Give horror a chance?

A lot of people don’t like horror, and that’s fine. Some are put off for entirely legitimate reasons. However, there are, lurking at the fringes of the genre, a number of readers who are happy to delve into, say, dark and disturbing thrillers, but baulk at the idea of reading horror.

This has always puzzled me, because whenever I encourage these people to take the plunge and read one of my horror novels, they invariably find them as gripping and page-turning as the kind of genre fiction they normally enjoy. In fact, the response I hear most often is “I didn’t ever expect I would like horror, but your stories are an exception”.

Horror has always been a disreputable genre, not entirely without reason. However, within horror are a myriad of subgenres which people may or may not like: zombie, supernatural, splatter, satirical, vampire, werewolf, metaphysical, gothic… You get the idea.

A blanket dismissal of horror is rather closed-minded, for all but the very sensitive. After all, much of what makes a great horror story also makes a great mystery and suspense story, which is why horror’s closest genre cousin, the thriller, makes for such a celebrated cross-over.

For example, is The Silence of the Lambs a horror novel or a thriller? Is Robin Cook’s Coma horror or thriller? What about my own novels such as The Thistlewood Curse or Spectre of Springwell Forest? Horror or supernatural thriller?

I really don’t like describing my horror novels as being horror, because lots of readers then automatically expect tedious tales of teenagers being stalked by masked maniacs, or gruesome “torture porn” type horror. I’m not really interested in either. Yes, I’m not above the odd gory scare if dramatically justified and well deployed, but the fact is my horror novels are often much more psychological and mysterious in nature. Their supernatural elements also fall much more into the ghost story/gothic aesthetic; a noble tradition stretching back to the days of MR James or Charles Dickens, and more recently adopted by the likes of Susan Hill.

Then there are those put off for snooty, elitist reasons, but literary snobs are dismissive of all genre fiction, and that’s their loss.

In short, if you’d read a dark thriller but so far have shied away from horror, why not give one of my horror novels a go? You may be pleasantly surprised. In fact, my latest novel, The Irresistible Summons, is released officially on the 27th of July, but paperbacks are already available, and Kindle versions can be pre-ordered here (in the UK) and here (in the US).

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