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Top 10 Most Significant Horror Authors

MovieMaven 22 Comments

Of course horror fans have hobbies that reach beyond watching the monsters created on film. Most of us also enjoy engrossing ourselves in those that attempt to grab us from the page. This week I have decided to list some of my favorite authors; those that have been such an influence on me over the years for countless reasons.

Obviously the number goes far past ten but I cannot list them all. Herein you will find my list of favorites. These are the ones who keep me from extinguishing the bedside lamp so quickly or beckon me to keep my eyes open just a little longer than I would like.
A word of warning, gentle reader. Do not search for Dean Koontz on this list. You will not find him. And make no mistake, it is not an omission in error. Read on if you dare to find my:

Top Ten Spooky Scribes

10. Anne Rice

Admittedly I am more a fan of her erotic works under the pseudonym Roquelaure, but there is no denying that her horror works have been influential, particularly to vampire fans. Her gothic tales are sensual and frightening and her characters are colorful.

9. Bentley Little

While Little’s work is more pulpy than literary, he pulls no punches and tends to be rather graphic. Fans of such will enjoy his skill. I first ran across him after reading a review in Fangoria magazine many years ago. I was intrigued so I picked it up and had a great time with it as well as many others that I devoured immediately after.

8. Ira Levin

Responsible for such classic tales as Rosemary’s Baby and The Stepford Wives, Levin weaves tales with grace and style. The former is extensively creepy and masterful. Easily one of my favorite books of all time.

7. Shirley Jackson

Among many other things, she is responsible for The Haunting of Hill House which spawned the favored ghost film, The Haunting. Her word choice is precise and calculated, one of the many reasons I adore her style as much as I do. Every good writer knows there are a million different ways to say the same thing, but the art is in choosing the right one.

6. John Saul

Another novel writer who isn’t necessarily literary, Saul is fun nonetheless. And I am not a snob when it comes to reading. In his earlier works you can count on someone “putting the car in gear” and someone’s “gorge rising” and there is a definite formula to his storytelling. But I find comfort in his tales. Perhaps you can “read him like a book” but all that ensures is that I will be happy with the destination once I have arrived.

5. H.P. Lovecraft

Few authors have been as influential to horror fans and films as Lovecraft. Without him there would be no Cthulhu, no Miskatonic University, no Herbert West. I fought with myself to put him higher, but these final five slots are always difficult to decide. Here I apologize to my boyfriend as he battled hard to claim the number two spot for Lovecraft. Sorry baby, I tried.

4. Clive Barker

As I mentioned earlier, these top five spaces were very difficult for me, almost enough to make me abandon the list altogether, but Ipersevered. Barker nosed above Lovecraft and behind King, once again to the chagrin of my beloved. But that does not mean I don’t respect and admire his works. I mean, come on, The Hellbound Heart alone earns him a ranking.

3. Stephen King

Ah, King. Possibly the first name that comes to mind when anyone thinks of horror writers. He is as macabre as he is prolific and his titles from Carrie to the more recent Cell grace my shelves in a place of honor. Sometimes he dodders on about seemingly unimportant things, but his mind is truly twisted and that I can admire. I could easily do a Top Ten King Novels as so many of his volumes are close to my heart.

2. Edgar Allen Poe

Speaking of influence, long before I knew who Stephen King was, I curled up to read Poe by flashlight under the covers of my bed. Everyone knows The Telltale Heart, The Pit and the Pendulum and The Caske of Amontiallado. Even his haunting poem The Raven is perfect for a reading on Halloween night. It was his prose that first made me recognize the beauty that comes from properly formed phrases. Because of him, my love of the written word was spawned early and has only grown since.

1. Richard Matheson

And here we are again at number one. I hope there is no need for me to defend my choice here. Matheson gave us I Am Legend, which in turn, gave us Romero’s zombie films. His influence is splattered all over the annals of horror. Hell House is one of the only books to ever truly frighten me. Okay the other one was just a short story, Prey, also penned by Matheson. His imagination is endless but more than that, I am enamored of his skill. The ease with which his yarns unfold make reading pleasurable. His effortless use of the English language is thrilling to behold. For those reasons plus many more, he is steadfastly placed at the head of the pack. If you are a reader but somehow unaware of his talents, I implore you to end that straightaway.

