Hor­ror nov­els Hav­ing a re­nais­sance

Winnipeg Sun - - ENT-SHOWBIZ -

From the late 1970s through much of the ‘80s, hor­ror fic­tion, long one of the most marginal­ized forms of pop­u­lar en­ter­tain­ment, ex­pe­ri­enced an aes­thetic and cul­tural resur­gence.

The “hor­ror boom,” pro­pelled largely by the phe­nom­e­nal suc­cess of Stephen King, paved the way for nu­mer­ous writ­ers — Peter Straub, Thomas Tessier, Chet Wil­liamson, Ramsey Camp­bell and Dan Sim­mons, to name just a few — who brought tal­ent, in­tel­li­gence and se­ri­ous­ness of pur­pose to the genre.

But ev­ery boom has a bust, and cyn­i­cal, sec­on­drate im­i­ta­tions fea­tur­ing haunted man­sions, ram­pag­ing demons and evil chil­dren soon over­ran the mar­ket­place. It’s been ap­par­ent for some time that a sec­ond hor­ror re­nais­sance is un­der­way, one that is qui­eter and less mar­ke­to­ri­ented.

There is a grow­ing reser­voir of first-rate work com­ing from both main­stream pub­lish­ers and small, in­de­pen­dent presses with names like Ceme­tery Dance, Sub­ter­ranean Press and Blood­shot Books.

With apolo­gies to the laun­dry list of gifted folks I’m over­look­ing, here’s a sam­pling of the best new hor­ror on of­fer.

Ex­per­i­men­tal Film

This novel by Canada’s Gemma Files tells the story of a film critic whose re­search into a piece of an­cient footage leads to vi­o­lent and un­ex­pected con­se­quences. It bal­ances Hun­gar­ian folk­lore and the his­tory of Cana­dian cin­ema with a bruis­ingly re­al­is­tic ac­count of a young cou­ple strug­gling to raise their autis­tic son. This is one of the most orig­i­nal, ac­com­plished hor­ror nov­els of re­cent years.

The Loney

This mys­te­ri­ous, richly at­mo­spheric book (a first novel by Bri­tain’s An­drew Michael Hur­ley) like­wise deals with the im­pact of dam­aged chil­dren

on fam­ily life. Dur­ing Easter Week, a deeply Catholic fam­ily trav­els to a dis­tant shrine on the English coast, hop­ing to find a mir­a­cle cure for their mute older son. Mir­a­cles, they dis­cover, do ex­ist, but al­ways at a cost. Hur­ley’s sec­ond novel, Devil’s Day, will be pub­lished shortly, and an­tic­i­pa­tion runs high.

Widow’s Point

A col­lab­o­ra­tive novella by the fa­ther-son team of Richard and Billy Chiz­mar, Widow’s Point is an epis­to­lary ren­der­ing of a clas­sic hor­ror trope: a psy­chic in­ves­ti­ga­tor’s en­counter with a Bad Place and its an­i­mat­ing spir­its. Set squarely in the tra­di­tion of Shirley Jack­son and Richard Math­e­son, this is a slow burn of a story best read in a sin­gle un­in­ter­rupted ses­sion.


More in the pop­ulist mode of Stephen King, Tom Deady’s Haven fea­tures ado­les­cent he­roes, cycli­cal mur­ders in a small New Eng­land town and gov­ern­ment malfea­sance, not to men­tion a mon­ster in the lo­cal river. The King in­flu­ence is clear and not yet fully di­gested, but Deady’s novel has its own unique virtues: a com­pelling sense of char­ac­ter and place, an un­der­ly­ing warmth and a propul­sive, steadily in­creas­ing nar­ra­tive drive. In dark times, such dark fic­tion has its own spe­cial place. We may never have needed it more.

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