• Who Are Today’s Top Horror Writers?

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 13 comments

    I’ve just finished (and loved) reading Frankenstein for the first time, a discussion of which you can listen to for Yak Babies (my books podcast) October Spooktacular, a series of episodes about horror books, movies, games, and more.

    Now I’m in the mood to read more horror, both old and new, as Halloween approaches. But I need help.

    I have a few classics I’ve never read but plan to, including DraculaThe Haunting of Hill House, and Dorian Gray.

    I might also revisit a few American gothic favorites such as Edgar HuntlySleepy Hollowand maybe some Hawthorne short stories.

    As for contemporary horror, I’m looking for some new names. That’s where you come in. I’ve read a fair amount of Stephen King, especially as a teen, but as an adult I have a Stephen King love/hate thing going. I loved, and was terrified by, The Shining as a kid, but I reread it a couple of years ago and, oof, it was a rough experience; I found the book dated and clunky.

    Meanwhile, Pet Sematary kept me awake all night in horror on a family trip to Las Vegas when I was about fourteen. King himself says Pet Sematary is the only book that ever scared him while he was writing it. (“it” = Pet Sematary, not It.) That’s a hell of an endorsement. But I’m hesitant to reread that one, lest I have a Shining-like experience and taint my recollections of the first time.

    Anywho. I also read some Dean Koontz as a kid. But I have no idea who’s who in horror writing today. Any advice?

    Your turn: Who are you reading this Halloween season? Who should I read? Who are your favorite horror writers working today?

    Also, what’s the scariest novel or short story you’ve ever read?

    And do scary books affect you in ways movies or other media can’t?

    Share your thoughts below.


    WriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is copy editor and fiction editor at the Texas Observer and has written for books for the Dallas Morning News, the Iowa ReviewElectric Literature, and others.

    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you achieve your creative potential and literary goals. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres, nationwide and worldwide. If you have a writing project you’d like help with or an idea to get off the ground, check out our coaching, editing, and publication services.



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    Barbara Mealer

    I’m not into the horror stories. My favorite ‘modern’ book is Misery. I like the Edgar Allen Poe types or even Dean Koontz Odd Thomas series. Since I am prone to vivid nightmares, I avoid almost all things in the horror genre. I’m not fond of waking up screaming as I relive the Pit and the Pendulum scene, and zombies, don’t even go there. Event the word is enough for me to leave room. I’ll leave the horror stories to those who enjoy them.

    David Duhr

    So when you read horror stories, you have nightmares about them? That would put me off horror too.

    I think all horror should end like the Pit and the Pendulum. “Suddenly the Spanish Inquisition was over,” or however that went. Vampires are chasing Stephen King characters through Maine, and just when they’re closing in… “Suddenly the Spanish Inquisition was over.”

    jason sellards

    Paul Tremblay, Josh Mallerman, Nick Cutter and Jeff Vandermeer (the southern reach ) are my top four from the last few years.
    Tremblay’s Cabin at the End of the World is the most nerve wracking book i’ve read in a long time. And Vandermeers Sothern Reach Trilogy is in a league of its own!

    David Duhr

    Thanks for the tips. The other day I read a few pages of Cabin; the title jumped off the shelf at me because of your comment. It definitely looks worth a read.


    You’ll enjoy Dracula, The Haunting of Hill House, and Dorian Gray. I’ve read these three and Frankenstein, but not much more in the horror genre. I’m looking forward to seeing what others recommend here.

    David Duhr

    Instead of any of those, I started The Phantom of the Opera. I don’t even know if that one’s considered horror, or Gothic, or what, but I’m hoping it satisfies. So far it’s just a group of ballerinas huddled in a dressing room, but there’s been some talk of a ghost with a flaming head.

    What I mostly hope is that I can manage to read it without “All I Ask of You” repeating nonstop in my stupid head.

    Elissa Malcohn

    I read Dracula decades ago and Frankenstein within the past decade. Loved both, along with Poe. I’m generally not a horror reader, but as ghost stories and contemporary authors go, I recommend Christopher Barzak’s One For Sorrow. I would count as horror Jeremy Leven’s novel Satan: His Psychotherapy and Cure by the Unfortunate Dr. Kassler, J.S.P.S. (1982). I remember finding it quite disturbing. Shameless plug: My ghost story “Memento Mori” appeared in Unspeakable Horror: From the Shadows of the Closet (ed. Vince Liaguno, Dark Scribe Press, 2008). UH won the Bram Stoker Award (given by the Horror Writers Association) for… Read more »

    David Duhr

    Are either of your stories (or any of the horror poems) available online for our readers?

    Elissa Malcohn

    Most of the publications are in anthologies or magazines that are not available online (hardcopies can be ordered), but there are a couple. “When Zombies Go Steady” appears in Eye to the Telescope (theme: Speculative Poetry in Form): http://eyetothetelescope.com/archives/004issue.html You can hear me read “Neighbors” (originally published in Vampyr Verse, Popcorn Press, November 2009) at http://sfpoetry.com/hw/10halloween.html (I’ve recorded for the Halloween pages in a couple of other years, but the MP3 links don’t work.) My article “The Many Shades of Dark Poetry” originally appeared in Poets’ Forum Magazine (Autumn 2007) and was reprinted in Wyopoets’ Newsletter (2011). The newsletter and… Read more »


    If I want to be scared, I just turn on the news. smh

    David Duhr

    Yeah, no joke.

    david lemke

    I don’t read much horror, some King and a few others. I love horror movies old and new.
    For years, on Halloween, for our costume party, I’d write a scary story, which I would tell and serve Vampire wine and eye of newt. All the horror stories are in my anthology on Kindle, “Dave’s, You Must Be This Short To Enter!”. Since your company has made some changes, my publishing changes are changing.

    Would love your thoughts, please comment.x