The best horror prose writer

Fried Egg

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I didn't specify classic or modern but am interested in hearing people's opinions on both.

Ligotti is worth Paying for...

"Teatro Grotesco" and "My work is not yet done" are two titles still quite widely available.
 

w h pugmire esq

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The short story has seemed to come off the endangered species list, thanks to all of the marvelous small press publishers who are bringing out fabulous collections of single author works. When I read the theme of this thread I immediately thought only of short stories, not novels and novelists.

Lovecraft's influence continues to be paramount, and I suspect there has been a shift of attitude concerning his work and it's influence -- although his prose style still attracts keen criticism from some. When I began writing there seemed to be a general sense that "writing like Lovecraft" was something the professional horror writer should avoid, that to write such stuff was an adolescent phase through which the maturing writer passed. This not only meant writing in Lovecraft's style but in the Cthulhu Mythos to which he has been incorrectly wed. HPL was like some phantom in the corner to which one turned one's creative back. These days we have professional editors seeking Lovecraftian tales for anthologies of Lovecraftian fiction, editors that insist that submissions be authentically Lovecraftian and completely avoid the cliches of the Mythos. That seems, to me, a radical and very welcomed change.
 

Connavar

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JD:

I guess im not interested in talking about classic horror prose writers because thats mostly my experience of the genre. I was selfishly hoping for contemporary names :)
I dont look for exctiment, sheer entertainment when i look for modern horror. I have seen purely entertaiment horror that emotionally, prose wise don't say anything to me is just not what im into.

The classic authors who i like doing do their works with strong or lyrical prose first. I want the same of todays authors. Im looking for literary acclaimed authors, reviews that rate that and not scary horror light entertainment.

Which are those impressive, lyrical prose authors of today you speak of ?

Im thinking about buying 3 highly rated prose first horror writers of today. Im going the online second hand store route first. Library system dislike smaller,acclaimed horror writers of today.

Lovecraft inspired ? You mean Ramsey Campbell, Peter Struab type names ?

Im gonna use you guys knowledge of todays strong prose horror writers instead of trusting reviews of people whose taste i dont know. Like i did with classic horror.
 

Fried Egg

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For good writers of modern horror, I can recommend (besides Ligotti), Laird Barron and Jonathan Thomas. I'm sure there are many more but those two I can vouch for.
 

j d worthington

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Which are those impressive, lyrical prose authors of today you speak of ?

Some of those are listed above. Wilum Pugmire has been called a prose-poet, and I would say that classification is often quite accurate. Ligotti has been mentioned -- you might want to look up Cthulhu 2000 as a good example of several such writers, since it contains stories by Ligotti, T. E. D. Klein, Basil Copper, Gene Wolfe, Roger Zelazny, Ramsey Campbell, etc. I would also suggest looking up Caitlin R. Kiernan, whose work can vary between sharp and cutting to lyrical, dreamlike, and wonderfully eerie. (She is also one of the best for conveying that feeling of "deep time" to ever grace the field.)

Lovecraft inspired ? You mean Ramsey Campbell, Peter Struab type names ?

These are only a tiny indication. Take a look at the tables of contents of various Lovecraftian anthologies you can find on Amazon. The number of writers who have been inspired by his work is phenomenal. The links below will give you just the ghost of an idea:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cthulhu_Mythos_anthologies

http://www.amazon.com/dp/1595821465/?tag=brite-21

http://www.amazon.com/dp/1597802328/?tag=brite-21

For good writers of modern horror, I can recommend (besides Ligotti), Laird Barron and Jonathan Thomas. I'm sure there are many more but those two I can vouch for.

And yes, I'd add these two to the list, as well....
 

TedKeller

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Algernon Blackwood and Howard Lovecraft of the old guard, Peter Straub and Ramsey Campbell of the newer ones. Also Graham Masterton - I find his light-toed Len Deighton type of prose a relaxing pleasure to read, even when it's about guts dripping from the ceiling.
 

D_Davis

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So apparently I purchased a Joe Pulver novel awhile ago, and had completely forgotten about it. I purchased The Orphan Palace, mainly because Michael Cisco wrote the introduction. Started it this morning, and it is very good.
 

nomadman

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For modern horror with a relatively normal narrator/cast of characters I prefer as transparent a prose style as possible. The horror, in such cases, stems from gradual incursions of the strange, the supernatural or the horrific into the world, and to draw too much attention to the writing itself can detract from the immersion and sense of normalcy that is vital to setting up the horror in the first place. TED Klein, Jonathan Carroll, perhaps late Fritz Leiber would be my picks.

MR James of course would qualify here, were it not for the fact that he wrote at the beginning of the century and thus detaches himself from the modern reader with certain antiquated turns of phrase. As it is he's still worthy of study. His works are masterpieces of concision, careful hints and well-sketched out locales.

For horror which involves a warped or unbalanced narrator the story can benefit from a stylistic approach that in some way draws attention to the nature of the protagonist or of the world in which he/she lives. Notable names would be Poe, Kafka, S. Jackson and Ligotti, though there are quite a few writers not necessarily linked to horror who are also very good at this.

