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A CENTURY OF HORROR

December 1999 By Paula Guran

[Note: You might want to read the follow-up A CENTURY OF HORROR: Six Months Later.]

This was difficult.

No, this was impossible!

Trying to come up with lists of the "best" of anything is always a flawed, arbitrary, unfair and biased process sure to overlook something or someone of merit. So, I'll admit right up front that this list is not perfect. Plus it is NOT a list of the "best" horror of the 20th century. If you see this article headlined or referred to as that anywhere then some ignorant yahoo has mislabeled it. Let's call it "a list of one hundred meritorious books of horror published between the years 1900 and 2000."

I didn't come up with a single author or title on this list by myself. I asked subscribers to my weekly newsletter, "DarkEcho," to email me suggestions. More than 50 individuals did. Some with just a title or two, some with a few, some with a few dozen. Additionally, I consulted published lists by experts in the field. HORROR: 100 BEST BOOKS, edited by Stephen Jones and Kim Newman was invaluable. Almost as helpful were Stanley Wiater's lists in DARK THOUGHTS : ON WRITING : ADVICE AND COMMENTARY FROM FIFTY MASTERS OF FEAR AND SUSPENSE (which he has allowed me to re-publish on this site); Fiona Webster's "Best Horror Books Since (roughly) 1980" from her Fear and Loathing site and some old but interesting lists in J. N. Williamson's HOW TO WRITE TALES OF HORROR, FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION. I also read miscellaneous essays and reviews.

If any one book can be cited as *the* book of the century, it is probably Shirley Jackson's THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE -- it received more popular mentions and is on every critical list imaginable. Stephen King, not surprisingly, had more different books mentioned, but then Robert R. McCammon had quite a number, too. McCammon has written far fewer books than King and hasn't published in several years. Ray Bradbury's THE OCTOBER COUNTRY and SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES were definite favorites. Richard Matheson's I AM LEGEND was another popular and critical pick as was William Peter Blatty's THE EXORCIST. Anne Rice's INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE was a shoo-in, but of her other work only THE VAMPIRE LESTAT and THE WITCHING HOUR received any mentions at all. Surprisingly popular titles? Probably not to horror aficionados, but to others -- Iain Banks's THE WASP FACTORY and William Hjortsberg's FALLING ANGEL.

Still-Life with Books Lists are orderly things, so they have to have rules and boundaries. Authors are mentioned only once and with only one title. These titles are either novels or collections. Probably a couple of novellas have crept in, but I didn't count words. Anthologies are considered separately and have their own list below.

Title selection was determined by a combination of factors. Popularity weighed in some decisions. As mentioned, several of Stephen King's works were noted by those who wrote in. The most notable were SKELETON CREW, THE SHINING, SALEM'S LOT, THE STAND, IT and BAG OF BONES. THE SHINING had the most votes and, after reading several critical opinions, it seemed the best choice for this list. THE STAND was probably the second-favorite choice with readers and many noted "the original version" as preferred

For other authors, I opted for a work that I felt was indicative of their writing. Dan Simmons's novels CARRION COMFORT and SONG OF KALI both received more popular mentions than his collection, LOVEDEATH, but I chose the latter because I felt it best represented a gifted writer's full range better than a single novels. Ramsey Campbell's novels THE FACE THAT MUST DIE, THE DOLL WHO ATE HIS MOTHER and NAZARETH HILL could all be fairly mentioned as could many more of his novels. I opted for ALONE WITH THE HORRORS, a short story collection because, again, I felt the it sampled Campbell's scope. Brian Lumley's NECROSCOPE and other books are far better known than FRUITING BODIES AND OTHER FUNGI, the collection I chose. Nancy A. Collins's SUNGLASSES AFTER DARK was probably preferred by more people -- but the limited edition collection cited may be a better introduction to her work. On the other hand, I allowed public and critical acclaim for Peter Straub's GHOST STORY to edge out what I feel is a superb collection -- HOUSES WITHOUT DOORS (along with other notable novels like FLOATING DRAGON, SHADOWLAND and MR X.) In the case of Jonathan Carroll, I chose the more accessible (and arguably more identifiably "dark") LAND OF LAUGHS, a novel, over the highly acclaimed (and personal pick) collection THE PANIC HAND.

Neil Gaiman is the only writer whose work from a graphic format made the list. Although "The Doll's House" was cited most often as the best of the Sandman series, I felt it should be seen as a complete "collected work" and so cited it.

All titles, except PERFUME, were originally published in English. Publication dates are as accurate as I could find and selections are, of course, listed alphabetically.

There are choices I will probably regret in the morning, others I will lose respect for, definitely those I will wish I had included. And yes, there are some on this list that are NOT *my* personal favorites, but they belonged here and I did my best to be inclusive. I am sure this is slanted toward more recently published works -- but there's probably been more horror (good and bad) published in the last 20 or 30 years than in the history of literature to that point. There are sure to be controversial choices as well as unexpected ones, but, well, that's the nature of lists, too!

THE 100
1. Robert Aickman: Sub Rosa (1968)
2. J.G. Ballard: Crash (1973)
3. Iain Banks: The Wasp Factory (1984)
4. Clive Barker: The Books of Blood (1984-1986)
5. Charles Beaumont: Selected Stories (1988. reprinted as The Howling Man and Other Stories, 1992)
6. Ambrose Bierce: Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce (1909) [However, The Collected Writings of Ambrose Bierce (1999) may be more complete and probably is the preferred -- and obtainable --of the two.]
7. Algernon Blackwood: Best Ghost Stories Of Algernon Blackwood (1973 edition, earliest story first published in 1906)
8. William Peter Blatty: The Exorcist (1971)
9. Robert Bloch: Selected Short Stories (1988)
10. Anthony Boucher: The Compleat Werewolf (1968)
11. Marjorie Bowen: The Last Bouquet: Some Twilight Tales (1933)
12. Ray Bradbury: The October Country (1955) (Something Wicked This Way Comes is a very close second pick for Bradbury
13. Poppy Z. Brite: Swamp Foetus (Also published as Wormwood) (1993) 14. Ramsey Campbell: Alone With the Horrors: The Great Short Fiction of Ramsey Campbell 1961-1991 (1993)
15. Jonathan Carroll: Land of Laughs (1980)
16. Angela Carter: Burning Your Boats: Collected Stories (1995) (stories from 1962-1993)
17. Hugh B. Cave: Death Stalks the Night (1995) (stories mostly from the 30s and 40s)
18. Suzy McKee Charnas: Vampire Tapestry (1980)
19. John Collier: Fancies & Goodnights (1951) (stories from 1931-1951)
20. Nancy A. Collins: Nameless Sins (1994)
21. Joseph Conrad: Heart of Darkness (1902)
22. Dennis Cooper: Frisk (1992)
23. Harry Crews: A Feast of Snakes (1976)
24. Roald Dahl: Tales of the Unexpected (1979)
25. Bradley Denton: Blackburn (1993)
26. Philip K. Dick: The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1964)
27. Elizabeth Engstrom: Lizard Wine (1996)
28. Daphne DuMaurier: Rebecca (1931)
29. Katherine Dunn: Geek Love (1983)
30. Harlan Ellison: Deathbird Stories (1975) [Deathbird Stories is the more significant dark collection, but The Essential Ellison (1987) is more complete.]
31. The Werewolf of Paris by Guy Endore (1933)
32. Dennis Etchison: The Dark Country (1982)
33. John Farris: All Heads Turn When the Hunt Goes By (1977)
34. Neil Gaiman: Sandman (1988 to 1996)
35. William Golding: Lord of the Flies (1954)
36. Ed Gorman: Moonchasers (1996)
37. Charles L. Grant: Tales from the Nightside (1981)
38. Thomas Harris: Red Dragon (1981)
39. James Herbert: Portent (1996)
40. William Hjortsberg: Falling Angel (1978)
41. Brian Hodge: Falling Idols (1998)
42. William Hope Hodgson: The House on the Borderland (1908)
43. Shirley Jackson: The Haunting of Hill House (1959)
44. Henry James: Stories of the Supernatural (1970) (Stories pre-1915)
45. M.R. James: Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1904)
46. Graham Joyce: Requiem (1995)
47. Franz Kafka: The Trial (1925)
48. Jack Ketchum: The Girl Next Door (1989)
49. Stephen King: The Shining (1977)
50. T.E.D. Klein: The Ceremonies (1984)
51. Kathe Koja: Skin (1993)
52. Dean Koontz: Strange Highways (1995)
53. Jerzy Kosinski: The Painted Bird (1965)
54. Joe R. Lansdale: The Nightrunners (1987)
56. Richard Laymon: The Cellar (1980)
57. Tanith Lee: Dreams of Dark and Light (1986)
55. Fritz Leiber: Our Lady of Darkness (1977)
58. Ira Levin: Rosemary's Baby (1967)
59. Thomas Ligotti: The Nightmare Factory (1996)
60. Bentley Little: The Ignored (1997)
61. H. P. Lovecraft: Best of H.P. Lovecraft : Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror And The Macabre (1997; earliest story first published 1924) (Lovecraft recommendations were usually of two or more collections --The Dunwich Horror & Others, The Outsider & Others, At the Mountains of Madness and Other Novels, The Shadow Out of Time -- or simply "his complete works." I chose this particular volume because it includes "The Rats in the Walls," "The Call of Cthulhu," "The Dunwich Horror," "The Shadow Out of Time," and "The Colour Out of Space" along with an introduction by Robert Bloch. No plots are given away in introductions and it isn't annotated.)
62. Brian Lumley: Fruiting Bodies and Other Fungi (1993)
63. Arthur Machen: The House of Souls (1906)
64. Robert Marasco. Burnt Offerings (1973)
65. Martin, George R. R.: Fevre Dream (1982)
66. Richard Matheson: I Am Legend (1954)
67. Robert R. McCammon: Swan Song (1987)
68. Cormac McCarthy: Blood Meridian (1985)
69. Ian McEwan: The Cement Garden (1978)
70. Patrick McGrath: Spider (1991)
71 Toni Morrison: Beloved (1988) 72. Kim Newman: Anno-Dracula (1992)
73. Flannery O'Connor: Flannery O'Connor Collected Works (1988)
74. Joyce Carol Oates: Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque (1994)
75. Tim Powers: Anubis Gates (1983)
76. Anne Rice: Interview with the Vampire (1976)
77. David J. Schow: Seeing Red (1989)
78. Anne Rivers Siddons: The House Next Door (1978)
79. John Shirley: Black Butterflies: A Flock on the Dark Side (1998)
80. Lucius Shepard: The Jaguar Hunter (1987)
81. Dan Simmons: Lovedeath (1993)
82. John Skipp & Craig Spector: Dead Lines (1989)
83. Clark Ashton Smith: Out of Space and Time (1942)
84. Peter Straub: Ghost Story (1979)
85. William Browning Spencer: Resume With Monsters (1996)
86. Whitley Strieber: The Wolfen (1978)
87. Theodore Sturgeon: Some of Your Blood (1961)
88. Patrick Susskind: Perfume (1984)
89. Bernard Taylor: Sweetheart, Sweetheart (1977)
90. Melanie Tem: Prodigal (1991)
91. Thomas Tessier: The Nightwalker (1979)
92. Thomas Tyron: The Other (1971)
93. Dalton Trumbo: Johnny Got His Gun (1939)
94. E. H. Visiak: Medusa (1929)
95. Karl Edward Wagner: In A Lonely Place (1983)
96. Manly Wade Wellman: Worse Things Waiting (1973)
97. F. Paul Wilson: The Keep (1981)
98. Cornell Woolrich: Night Has A Thousnd Eyes (1945)
99. T.M. Wright: Strange Seed (1977)
100. Chelsea Quinn Yarbo: Hotel Transylvania (1978)


