My love of scary books started with comic books.
I am not Stephen King so it wasn’t the EC horror comics that first scared the shit out of me. For little josh it was the Marvel Tomb of Dracula comics and related series. These books came out a little before I actually started collecting comics. As I’ve said before it was GI Joe number one released in the early 1980’s was the comic that got me into the collecting world. But I came into a treasure trove of older comics when I was in elementary school which was stiff with horror comics.
I was a huge fan of Dracula from the Universal and Hammer horror films. The Marvel treatment of the count was and still is one the most awesome adaptations I’ve ever read. It was scary, funny, and smart. But fuck did the art in those books scare the shit out of me. I wish I still had them. In the hobo life I lived for most of my childhood those books were lost in transition.
Then I read Dracula.
I know it’s weird when you consider how much I loved the movies as a kid and how much I love books in general that I had not read Dracula at that point. I plead stupidity and youth as my only defense. Hey I was a stupid fat kids who was and still is blind in one eye.
I loved Dracula but it didn’t change my life. The books age and style made it slightly difficult to get into and I was already so washed in the film versions of the story that I couldn’t get Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee out of my mind as I read. In the years since I’ve read and listened to the books several times and I love it. There are things I would change, hey I’m a horror writer fuck you if I have opinions, but it deserves its place as a classic. I know in my heart people will still be reading it 200 years from now.
I know right now you are probably bracing yourself for yet another pseudo cock sucking of Stephen King. Yes I will always be up front that King is my favorite writer of all time and my literary hero. I don’t get into debates about his writing if I can help it because I know I am extremely biased. Stephen King is the writer I most want to be like. But it wasn’t reading Stephen King that changed my life.
It was Mr. Howard Phillips Lovecraft.
Fall of 1987 was a really hard time for me. I’d been transplanted against my will from southeast Michigan to southern Ohio. I was miserable, I wanted to go home, I wanted to be anywhere but where I was. My mom was having her troubles but she was still my mom and she did the things she could to make me feel better. Sometimes I would wake up with a new book lying next to me on the bed. My mom was the person who taught me it was the little things that made all of the difference. The best was when she would stay up all night recording movies for us off HBO.
On morning we woke up and she’d recorded four movies for us. There was The Vindicator, The Stuff, Night of the Creeps, and most importantly Reanimator. While the other three are some of my favorite 80’s horror flicks it was Reanimator which grabbed my fear center and squeezed until I screamed and peed my panties. I watched the movie half a dozen times over the next week always hiding my face when they entered the morgue.
Let me take a minute to talk about Mr. Jeffrey Combs.
Jeff Combs was the star of Reanimator playing the role of Dr. Herbert West the eponymous Reanimator. He is my absolute favorite actor of all time, if there was a person to play me in the movie of my life I’d pick Mr. Combs. Of course the man would need to wear a fat suit and it would probably kill him but fuck he is an amazing actor and he should have won an Oscar by now!
Now back to Lovecraft.
That was my first exposure to the work of HP but it was not my last. The next week I went to the library, I practically lived at the library back then, and checked out a Lovecraft compilation containing “Herbert West Reanimator” along with several other tales. I was forever changed by that book. To this day my greatest professional regret was to not have been a writer during the great pulp age … except if I was I would have punched L. Ron Hubbard in the face, lying douche-bag.
I discovered Stephen King, outside of his movies, in eighth grade. One night The Shining was on TV and it scared the piss out of me. A few days later I checked the book out of the same Lovecraft sharing library. I have never been so scared by a piece of printed fiction in my entire life. You know that episode of friends where Joey makes Rachael read The Shining?
Fuck you it was a funny show!
Anyway in the show Joey reveals that when the book becomes too scary you need to hide it in the freezer. I wish I’d known that trick back then because I didn’t sleep for an entire night.
Now I write Horror for a living, shit it still weird to say that writing is my job. I know it’s obvious that I try to do my hero’s justice in my writing. I don’t think I ape their styles too heavily, but if I do I don’t apologize, what I try to do is build mood and terror in a manner which would hopefully make them proud.
Or maybe scare them?
The list of scary books that influenced me is so long I could never lost them all. But I think I hit the ones that kicked me in the guts the hardest and started me on my journey. If I’ve missed any of the super important ones … well you’ll never fucking know.
Next installment of this subseries will deal with the television shows that scared me and shaped me. That one is going be a little harder, I am a writer of the TV generation and I know it shows.