DarkEcho Horror
deccoclock by Rick Berry
Book Review

Dark Thoughts: On Writing
edited by Stanley Wiater
Underwood Books/206 pp./US$13.00
ISBN 1-887424-30-X

Okay, so I'm prejudiced, but I find it fascinating to try to catch a glimpse into the minds of dark fiction writers. Since I find horror at its best to be the most imaginative and well-written literature one can read, I can't help but think such polite prying to be edifying as well -- and not just to other horror writers.

With Dark Thoughts: On Writing, Stanley Wiater has done some expert prying and offers the reader glimpses in abundance. Built, quote by quote, over the years from primarily previously published interviews -- this is a book that only Wiater could have compiled. There may be others who have interviewed and reported on horror for as long or longer; some who have equal or greater knowledge; other writers who have an idea how the creative mind works -- but no one else has ever approached so many of the masters of the field with not only experience, knowledge, and imagination, but also the unabashed love for horror and its creators that Wiater possesses.

The quotes are arranged by chapters with themes like "Basic Influences," "Working in the Dark," "Going to the Movies," "Sex and Death and Other Unspeakable Concerns," "Shocking Advice," and even the always-wondered, but frustrating-to-answer "Where Do You Get Your Ideas?" There is nothing particularly revelatory or shocking and the advice given, albeit well put, is what you tend to hear from any established writer. Wiater has, however, been careful to retain the contributors' unique voices in their replies -- even when writers are quoting other writers.

There are a few interesting juxtapositions, a great deal of agreement, a tremendous amount of insight, and the occasional deep thought. Overall there are sizable portions of food for thought and grist for the inspirational mill. I do wonder why out of 52 "masters of fear and suspense" that includes comic creators and screenwriters, that Wiater could manage to interview only two women -- Anne Rice and Nancy Collins (and Collins is quoted minimally.) I also would have liked brief biographical information on the contributors. We may all know who Stephen King is, but...Gary Bradner? Morever, some definition of just what areas the writers have created for -- screen, literature, comics, etc. -- and respective accomplishments would supply some context for their wisdom as would giving at least approximate dates for material ranging from 1974 to 1997.

A valuable "Reader's Guide to Writing Horror" and recommended reading lists in modern horror are offered in a reference section at the end. And, although I have some quibbles with the recommendations ("DarkEcho," the newsletter, is not mentioned, they are, for the most part, solid and up-to-date.

Quibbles aside, Dark Thoughts: On Writing should be read by writers, readers, and anyone with an interest in dark fiction as literature or as "genre." It offers us all a slice of the heart of darkness and a piece of its creative soul. -- Paula Guran

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Copyright © 2002 Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved.