It seems rather appropriate to be Julia’s guest on the very day that my own novel is released. I first met Julia when Diavolino was in its early stages and I feel that we’ve come a long way together. One thing I enjoy is swapping notes on books we are reading. As we both write horror, it’s not surprising that we often find we’re reading the same things. That doesn’t mean we have the same reaction to them, of course!
My earliest influences were the adventure horrors of Dennis Wheatley. The first I read was The Haunting of Toby Jugg, a tale of good versus evil where Satan is on the side of Communism and God stands with good old Britain. Like all Wheatley’s novels, it’s dated now. I read somewhere that Wheatley is ‘virtually unreadable’ but I disagree entirely. He wrote in a different time. What I like about his work is the big story; adventure, dashing heroes, romantic settings all tied up with evil. That is something that I look for in a story. Simple slasher tales do little for me and, sadly, they seem to abound.
Old as they are, the ghost stories of M R James can still send a tingle down the spine. I guess the proof is the recent showing of Whistle and I’ll Come to You on British TV last Christmas. It was a new production in which actor John Hurt is scared to death. Literally. I think Julia’s short story, Dreaming Not Sleeping, is from the same pedigree.
Before I move on to contemporary writers, I have to mention the master of the art, Clive Barker, who was rocketed to fame in 1984/5 by his Books of Blood. Barker’s work puts ordinary people into extraordinary and terrifying circumstances; he was perhaps the first in the genre to widen the usual narrow themes, showing that a horror story can even be humorous. The Damnation Game is, for me, one if his finest. Since Barker, I’ve found it hard to find satisfaction, rather like a vampire forced to feed on rats through a shortage of humans. Stephen King’s The Mist gripped me. So did Carrie, but that again is now an old book. I tried Dean Koontz only to find that his style didn’t suit me at all. To me, it wasn’t horror. So, for a while, I began reading genres that I would otherwise have skipped and discovered the brutal crime thrillers of Stuart MacBride. MacBride’s style cuts right to the point and he has some great opening lines. If you haven’t tried him, Flesh House is a good taster.
I also enjoy good humour, weird humour, and am always on the lookout for a writer who can make me laugh out loud. I found James Hamilton Patterson. Cooking with Fernet Branca had me gasping for air. It’s the tale of an antisocial ghost writer who buys an isolated house above Pisa in the Tuscan hills. His culinary ideas are somewhat bizarre, hence the title, and his recipes are scattered among an even more bizarre series of events. He completed the trilogy with Amazing Disgrace and Rancid Pansies.
But I keep coming back to horror and I very recently stumbled on a novella called Vampire Vow by a little-known author, Michael Schiefelbein. It may have languished on Amazon as it’s a gay vampire story but I wouldn’t let that put you off. His writing is crisp and efficient, his imagery so clear you feel as if you’ve been there. Except - you wouldn’t want to be anywhere near the terror he has devised.
Many thanks to Steve for taking time out of his busy schedule to visit my blog today!
To find out more about Steve Emmett, visit his website: www.steveemmett.net
Diavolino is available from Etopia Press
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