But not just any list. Most of us know those: Stoker and Shelley and Poe and Lovecraft, etc. etc. No, how about a top ten list of forgotten, or nearly forgotten, classic horror writers from the 19th and early 20th century. In each case on the list below, I’ve recommended a single title as a starting point, but there are plenty more by each of these authors if you seek them out.
Arthur Machen The Terror and Other Stories
Guy du Maupassant The Horla and Other Stories
E. T. A. Hoffman The Best Tales of Hoffmann
M. R. James Casting the Runes and Other Ghost Stories
Manly Wade Wellman After Dark
Robert W. Chambers The King in Yellow
Lord Dunsany Tales of Three Hemispheres
William Hope Hodgson The House on the Borderland
F. Marion Crawford The Complete Wandering Ghosts
A. W. Merritt The Moon Pool
And two more, for good measure:
Algernon Blackwood The Best Supernatural Tales
Smith, Clark Ashton The End of the Story
Certainly, there is plenty of room for quibbling. If a more famous name such as Maupassant appears, why not the horror fiction of Charles Dickens or Arthur Conan Doyle (frankly, there aren’t many stories more horrifying than A Christmas Carol, if truth be told)? Lord Dunsany is known predominately for fantasy and E. T. A. Hoffmann for the German märchen or folktale. Yet both extended a great influence individually on two of the greatest horror writers of all times: the former, Dunsany, on H. P. Lovecraft, and the later, Hoffmann, on Edgar Allan Poe. And both knew how to tell a very chilling horror tale, indeed.
So, if you are sick of the same old, same old King or Koontz, if you’ve had it with book shelves seemingly packed with ubiquitous vampires and interminable zombies, if you’ve never heard of a werepanther and really don’t care to, why not take a look at some of the authors that helped create the modern horror story. You won’t be sorry.
Or maybe you will …
P.S. Though we have gotten the attention of our mayor and local and state representatives with the possible closing of 5 branches, this isn’t the time to let up. Please continue to email, call, and talk to our representatives to let them know that the library needs long-term sustainable funding to keep our branches open and our all-important presence in communities across town. Your effort is making a difference and we thank you for all you’ve done and continue to do.