Sunday, January 19, 2014

How to Find Horror Books at the Book Sale

Horror has become a funny genre, I've noticed, in the Panhandle. Some people are adamantly for it, some people are adamantly against it, and most don't know it's there. It's hard being a horror reader smack dab in the middle of the USA Bible Belt, but it exists. You just have to know what you are looking for, so if you are a horror reader like me and want something other than the big three : Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Anne Rice, then follow the leads I use when I go to book sales to sniff up some scary titles....

Please note, I know some horror fans like novels about serial killers. I am not one of them. I like monsters and ghosts. So, if you like monsters and ghosts, this is good for you. If you like serial killers, I'm going to suggest looking in the 'true crimes' section of your library for new titles. Dewey number is 364.

Ok... so it's less leads and more memorizing a few things, but it isn't painful, I promise.

1 . KNOW the authors

It's as simple as that. Do a Google search on horror authors and commit the names to memory even if you hadn't read one of their books before. Because if you can find one author, then you can look in the endnotes (located in the front AND back) for more horror authors. That's how they advertise them. Here's a short list of authors I scan for every time I hit up a booksale ....

Brian Keene    (splatterpunk)
Bentley Little
Robert McCammon
Chelsea Yarbro
Edward Lee    (splatterpunk)
Richard Laymon      (splatterpunk)
Tim Curran
John Saul
Sarah Pinborough

... there are a lot more, but those will definitely get you going in the right direction. 

The ones I've labelled with 'splatterpunk' - most of their work is in the splatterpunk genre. If you aren't familiar with what that is, it is extreme horror. It makes Stephen King's books look sweet and cuddly. So if King's stuff is scary enough, then splatterpunk is not where you want to go, and I would read passages from those authors before you buy. I personally enjoy a few, but I know it isn't for everyone. They can still lead you to authors who are not considered splatterpunk. Bizarro fiction is also a genre that isn't always for the weak of stomach. Not all bizarro fiction is gross though. If you notice either of those being used to describe a book, and you aren't sure if it is your thing, read a passage or look around for reviews. See which authors are endorsing it. Or, just take a chance ;)
2 . Use authors to find publishing companies; use publishing companies to find more authors.

Once upon a time, there was Leisure Horror which was a branch publishing company that brought out all scary books all the time. Unfortunately, they shut down the operation around 2008. Their main company 'Leisure Books' still puts out lots of work, but you won't see 'leisure horror' on any spines now. They publish
the Tim Curran and Brian Keene material (two authors I really recommend, by the way). TOR is a trusted name in science-fiction if space horror or dark fantasy is your thing.

 Once you find an author's work that you really like, look at their personal webpage or online and find out who publishes their material. If it is a smaller publishing company (not like B&T or Penguin), they will likely publish books that are similar to that author. Spend a few minutes clicking around and familiarizing yourself with the page. You'll be surprised sometimes by what you find.

3. Look for horror stereotypes

It is a horrible thing to say, but it is SO TRUE. Horror books are colored/designed in a way that makes them obvious. Look for dark colored spines - black is the most popular; also, dark blues and reds are popular. Look for titles - the publishers want their audience to find them, so the authors who are less well-known will give them horror related titles (i.e. "The Summoning" , "Dark Depths of the Soul" , "House on Black Street" , "The Midnight Hour" , "Attack of the Sewer Creatures"  --- you are welcome to use these random titles, by the way. If you write one, send me a copy!) The covers will depict typically scary scenes- for example, stormy weather, abandoned houses, claw marks, blood stains, and standard horror monsters. Or thematically 'scary' objects- for example, barbed wire, candles, torn photographs, broken glass. If you find a scary cover, quickly flip it around and read the back. It'll only take a few seconds. A lot of thrillers will also use scary imagery. More info on this in the FAQ below.

4. Flip to a couple random pages and search for keywords 

Ok, so you've found a book by a new author that looks scary and the summary is scary, but you still aren't sure if you found a true horror title or not. You don't want to end up with a forensics-laden thriller again. What do you do? - Simple. Open the book up to the first couple pages. Sometimes there is a juicy little spooky segment as part of the endnotes for you to read! If there isn't one of these, then flip open to a random page of the book and look for keywords .... words associated with gore (blood, entrails, disembowel, decapitate, strangle).... words associated with fear (chills, shivers, breathing fast, rapid heartbeat) .... words associated with monsters (hairy, drool, malevolent, colossal, unholy).... read a passage to get a feel for the book. This is also a handy tip for any book in general, especially if you plan to spend hard-earned money on it! Nothing's worse than paying for a book only to find that it totally stinks.


Why can't I just look on the spine? - the publishing companies mark books with 'romance' and 'thriller' etc. So shouldn't the horror ones be marked too? I don't need to know this stuff...
Uh huh. If you'll take a look at a lot of the popular horror you're reading, they don't mark them as 'horror' they are marked either as 'fiction' or 'thriller' (the former being even more vague than the later). For some reason 'horror' has become kind of a negative word, so older publications will have 'horror' but newer publications will only mark 'fiction' or 'thriller'.Some companies are getting to the point where 'horror' and 'thriller' are synonymous, because 'horror' only appeals to a small group of people and 'thriller' will attract a wider audience (those into mysteries, and true crime, and law, etc). So the rule of thumb is.... Horror are thrillers, but not all thrillers are horror.

What if I don't have a computer at home to find authors and publishers?If you're on a public computer seeing this, and aren't really comfortable searching for horror there, then definitely go to your public library and ask a librarian to help you locate horror titles and authors. They are trained to find titles and authors and subjects in a timely fashion! 

I tried using these tips, and still couldn't find anything!
I'm sorry about that. Remember, they are only tips. They aren't foolproof. If you still have trouble finding horror authors, go to your public library and ask a librarian.

Hey Swick.... V.C. Andrews....
I respect that some people like V.C. Andrews; I am not one of them, and I don't think her books should really belong in the 'horror' genre. That is my personal opinion.

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