Likewise horror which takes place in a secondary-world setting or a cultural or historical period sufficiently unfamiliar to the reader can adopt a more stylized approach, that being dependent on what elements the writer wants to focus on. CA Smith at his best springs to mind. Bradbury too, though it's more in his approach to telling the tale, like a dark childhood dream, rather than his settings/characters that he deviates.

Some writers fall in the middle. Robert Aickman is a writer who combines both a relatively transparent prose style with certain odd turns of phrase, word choices, repetitions etc that let you know from the off that something isn't right. Another skillful writer in this vein is Daphne du Maurier.

For horror writers who wish to evoke a sense of the numinous and the awesome, I think a certain poetic intensity coupled with a lightness of touch are necessary. Blackwood and Machen were superb at this when they got it right. Lovecraft to a lesser extent, though his writing tended to be a little too flawed and ham-handed for me to rank him alongside those two on a purely stylistic basis.

Borges, Bowles, Dunsany and Schulz all included elements of horror in their works which I think are worthy of study, even if they themselves are not known to be writers of the genre. They were all capable, through careful word choices or abrupt changes of tone, of shocking the reader,even in some cases repulsing him, as Bowles did to me on several occasions with his razor-sharp style and almost alien lack of compassion for his characters.
 
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Fried Egg

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Thanks for your thoughtful contribution nomadman, it is most interesting. I hadn't thought to break it down in such a way.
 

nomadman

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Thanks for your thoughtful contribution nomadman, it is most interesting. I hadn't thought to break it down in such a way.

Certainly I don't think prose is a quantifiably ratable thing, but subservient to the effects it's trying to achieve. Horror, or at least the writers whom horror is said to compose, strives to achieve different emotional responses ranging from physical disgust to awe. Lovecraft, to take a famous example, was a writer for whom awesomeness and a sense of the epic was the paramount effect; to critiscise him for being less explicit than someone like Koontz is to miss the point IMO.
 

Connavar

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Well not to be biased Lord Dunsany fan but i agree with nomadman about his recommendation. Old Bill, few other horror stories of his i have read had the finest style of prose i have read in horror story. Shame he didnt write many horror stories. That kind of style are perfect for horror story. Not many can write like that which is a shame.

Although having read many of the older authors he mentiond the nice thing about horror stories is many different ways to write quality horror. From Aickman to Poe etc
 

Fried Egg

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I haven't read that much of Pulver (yet), but I was quite impressed with his abilities in Blood Will Have Its Season.
Well, I tried this collection, and I can see why you might mention him as a good prose writer but I have to say that I really found it hard to engage with and, for the most part, didn't enjoy his style at all. His corruption of the rules of grammar for stylistic effect only made it really hard work.

Still, he was very different from anything else I have read and you never know until you've tried it...
 

Randy M.

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There are writers for whom horror is not their main work, but they linger around the edges of it and often write very nice prose. Two I'm aware of,

Holly Phillips: In the Palace of Repose
Sarah Monette: The Bone Key (actually, this is a collection of horror stories)

I wouldn't call either a flashy stylist, but the prose in each collection has a distinctive flavor, and adds to the feel of the story.

More recently I read the collection Holiday by M. Rickert, and I would think anyone here would find it of interest. Like a writer I mentioned earlier, Glen Hirshberg, I would consider her an artist of the melancholy side of the horror story, someone who not only recognizes the terrible but sees the sadness of it. In that respect, I'd say Rickert and Hirshberg -- and maybe Phillips as well -- could be considered descendants of de la Mare and Shirley Jackson.

Has anyone here read anything by Angela Slatter? I just read a story of her's in the Stephen Jones edited, The Book of Horrors, titled, "The Coffin-Maker's Daughter," and I definitely want to read more. It's not as weird as some weird horror I've read, but it leans that way and is wonderfully and economically told; in a very short space Slatter limns an alternative world that is quite creepy.

Randy M.
 

doctordarts

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King's is excellent, but Glen Duncan's is very impressive. He seems a bit in love with dropped c-bombs all the time like it's shocking or edgy, and it gets a bit tiresome, as does his obsession with sex, but then man writes a damn good sentence.
 

Fumi

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Well not to be biased Lord Dunsany fan but i agree with nomadman about his recommendation. Old Bill, few other horror stories of his i have read had the finest style of prose i have read in horror story. Shame he didnt write many horror stories. That kind of style are perfect for horror story. Not many can write like that which is a shame.

Although having read many of the older authors he mentiond the nice thing about horror stories is many different ways to write quality horror. From Aickman to Poe etc

Lord Dunsany wrote some fantastic stuff.
 

Fumi

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Algernon Blackwood and Howard Lovecraft of the old guard, Peter Straub and Ramsey Campbell of the newer ones. Also Graham Masterton - I find his light-toed Len Deighton type of prose a relaxing pleasure to read, even when it's about guts dripping from the ceiling.

I'll have to check out Graham Masterton. Thanks.
 

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