need to say more here. Readers, particularly students, are often horribly confused on their first reading of this classic. Shelley’s story, subtitled The Modern Prometheus, deals with the horrors faced by a flawed scientist who usurps God’s role as creator. The 1930s image of Boris Karloff as a grunting monster is laughable compared to the eloquent creature portrayed in the novel. Also, the novel’s structure is a hodgepodge, leading some to call FRANKENSTEIN the worst telling of the greatest horror story in the world. Shelly listened to too many critics, including her husband, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, when structuring her tale. In his reanimated heart, though, Frankenstein’s creature is a being as sad, shocking and horrific as Milton’s Satan. How else could one be when rejected by The Creator? Read this work! It’s time well invested.
4. Bram Stoker
Everyone knows Dracula, the quintessential vampire, but have you ever heard of The Lair of the White Worm? This horror story was first published in 1911 – one year before Stoker’s death – and it’s based on the Legend of the Lambton Worm. This horror story involves a witch and a dragon, and it definitely induces “the creeps.” If you’re into vampires, then by all means read DRACULA, but be warned that (much like Frankenstein) it tells a story via multiple narrators, newspaper accounts, and personal letters. For those heavily into trivia, Stoker spent some time in Philadelphia. The Rosenbach Museum in Philadelphia houses several of Stoker’s notes for DRACULA, and those notes are written on Philadelphia hotel stationery. Stoker was a genius at telling unique horror stories, and there’s good reason the annual Stoker Awards for horror fiction bear his name.
Poe invented the modern detective story, and he codified how a great short story should be constructed. Poe’s belief that a story should be read in one sitting and give the reader an overall feeling prompted him to write shorter fiction. Technically, there are no Poe novels due to his aesthetic sense. He wrote poetry, short stories and a novella, but nothing long enough to be termed a novel. Poe’s tragic life gave unlimited fuel for his stories, and his equally tragic and mysterious death still fuels a cottage industry of conspiracy theories. Read Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, The Cask of Amontillado, and The Fall of the House of Usher as minimum samplings of his genius.
There are so many other horror writers to consider, including Richard Matheson, Neil Gaiman, Shirley Jackson, Ray Bradbury, and Anne Rice to name a few. Start with the five listed above, and you will be off to a great start!
You can contact John at www.johnkoloski.com or find him by name on Facebook.
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