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I Have A Confession to Make: I’m A Fraud

October 19, 2010

Yes, you heard right.

I’m a fraud.

I’m not the horror aficionado that you all think I am.

You may have thought that after reading For G.O.O.D., Collection and Black Man With A Gun, but, really I’m still a novice in this genre. I know Crawl (still playing out in serial format in the latest issue of Spectacular Speculations; by the way, the October contest for Speculations is closed) was written back in 2003, but it is mostly science fiction.

Even though I have been writing for more than 30 years and call myself a science fiction and horror writer, I got caught with my hand in the cookie jar with this week’s topic — my favorite horror novel or the one that influenced me the most.

A longtime horror writer should have a wealth of books to refer back to. He should have favorite authors he can’t count on both hands.

Sorry if you thought that about me.

I have committed some egregious sins in the horror field. I did not read Bram Stoker’s Dracula until about five years ago.

For shame!

Truth is, I’ve never been able to get through Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus because I still compare it to James Whale’s classic with Boris Karloff.

I did not get enough desire to go find Daphne du Maurier’s The Birds until after I had gotten the 40th anniversary DVD edition of Alfred Hitchcock’s masterful film version.

And, most serious of all, I moved away from Boston in the summer of 1982 without reading a single Stephen King story. Yeah, me, the guy who won an ACT-SO award for a chilling ghost story in 1981 did not read the Master of Horror while actually living in New England (the inspiration for the ghost story was The Screaming Skull, an absolutely dreadful film, even by my standards).

I saw Salem’s Lot on television and it did not lead me to a bookstore. When I was in high school in Texas, I found a copy of Night Shift and only then did I get into Mr. King. Oddly enough, I love his anthologies but have not been able to really read his full-length novels.

And I think I can blame it all on H.P. Lovecraft.

H.P. Lovecraft, circa 1934


He was the one horror guy I did read at the library (and that was initially because of the fancy covers of his books). I found myself trying to get all of his books.

But, let’s face it, folks. H.P. Lovecraft was downright weird.

One glimpse into The Call of Cthulu, The Lurking Fear, The Colour Out of Space and The Shadow Over Innsmouth and you’d think you’ve entered another plane of reality (which you have). Fates you can’t escape, no matter if you’re a thousand years removed from the incident, deeply depressing circumstances and the inability for anyone to escape.

If I want that, I’ll reread Thomas Tryon’s Harvest Home.

To this day, I still can’t psyche myself into writing a Lovecraftian tale.

Thus, I read his books trying to understand them because it was a great challenge for a growing and maturing mind that had already dismissed the juvenile books about hot rods and wanted more than Johnny Tremaine. But, my brain was not up to the task yet and I made no trips to other sections of the horror shelves.

Finally, though, I was saved by Mr. King. Nightshift, a collection of the short stories he wrote and sold for various magazines in the 1970s, really got to me in a way that Lovecraft could not. I understood King’s stories, for one thing. Secondly, I could identify with the characters. Thirdly, King did not make New England into one horrible cesspool just a level or two above Dante’s Inferno like Lovecraft did (King was born in Maine; Lovecraft in Providence, Rhode Island).

King’s stories like The Raft where four horny teenagers get caught in the middle of a forbidden lake by a monstrous entity reminded me of my days as a horny teen sneaking up to Silver Lake in Halifax to watch Rachel and Michelle skinny dip (fortunately, the lake had no black gunk in it to spoil my experiences – there’s a joke in there but I’m not going to say it, you perverts).

Eventually, some of King’s works have found their way into my writing. Take a second look at For G.O.O.D. and you’ll see a bit of Quitters, Inc. in there.

The truth is, though, is that I’ve never really needed horror stories to influence my writing. I can look at everyday normal situations and think of some way they can become horrible and terrifying.

That’s how Palmetto bugs became the boogeymen of Red Herring.

And that scratching in the ceiling, is that from the squirrels running around in the eaves?

Or can it be something else?

Wait, I hear something more. More than just scratching. It sounds like…like…


My God, they’re gnawing through the ceiling. They’re coming after me.

They’re…they’re in the walls!

THE RATS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Ah, another contest: Seems like I was just here. But, since my last contest went so well, I’ll take a cue from James and try again. If we can get some new reviews or comments over the next two weeks for at least one blogger this week and next, I’ll send the winner a copy of one of my favorite classic horror novels – Night Shift (Stephen King), The Birds (Daphne du Maurier), Pyscho (Robert Bloch), Stinger (James McCammon), The Keep (F. Paul Wilson) or Dark Tidings (Gregory Marshall Smith)

17 Comments leave one →
  1. October 19, 2010 7:15 am

    Very well done! I’m always nodding my head when I read your posts, and seeking out a pen to scribble down book and movie ideas.

    • October 19, 2010 8:35 am

      Thanks, C.J.

      Hope you’re feeling better.

      But, you don’t need me to give you ideas. You’ve got the perfect horror scenario in your own backyard. Try to explain the horror Redskins fans are feeling as they try to see whose body holds up the longest — Donovan McNabb or Brett Favre.

