Book Review – Oh, the horror

2012-08-24 10:39

I cut my horror teeth on Bram Stoker, Stephen King and Dean Koontz.

As a teenager, I slept with one eye open while The Whisperers and Pet Cemetery sat beside my bed.

I fell a little bit in love with Jonathan Harker and feared the fangs of Count Dracula.

Then an accidental encounter with Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White lured me away from horror to the world of the whodunnit.

There I languished for years whizzing through endless Agatha Christies, Ngaio Marshes and Ruth Rendells.

That’s why it took me so long to meet the smouldering Vampire Lestat created by Anne Rice in her 1976 novel Interview With A Vampire.

I have a nasty suspicion that it was only after I had seen Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt sink their fangs into the story in the 1994 film version that I remembered again my love of horror.

I quickly caught up, devouring The Vampire Lestat, The Queen of the Damned, Memnoch the Devil and The Vampire Armand.

But I had to drag myself through Blood and Gold in 2001 because I had found a new fix – John Connolly.

Every Dead Thing in 1999 – which fittingly won the Bram Stoker Award that year – by Irish author Connolly is still one of the most gruesome thrillers I have ever read. It also introduced the tortured Charlie Parker.

Connolly’s The Black Angel was a revelation, marrying horror and religion in the bone churches of the Czech Republic, and Bad Men blended the everyday with the supernatural and totally creeped me out.

This year, some of the best horror fun I’ve had has been reading debut novelist Lloyd Shepard’s The English Monster.

Sometimes overwritten, it blends horror with the historical and chucks in a bit of police work for good measure.

Shepard sets his story across centuries – figuring out the link is where the fun’s to be had.

The early 1800s are the setting for an array of stomach-heaving murders (based on real unsolved homicides of 1811) and the beginnings of forensic police work.

Then the story skips back to the mid-1500s.

Having found my horror stride again, I was delighted to spot none other than my old friend Rice back on the shelves with The Wolf Gift.

Intrigued, I picked it up.

What would Rice, who had mastered the universe of the undead, do with werewolves?

The answer, sadly, is not nearly enough. Her concern with the redemption of the creature means that he remains more man than beast.

Which is a pity, because it is the tragedy of giving in to the beast within that makes good horror – just ask Mary Shelley (Frankenstein), Robert Louis Stevenson (The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde), Oscar Wilde (The Picture of Dorian Gray) and, of course, the Rice, who wrote Interview With A Vampire.

» Follow me on Twitter @GayleMahala

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