ANTHOLOGIES

SERIES ANTHOLOGIES

Best New Horror series edited (first) by Ramsey Campbell and Stephen Jones, then became Mammoth Book of Best New Horror and edited by Stephen Jones
The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror series edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
Shadows series edited by Charles L. Grant Dark Terrors series edited by Stephen Jones and David Sutton (originally Dark Voices)
Borderlands series edited by Thomas Monteleone (later by Thomas and Elizabeth Monteleone)
The Year's Best Horror Stories series, edited first by Gerald W. Page and later by Karl Edward Wagner
Whispers series edited by Stuart David Schiff
Masques series edited by J.N Williamson

SINGLE VOLUME ANTHOLOGIES (although some of these had sequels)

Mike Baker (ed.): Young Blood (1994)
Poppy Z. Brite (ed.): Love In Vein (1994)
Ramsey Campbell (ed.): New Terrors (1980)
Nancy Collins and Edward Kramer (eds.): Dark Love (1995)
Nancy Collins and Edward Kramer (eds.): Forbidden Acts (1995)
Peter Crowther (ed.) Narrow Houses (1992)
Ellen Datlow (ed.) Blood Is Not Enough (1989)
Ellen Datlow (ed.) Little Deaths (1994)
Dennis Etchison (ed.): Cutting Edge (1986)
Ed Gorman and Martin H. Greenberg (eds.): Stalkers (1989)
David G. Hartwell (ed.): The Dark Descent (1987)
Stephen Jones (ed.): The Mammoth Book of Terror (1991)
Boris Karloff (ed.): And the Darkness Falls (1946)
Kirby McCauley (ed.): Dark Forces (1980)
Bradford Morrow and Patrick McGrath (eds.) The New Gothic (1991)
Katherine Ptacek (ed.): Women of Darkness (1988)
Ray Russell (ed., uncredited): The Playboy Book of Horror and the Supernatural (1967)
David J. Schow (ed.): Silver Scream (1988)
John.Skipp and Craig Spector (eds.): Book of the Dead (1989)
Michele Slung (ed.): I Shudder At Your Touch (1991)
Sir Hugh Walpole (ed.): A Second Century of Creepy Stories (1937)
Phyllis Cerf Wagner and Herbert Wise (eds.): Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural (1944)
Douglas E. Winter (ed.): Prime Evil (1988)
Douglas E. Winter (ed.): Revelations (Millinneum in UK) (1997)


Go to follow-up essay A CENTURY OF HORROR: Six Months Later.

About the Art Used to Illustrate this Essay:
Still-Life with Books
Unknown Dutch Master
c. 1628
Oil on wood, 61.3 x 97.4 cm
Alte Pinakothek, Munich
Dutch artists of the 17th century produced thousands of still-lifes. In the university city of Leiden a special variety occurred: still-lifes with books. The books symbolized the infinite quantity of knowledge contained by them; piles of worn, well-used books represented the vanity of the scholarly life.

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