As I mentioned in the previous post, I’ve got a book coming out on January 31st: Horror Fiction in the 20th Century, a guide to horror fiction published around the world (i.e., both inside the US & UK and outside). It’s a combination of history and criticism and best-ofs, with me highlighting the best and most successful authors of the twentieth century and describing what they did best and why they were so good, as well as me laying out the broader history of horror fiction during the century and, when necessary, quarreling with other horror critics about their (wrong!) conclusions or (more often) their inexcusable omissions and inaccuracies.
Given that it’s Halloween, I thought it would be a good idea to bombard Twitter with a list of fourteen of the best stories from my favorite pre-1950s horror writers. Someone suggested that I put all the links to the stories in one place for ease of use. And so here we are!
Oliver Onions’ “The Beckoning Fair One.” A comparatively well-known (or at least oft-anthologized) classic, by a horror writer who never quite got (or gets) his due.
Margaret Irwin’s “The Book”. In one of my novels (that I still have high hopes for getting published) I did an homage to this story, which is for the serious readers out there.
Elizabeth Bowen’s “The Demon Lover”. Neither Bowen nor this story get the praise they deserve–at least, not from horror critics. Which is a shame, because this story is really damn good.
Saki’s “Shredni Vashtar”. Has been anthologized a lot, but still retains its bite. (Heh). Horror critics like but don’t love Saki–some don’t even go that far–which mystifies me.
Ellen Glasgow’s “The Shadow Third”. I have a private theory–don’t tell anyone, okay?–that Glasgow was a kind of influence on Lovecraft. But exploring that will have to wait for my “Lovecraft’s Women” article on why Lovecraft was so reluctant to give formal credit to the notable women horror writers of the time. (The answer–sexism!–will not surprise you).
Katherine Fullerton Gerould’s “The Wine of Violence”. Now forgotten and obscure, Gerould was of note during her heyday, and Lovecraft undoubtedly would have read her.
Violet Hunt’s “The Prayer”. A novella, but, well, just read it. I call Hunt a “proto-Joyce Carol Oates” in my book, and the superior of Henry James as a horror story writer.
A.E. Coppard’s “Adam and Eve and Pinch Me”. Once famous and widely anthologized, now just a footnote, like Coppard himself, which is a shame.
Walter De La Mare’s “Seaton’s Aunt”. Oh, this is the good old stuff.
Daphne Du Maurier’s “The Doll”. Written when she was only twenty. I mean, damn.
E.F. Benson’s “Mrs. Amworth”. Benson’s not forgotten about, at least by critics, but I think even the more committed and literate horror fans haven’t read much or anything by him, which is a shame.
A.M. Burrage’s “Smee”. Technically a Christmas story.
W.F. Harvey’s “August Heat”. For full effect, should be read during the irons of summer.