Gordon McGhie’s Recollections of Becoming A Fan of Horror Books
Fellow book blogger, Gordon McGhie has written a post about becoming a fan of horror books.
Slowly Easing Into Reading Horror
Horror books have been an important part of my library for many, many years. When I was a teenager I had all the books written by Stephen King, James Herbert and Shaun Hutson. I trawled my small town library for the creepy books and even today I vividly remember a collection of ghost stories (published by Armada) which caused me many sleepless nights.
But it was not always like that. I do not ‘do’ horror films and could not imagine voluntarily looking for scary stories – I was a crime reader and I never saw that changing. I can clearly remember the first ‘horror’ story I read and how I came to pick it.
Let me take you back…
I was 14 and had landed the dream Saturday job – I was working in the only bookshop in Inverness and I was loving the chance to surround myself with books each weekend. Making good use of a staff discount I spent most of my wages on new books each week. I had completed the Agatha Christie collection, picked up the debut novels by new writers called Patricia Cornwell and James Patterson and was cherry picking the best of the new releases as they hit the shelves.
One of the less glamorous roles in a bookshop is dusting down the books. The ‘Saturday kids’ were allocated sections of the shop to look after (by which I mean dust and shelf polish) part of my job was to look after the horror books. Week after week I would tidy and arrange the ghoulish covers and I got more and more curious about the stories behind the pictures.
On reputation alone I knew Stephen King would be a good place to start. I read the blurb on the back of all the books and eventually decided that Pet Semetary was the one. I say eventually as I lifted the book and put it back on the shelf three or four times per week for a good couple of months. Finally I bit the bullet and bought the damned thing.
It sat by my bed for another couple of weeks before I finally plucked up the courage to start reading. Instantly hooked! It was like nothing I had read before and it was wonderful. I finished it in superfast time and hit the library to get more – I could not wait until the following Saturday to get back to work. My solo focus on crime thrillers was over and I was about to embark on a chilling few years of reading as I caught up on the great horror stories I had missed.
Over the years I have read some amazing books. They have chilled, terrified and delighted. I have my favourites – they remain so and I would urge anyone to pick out these books if you have not read them.
James Herbert was an early favourite, his Rats trilogy (The Rats, Lair and Domain) were read several times over. I also loved The Magic Cottage and Haunted but would urge everyone to avoid Ash.
Shaun Hutson also featured heavily in my reading – all deliciously dark but Spawn was my favourite.
The late Richard Laymon is another author I read over and over. Funland and the Beast House collection are amongst my top picks from his back catalogue.
Keeping a crime theme going but with heavy doses of horror reading were the books of Michael Slade – Canadian stories featuring the RCMP. It is only recently that I have come across a crime writer who matches Slade for the unexpected nastiness: step forward Mr Paul Finch and his magnificent Heck novels.
Finally I have to mention Stephen King. So many amazing titles and how can I name just a few? But there is one book – a standout novel which is not only my favourite horror story but my favourite book EVER. The one book I would take to my desert island and the book I could finish and immediately jump back to page 1.
Best of the best.
Had I not plucked up my courage all those years ago to try Pet Semetary I would never have read IT and I feel that my life would be missing something which makes me who I am.
I believe in the power of words and I salute the authors who can make me glance up into the room as I am reading because I am convinced something is watching me. Horror books may not be in vogue at the moment but this is a genre you cannot ignore.
Visit Gordon McGhie’s blog – http://www.grabthisbook.net