DarkEcho Horror
A Girl and her Bug by Rick Berry (Cover of issue 89 of the DC/Vertigo comic Animal Man)

By Paula Guran (Originally Published: 1998)

Stanley Wiater

Stanley Wiater is the premier interviewer of horror and suspense authors, artists, and filmmakers. The author of five books and the editor of two original fiction anthologies, he's also a screenwriter, media consultant, and the head of an editorial service for new writers. This is the guy of whom you can ask, "What's Clive Barker, Ramsey Campbell, Wes Craven, Harlan Ellison, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Robert R. McCammon, Anne Rice, Peter Straub (and dozens of others) REALLY like?" He's interviewed 'em all.

Author ImageHis appreciation of and insight into dark fiction and a dedication to discovering the "secrets of creating truly memorable dark fiction" have helped make him more than just a journalist. Wiater brings focus and definition to the field. His compilation of interviews with 26 of the world's top horror writers, Dark Dreamers: Conversations with the Masters of Horror won a Bram Stoker Award in 1991 from the Horror Writers Association. It's companion volume, Dark Visions: Conversations with the Masters of the Horror Film, was nominated for a Stoker the following year. His latest book, Dark Thoughts: On Writing presents advice and commentary from 50 "masters of fear and suspense" gleaned from more than 20 years of interviews. (See review.)

(As an appendix to Dark Thoughts: On Writing, Wiater listed what he considers some of the "best" of horror. One thing visitors to this site and horror fans in general often request is lists of recommended reading. The author has graciously allowed publication these lists here on the Web for your edification.)

I asked Wiater why he thinks he's qualified to compile "Best of Modern Horror" recommendations. "Quite honestly," he replied, "I've been reading the very best the field has to offer for the past 35 years, perhaps because I have the intelligence and critical taste to know the good stuff when I see it. Beyond the copious reading I've done in preparation as an interviewer, I've done my share of book reviews over the past 25 years. Reading is like the fourth meal of the day for me."

book coverHe came up with his recommendations mostly from his own reading of what he considers the "creme de la creme" of the horror and dark suspense genre. Wiater also consulted colleagues in the field whose opinions he greatly respected and checked previous lists of this nature, including those compiled by Douglas E. Winter, Stephen Jones, and Kim Newman. "Some of what I chose is the same as on their lists," he acknowledges, "but then again, there are books which, to the best of my knowledge, have not appeared on any 'best of' lists. And they deserved to be.

Why 113 selections for his list? "I could have easily done 213 recommendations. But I don't want to go down that path of 'almost made its,' as it would seem then that these authors were on a "B" list because they did not 'pass muster' to be on the 'A' list of the original 113. The genre of 'horror' cannot be easily defined -- or easily restricted to a set number of stereotypes or situations. Or worthy titles, for that matter."

Finally, why does Wiater read horror anyway, why does he love it? "I don't know how to answer that question," he replies. "I daresay someone could easily write an entire book to offer up a satisfactory reply! One of the reasons I've always read horror is because it takes me away for a few hours from the real-life horrors that are all around us, everyday. Like many horror writers, I happen to be one of those personalities who is quite literally afraid of everything -- and therefore choose to control as much of reality as a can by writing about the scary side of it for a career."

For more on Stanley Wiater, his work, editing, writing, and interviews with Stephen King, Peter Straub, Clive Barker, and Dean Koontz visit his Web site,

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Copyright © 2002 Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved.