The Quick 10: 10 Unexpected Horror Writers

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If you've been reading the Quick 10s for a while, you know that I have a fascination with horror movies and Halloween and all things creepy. So when I saw The Book of Lists: Horror, it seemed like a no-brainer to add it to my ever-growing collection of trivia books. Scary stuff plus lists?! C'mon! I'll no doubt share more of these lists as we get closer to Halloween (only 93 days, you know), but for now, here's one to tide you over at least until Fall gets here.

winston1. Winston Churchill. Yep, before he was a politician and world leader, Winston Churchill was a writer and journalist. Man Overboard was published in the Harnsworth Journal in the late 1890s, when Churchill was in his 20s. An example of his writing: "A startled brain suggested the word 'Help!' and he bawled this out lustily and with frantic effort six or seven times without stopping. Then he listened."
You can read the whole thing here, if you like - it's not very long.
2. John Lennon. Beatles fans probably already know this. Lennon penned several books of short stories and poems and musings, and in his first, In His Own Write, there's a little number called "No Flies on Frank." Frank murders his wife and then wonders why she is covered in flies and he isn't. Then he delivers the corpse to his mother-in-law and laments that she didn't invite him in for tea.

3. Truman Capote. Of course he wrote In Cold Blood, which was horrific due to the fact that those events actually occurred. But Capote also wrote horror fiction on at least one occasion. "Miriam" is a short story about a woman who is pestered by a little girl who shares her name. The girl keeps popping up at strange times, making larger and larger demands and eventually announces that she is moving in. There's no gore, but the story is more than a little chilling, nonetheless. It's another quick read if you're looking to kill some time.

4. F. Scott Fitzgerald. If you saw the recent movie with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett you might not consider The Curious Case of Benjamin Button to be scary, exactly. But the original short story definitely has some supernatural elements to it that make the reader stop and wonder exactly how Mr. Button got into his peculiar state.

5. Edith Wharton. She's usually known for her depressing tales, not her scary ones - The House and Mirth, Ethan Frome and The Age of Innocence among them. But Wharton also had a taste for the macabre, which she revealed in several stories: "Afterwards," "The Triumph of the Night" and "The Ghost-Feeler" are just a few. What's more, Wharton believed in the supernatural and refused to sleep in a room with books of ghost stories and destroyed any that entered her house.

tennessee6. Tennessee Williams. "Desire and the Black Masseur" is so chilling that a horror anthologist has called it the most terrifying tale he has ever read. We know Williams has a bit of a dark side anyway, based on his other works, but this one with masochistic overtones is downright disturbing. A man becomes goes to a masseur on a regular basis to get a massage, and every time he goes, the massage gets more intense, almost painful. You can probably see where this is going"¦ let's just say the man would have loved Annie Wilkes from Misery.
7. John Steinbeck. You're going to think I'm making this up, but it's the truth: Steinbeck, the same man who brought us The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden and Of Mice and Men wrote a horror story about"¦ bubble gum. I'm dead serious. "An Affair at 7 Rue de M-" is about a writer who is distracted by his son constantly chomping on bubble gum. But it turns out that young John can't stop chewing on the gum "“ no matter what he does to get rid of it, the gum finds its way back into his mouth. The father and son duo do everything they can to destroy it, but nothing works"¦ until the father places the wad of goo under a bell jar and cements it to a table. It takes a week, but the gum finally "dies."

8. Paul Gallico. He was probably best known for the movie based on one his novels "“ The Poseidon Adventure, but he was quite a prolific man. I guess with 41 books, lots of short stories, twenty movies, twelve T.V. movies, and one T.V. series, it's probably not too shocking that at least one horror story slipped in. "The Terrible Story" is about a man who hates people, but loves his computer. I mean, loves his computer. As the HAL 9000 and T2 have taught us, it's best not to trust machines too much...

9. Raymond Chandler. As the man who brought us private eye Philip Marlowe, maybe it's not that much of a surprise that Chandler's "The Bronze Door" also involves an investigator, but unlike the Marlowe stories, this tale takes a supernatural twist: anyone who walks through the Bronze Door is never seen again.

10. Evelyn Waugh. You likely know him for 1945's Brideshead Revisited, one of Time magazine's 100 "All-Time" novels. "The Man Who Liked Dickens." I won't totally spoil the story for you, in case you want to check it out sometime, but it comes down to Dickens or death. It inspired Waugh's full-length tale A Handful of Dust.

Do you have a favorite chilling tale? Do share - I'm getting in the mood for the macabre!

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July 29, 2009 - 12:27pm
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