Quick, name one of your favorite horror authors.
Did you say Stephen King?
You did. I’m pretty good at knowing stuff. In fact, 104% of you answered with some variation of Stephen King. I, like many members of the horror community, got my start in the genre through the Master of Horror himself. To fans and non-fans alike, he is synonymous with the term “horror author”. Other authors may be more poetic, others may be more prolific, but none have meant as much to horror fans as King. The film and television adaptations of his works account for many of our first nightmares. Because of this, we all owe him our gratitude.
Nothing will ever take away our love and admiration for The King. The problem that I have with his books, if I had to pick one, is that there isn’t an infinite supply of them. Horror fans all over the world have rows and rows of his books on their home library shelves, many times displaying multiple editions of the same book. So where does someone turn when they have read and re-read everything in King’s canon? I’m glad you asked! Here are five horror authors that will expand your horizons and keep your bedroom lights on throughout these long winter months.
Book You Have To Read: A Head Full of Ghosts
Winner of the Bram Stoker Award for best horror novel of 2015, A Head Full of Ghosts tells the story of a family going through tough financial times as told through the eyes of an eight year old girl named Merry. Your father has lost his job and has turned to the church for solace. Your mom is breaking under the weight of being the sole breadwinner for the family. They fight and argue constantly, and just when you think things couldn’t get any worse, your sister starts to act… very peculiar.
What is a family to do when faced with a mountain of bills and a possibly possessed daughter? They do what is only natural in today’s world and turn to a reality TV producer. To stay afloat, they sign on the dotted line and invite the world in to see their struggle unfold. Is the troubled sister Marjorie really possessed, or is she merely pretending for the camera, as she claims? Isn’t that exactly what a demon would want you to think? This fantastic novel is fast paced and hard to put down. Marjorie’s behavior made me slam the book shut and yell “NOPE” more than a few times, and the ending is absolutely perfect.
Book You Have To Read: My Best Friend’s Exorcism
Abby is a poor high school girl surrounded by wealth. The year is 1988 and she is attending a prestigious school on scholarship. Luckily for her, she has Gretchen, her beautiful best friend to serve as a bridge into the world of the rich and powerful. One night, Abby and her friends decide to drop LSD and see what happens. Most of the night is filled with boredom, until Gretchen goes missing into the woods, that is. Gretchen returns a few hours later, naked and unaware of where she is. She claims that nothing happened to her in those dark woods, but her behavior begins to tell a different story. Abby must find a way to save her best friend from the monster living inside of her before she is lost forever.
Hendrix is the best at dancing that fine line between comedy and horror. You can go from laughter to cold sweats in the span of a single paragraph. His books are a master-class in marketing and product design, but it’s anything but a gimmick. Packed into this novel is humor, terror and nostalgia for the days when being someone’s best friend actually meant something.
Book You Have To Read: The Deep
The human race is in being decimated by a terrible plague known as the ‘Gets. It causes its victims to forget things on a progressively severe slope. Innocent things are the first to go, like forgetting where you parked your car or your dog’s name. Unfortunately, it escalates quickly from there, until you forget how to breathe or how to circulate your own blood. There is no cure and little hope for survival, until a substance is found at the bottom of the Mariana Trench that behaves like a universal healer. A state of the art lab is built at the bottom of the world and a few brave scientists descend to try to cultivate this substance and create a cure for the ‘Gets. What they find in the darkness, however, is an evil far greater than the world has ever seen.
Canadian author Craig Davidson has released four novels writing as Nick Cutter, and it was difficult to select which title to include in this list. All are amazing in their own way, but none of them scared me quite like The Deep. It reads like a cross between John Carpenter’s The Thing and Sphere, combining paranoia and body horror to create a dread that you can taste in the back of your throat.
Book You Have to Read: Last Days
I have already written about Adam Nevill and even had the chance to ask him a few questions about his novel The Ritual. I’ve admitted many times that Nevill is my favorite horror author, and The Ritual was the first book of his that I read. Although that book has since been adapted into a film starring Rafe Spall, I believe that the book of his that every horror fan should read is Last Days. It follows a guerrilla filmmaker named Kyle as he makes a documentary about the Temple of the Last Days, a cult that was rumored to be involved in the occult and was at the center of a massacre in the mid seventies. Kyle decides to tell the story of the cult and its leader by going to the locations where it once thrived and by interviewing the surviving members. During filming, the members of cult begin to die in horrific ways, and something seems to be coming for Kyle and his crew-mate.
Many cults throughout history have tried to peek through the veil and into the world of the dead. What would happen if one of them actually succeeded, only instead of taking a peek, they managed to create a door? A former member of said cult hires a documentary crew to try to find out if the door can be closed, but what happens when these “old friends” start to come through? I won’t spoil it for you, just know that you will be sleeping with the lights on after this one.
Book You Have To Read: The Fisherman
Winner of the 2016 Bram Stoker Award, John Langan’s The Fisherman is probably the most beautiful novel on this list. It follows a widower named Abe who has found peace on the banks of a river with a reel in hand. He becomes obsessed with the hobby, and invites along a coworker who just lost his whole family in a horrific car crash. They become fishing buddies and start to work their way through their grief in their own ways. That is, until they hear about a new stretch of fishing ground not found on any map called Dutchman’s Creek. While on their way there, there hear a story about the creek that is too good to be true. Could the rushing waters of Dutchman’s Creek possibly bring back the things that they have lost? Or is it just another fisherman’s tale?
With a unique story structure and truly beautiful prose, this tale will take you places you never thought imaginable. A combination of gargantuan monster story and folklore, The Fisherman is all about losing the things we love, and what we would do to get them back. This novel is a great bridge for those who don’t normally read horror fiction, for its scares are hidden between the perfect storytelling and heart wrenching descriptions of grief. The scares are there, though, and when they come at you they are beyond the scale of human understanding.
We all owe our fandom to The King, but these five horror authors are the heirs to the throne. Do yourself a favor and go to your favorite bookstore and pick up a few of these titles. You, and your local power company, will thank me. Hit us up on Twitter or in our Facebook Group and join the discussion. Who are your favorite horror authors right now? If you have read one of these titles, what did you think? I look forward to hearing from you and getting some new recommendations for myself.