      • October 19, 2010 10:53 am

        Smart ass! My poor dad, I don’t talk football when we chat.

        Doing better, thanks. Meds are kicking in and I was able to go for a short walk yesterday. Was great until someone had their dog off leash and my two rushed to say “hi” and wrapped their leads around me and took me down at the knees. First time that’s ever happened in four years, it was embarrassing.

        Now every muscle in my body hurts… damn, talk about out of shape!

  2. October 19, 2010 8:31 am

    Just had to admit I’ve never read Stephen King. I mean never. You are not alone. Wait. That sounds like another science fiction/horror film!

    I recently ran across Lovecraft on some blogs and you are right, what a dude. Even looks like a slimmed down version of Hitch, but way more wierd, from what I’ve read.

    I don’t have a long list of anything except classics, and now romance. And most of them I am trudging through, “There must be a pony in there somewhere”. On a mission to see how people write their hero/herones. So I have to say I don’t read for pleasure any more. Or for scares. Before I became a writer, I did read everything Anne Rice wrote, the old stuff. But didn’t like the plumbing issues with her vamps, love modern vamps like CJ’s way better. I mean, come on, who would like to sleep with a slab of marble?

    You do such a wonderful job with your research, and your topics. Thank you for all the time you put into it, and the care with which you show us as your fans. One of these weeks, we should do author interviews, because I’d love to hear more about your experiences. I really would.

    • October 19, 2010 10:57 am

      Never read King? Wow!

      Glad to hear my book wasn’t one you were trudging to get through. Thanks so much for even the small reference to have me in the same paragraph as the queen of vampires.

      And now… as I type this… I have a squirrel climbing the screens in my screen room and thumping around at the siding on the second floor. Thanks again, Greg. Now I have to go upstairs and see what that noisy effer is doing.

    • October 19, 2010 3:39 pm

      Thanks Sharon. I have to confess — again — that I don’t really do a lot of research beforehand. In a previous blog (from way back in the early days of WW), I mentioned that I often write on the fly (and I have to write pretty small).

      But, I do check, recheck and then check again to make sure I’ve got it reasonably right.

      Thanks for the support.

  3. October 19, 2010 8:57 am

    Greg, I don’t know whether I’m the big horror guy, either. Yet, since C.J. pays more for horror writers, I’m thinking we shouldn’t complain. I love the “Rats in the Walls” story, by the way. I have a collection of Lovecraft stories that has been calling me for a while. Hopefully I can get to that soon.
    Since I am not posting this week and will miss this topic, I will mention a couple of authors/books. I believe that I have mentioned these before, but Jay Anson’s “The Amityville Horror” (whether you believe it to be true or not-it’s still scary as hell) and Michael Slade’s Special X thrillers, beginning with “Headhunter”. The first mention developed my love for the haunted house story and my desire to one day write a good ghost tale. The second mention developed a desire in me to write gritty detective stories like Slade. I am nowhere near that level, but strive to be.
    Thanks for posting…oh! “Mums” the word on that fraud talk. 😉

    • October 19, 2010 10:59 am

      Yes, I pay with great health benefits 😉

      • October 19, 2010 3:43 pm

        Oh, yes, I’ve been paying ever since I started with Wicked Writers.

        Oh, uhm, I’ve been getting paid with so much experience since I started with WW.

    • October 19, 2010 3:42 pm

      Thanks James.

      Really, you should go one better and combine the gritty detective story with the haunted house story. It’s a natural. Someone goes to a haunted house and never comes out. Detective goes to investigate and gets more than he or she bargained for.

    • October 20, 2010 6:00 pm

      I would agree with you on “Rats in the Wall” except I can’t read that story because Lovecraft called the narrator’s cat by the name of his childhood cat — look it up on Google and you’ll see what I mean.

      • October 20, 2010 9:55 pm

        Yuck! I looked it up. Not very nice. I didn’t remember that. Thanks.
        My cat is named, Jones. Yeah, it was “Alien”. I wanted to keep Sigourney and send the cat on it’s way when they both showed up on my doorstep. Wifey said no…

  4. October 19, 2010 8:48 pm


    I don’t know what to say…

    Other than, it’s alright, dear. I don’t care much for any of the popular ‘horror fiction’ icon authors out there, so you aren’t missing much…

    • October 20, 2010 6:01 pm

      The modern stuff doesn’t really do it for me. I prefer the old stuff, like Tom Tryon, Stephen King, F. Paul Wilson and Richard Matheson (man, I should have mentioned “I Am Legend” and “Hell House”).

  5. October 20, 2010 3:33 pm

    I have to laugh! (Hi folks!) Here on the Wicked Writers… blogs on horror… and a number of us NOT reading King!

    Yes, I am another of those non-King types… 🙂

    • October 20, 2010 6:06 pm

      Don’t worry. You don’t need King. You’ve got the likes of Algernon Blackwood (the man who influenced Lovecraft), M.R. James (what is it with you Brits and initials?) and Brian Lumley.

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