Penguin has a 10-book collection of Gothic Horror that is bar-none an essential to any horror-genre loving reader.
And before this Christmas I was three books shy of a complete series.
My sister-in-law went shopping with my wife, and a phone call home to me about what books I needed to finish such a series, was an alert that I was going to get one or maybe two of the outliers.
But, I scored all three: The Beetle by Richard Marsh, Lois the Witch by Elizabeth Gaskell and The Virgin of the Seven Daggers by Vernon Lee.
So props to my sister-in-law for the gifts.
How this pertains to writing? Well, you’ve got to learn from the classics in order to pen the modern prose. Too many people rely on the modern tropes and trends, but really, you need to pay tribute to the founding fathers (and mothers) of the horror genre.
In this case: Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Bram Stoker, William Hope Hodgson, Ambrose Bierce, Wilkie Collins, M.R. James (who I’m not a big fan of but regardless), Vernon Lee (Violet Paget), Richard Marsh (Richard Heldmann) and Elizabeth Gaskell.
Even in the Victorian era, there was pessimism, especially with the likes of Bierce and Fin de siècle member, Richard Marsh (Heldmann). I’m a little disappointed there’s no reference to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley or Ann Radcliffe but heck, you can’t have them all.
So, once you have a grasp of the earliest contributors to the genre, you can move into the golden era writers like Richard Matheson, Shirley Jackson and James Herbert and then into more modern-types like Stephen King, John Saul and Peter Straub. If dialogue is your bag: Anne Rice. I’ve never been a fan of her work, but to each their own.
I’ve got a lot of reading to do, regardless.