Honorable Mentions:

Bram Stoker – I would be remiss if I failed to mention this man. Dracula is one of the most oft adapted tales, horror or otherwise. No horror fan could deny his presence with every bite of every neck that has ever graced the screen.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley – Again, she is the reason for one of horror’s most beloved creatures, the Frankenstein Monster. Fans of this genre owe her multitudes.

William Peter Blatty – I couldn’t leave Blatty behind completely. The Exorcist is arguably the greatest horror film ever created. But without his book, we would never have seen it. And what would we do without our spinning heads and pea soup?

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22 Comments

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      1. Azrael Michael Hiers December 28, 2013 at 12:24 am

        I would have been furious had Lovecraft and Poe not been on that list.

      2. Terry December 28, 2013 at 12:29 am

        What about James Herbert? Started at the same time as King. The late Herbert’s books are amazing.

        • Daniel Loubier December 28, 2013 at 11:56 pm

          +1 Terry. Herbert is a master. Portent, Haunted, Others, Once…this dude was brilliant. Too bad we lost him earlier this year.

      3. ron December 28, 2013 at 12:30 am

        Though King is my favorite, I have no issue where you placed him on your list…..though I think Dean Koontz should have been there somewhere.

      4. Mark Slocum December 28, 2013 at 12:34 am

        Anne Rice? She’s not a horror writer. Just because her characters are of a super natural nature does not mean she’s a horror writer.

      5. Terry Roberts December 28, 2013 at 12:38 am

        Not happy that James Herbert is not on the list.

        • Herner Klenthur
          Herner Klenthur December 28, 2013 at 12:45 am

          Everyone has their own tastes in authors :)

      6. Monica Nakagawa December 28, 2013 at 12:39 am

        The fact that Anne Rice made this list and Mary Shelley didn’t pretty much invalidates it for me.

      7. Ben Kasten December 28, 2013 at 12:47 am

        What matters to me is that the Top 5 that were on that list deserved to be there. Lovecratft, Barker, King, Poe and Matheson.

      8. Randy Adams December 28, 2013 at 12:51 am

        Where’s Dean Koontz?? fuck you, unlike your page.

      9. Robert O'Dell December 28, 2013 at 1:07 am

        Where the hell is Joe R. Lansdale?

      10. Will Childs December 28, 2013 at 1:17 am

        Robert Bloch?

      11. James L. DePeal December 28, 2013 at 1:24 am

        Brian Lumley??

      12. Sean O'Donnell December 28, 2013 at 3:36 am

        Decent list. I think you need to give Barker more props . Although his novels became less horror and more fantasy, his Books of Blood are the best horror short stories ever written. They are more visceral and cringe inducing them anything Matheson , King or anyone else has ever written. As much as Poe is known, I prefer Lovecraft! I only read the Store by Bentley Little and it was decent . Wont read Anne Rice. I remember enjoying Robert R McCammon back in the day as well .9

      13. John W December 28, 2013 at 6:37 am

        Good list. Can’t complain with the top 5.

      14. Scott Payne December 28, 2013 at 9:42 am

        Anne Rice shouldn’t be on the list and Poe or Lovecraft should be 1&2 with Bram Stroker at 3

      15. Cmslayer December 28, 2013 at 4:01 pm

        Robert McCammon should have received a mention. Swan Song is 1 of the best horror books I have ever read.

      16. Carlos Keith December 28, 2013 at 6:44 pm

        You forgot Carlos Keith (Val Lewton). Without Val Lewton There would have been no Hitchcock Or Kubrick.

      17. Tiago December 28, 2013 at 6:49 pm

        Great list. But if we’re talking about the most significant we have to stick with Poe, Lovecraft and King , each in their own time were the most important horror writers. Personally, King is my favorite.
        Also Shelley’s Frankenstein is so brilliant it is STILL a very relevant book, in times of faith in science it does relate very well to our time. She should be on that list.

      18. Fido December 29, 2013 at 4:39 pm

        I’d like to see a 10 ten Stephen King novels list. :)

      19. dougberg December 31, 2013 at 3:57 am

        Oh come on!! Bentley Little should be way higher up the list! Good list though.

      20. Allen Smith January 4, 2014 at 10:58 pm

        I suggest you read the works of M.R. James and Algernon Blackwood. James influenced a young Lovecraft with his tales of the macabre and horror.