8 Horror Authors that Belong on Everyone’s Bookshelf
Horror is one of the most popular genres in literature and one of my own personal favorites. But while there are countless authors out there serving up spine-tingling tales, as readers, we only want the very best. After all, life is too short to read bad books.
So, to help you in your own exploration of the genre, I’ve compiled a list of the very best horror authors of all time. Whether it’s classic supernatural tales or slasher stories filled with guts and gore, here are 8 horror authors that belong on everyone’s bookshelf.
Born in 1916, American author Shirley Jackson is still one of the most influential and steadfast names in the world of horror, and for good reason. She wrote over 200 short stories, six novels, and two memoirs during her career, many of which gained international attention. This was all during a time that women were still expected to stay at home, so it’s safe to say that Shirley Jackson was a feminist icon who was way ahead of her time.
Her most influential novel was The Haunting of Hill House, which was wildly successful and continues to be hailed as the most quintessential haunted house story of all time. She’s also the author behind the unsettling short story The Lottery, which shows the more sinister side of a seemingly quaint American town.
“The Lottery” is a short story that was first published in The New Yorker on June 26, 1948. The story describes a fictional small American community that observes an annual tradition known as “the lottery”, in which a member of the community is selected by chance and stoned to death to ensure a good harvest and purge the town of bad omens. Not only is this story terrifying, but it has also inspired acclaimed stories over the decades.
Irish author Abraham “Bram” Stoker is famous around the world for being the man behind the definitive vampire novel, Dracula. Published way back in 1897, Dracula paved the way for our modern-day interpretation of everything that a vampire should be.
The Sherlock Holmes author, Arthur Conan Doyle, was so impressed by Stoker’s work, he wrote him a letter of congratulations, saying,
“I write to tell you how very much I have enjoyed reading Dracula. I think it is the very best story of diablerie which I have read for many years.”
Aside from this classic novel, Bram Stoker wrote many other books during his lifetime, including the horror novels The Lady of the Shroud and The Lair of the White Worm.
“The Judge’s House” is a classic ghost story first published in the December 5, 1891, special Christmas issue of the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News weekly magazine. In the story, a student arrives in a small town looking for a quiet place to stay while preparing for his examination. Making light of the local superstitions, he moves into an old mansion where a notorious hanging judge once lived. The story is horrifying and nestled comfortably in Stoker’s gorgeous prose.
Anne Rice is a household name thanks to her bestselling series, The Vampire Chronicles, which centers around an enigmatic vampire named Lestat. Two of the most successful books from the collection, Interview with the Vampire and Queen of the Damned, went on to become blockbuster movies, which only helped to solidify Rice’s status as a queen of the horror genre.
As well as her famed gothic fiction works, Rice has also dabbled in Christian literature and erotic literature (two genres that don’t often go together!). Her books have sold over 150 million copies worldwide, making her not just a giant in the horror world but one of the best-selling authors of all time.
Lives of the Mayfair Witches is a trilogy of supernatural horror/fantasy novels that centers on a family of witches whose fortunes have been guided for generations by a spirit named Lasher. If you love her Vampire Chronicles and have an interest in witchcraft, these are for you.
British novelist Clive Barker is the author behind the smash hit Hellraiser and Candyman series, both of which have been adapted to the silver screen and cemented into horror history.
His reputation as a leading horror author began back in the mid-1980s when he published his series of short stories entitled Books of Blood. Even the Master of Horror, Stephen King, was impressed, writing, “I have seen the future of horror, and his name is Clive Barker.”
As well as being a giant in the literary world, Barker is also a filmmaker, a playwright, and a celebrated painter and illustrator; look out for some of his original illustrations in his earlier novels.
It can easily be said that The Hellbound Heart is one of the most terrifying novels Barker has ever written. This novel was published in 1986 and had just under 200 pages of petrifying hedonistic horror. The Hellbound Heart is not only a bestselling novel but was also adapted into one of the most iconic horror films of all time, bringing to life one of the most frightening villains, Pinhead.
Dean Koontz is another literary giant of our time. Although his work often falls under the suspense and thriller genres, there are strong elements of horror throughout the majority of this prolific author’s books.
Throughout his long career as a writer, he’s had huge success, publishing over 105 novels, with sixteen of them reaching the New York Times Best Sellers list. Titles like Demon Seed, Night Chills, Whispers, The Mask, Phantoms, and Strangers are just a peppering of his best-loved books.
And just like King, Koontz has written under other pen names during his career, including David Axton, Deanna Dwyer, K.R. Dwyer, Leigh Nichols, and Brian Coffey.
The Moonlight Bay Trilogy is, much to the dismay of Koontz fans the world over, an unfinished trilogy that revolves around the mysterious events in Moonlight Bay, a fictional southern California town, that are investigated by the main character Christopher Snow. The first two books, Fear Nothing and Seize the Night are not only scary as hell but filled with shocking twists and turns. Rumors of the third book, tentatively titled Ride the Storm, have been circulating for nearly a decade while Koontz has continued to churn out fantastic but unrelated titles.
Born in 1890, H.P. Lovecraft pioneered the weird horror genre, writing timeless classics like The Call of Cthulhu, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, The Whisperer in Darkness, and The Dunwich Horror, just to name a few.
Though they were written in the early part of the 20th century, his books are still adored by horror fans around the world to this day.
Lovecraft’s style led him to become the father of The Cthulhu Mythos, a shared fictional universe that implements the same settings, tropes, and folklore that Lovecraft was so famous for.
His predecessors even coined a subgenre based on his career; Lovecraftian horror focuses more on the darkness of the incomprehensible and unknowable rather than the classic guts and gore, or ghouls and ghosts that many people associate with the horror genre.
At the Mountains of Madness is a science fiction-horror novella by American author H. P. Lovecraft, written in February/March 1931 and rejected that year by Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright on the grounds of its length. It was originally serialized in the February, March, and April 1936 issues of Astounding Stories. It has been reproduced in numerous collections. The story details the events of a disastrous expedition to Antarctica in September 1930, and what is found there by a group of explorers led by the narrator, Dr. William Dyer of Miskatonic University.
Edgar Allan Poe
The celebrated American author Edgar Allan Poe is credited with laying many of the early foundations of the horror genre that we know and love today. Though he started his literary career as a poet, he soon turned his attention to writing short stories and went on to give us some of the most terrifying tales of our time.
The Fall of the House of Usher, The Tell Tale Heart, The Black Cat, and The Cask of Amontillado are just a few of his timeless classics that are still devoured by fans of gothic and macabre fiction around the world today.
Poe lived a notoriously troubled life, and his stories seem to reflect this. Each of his major works portrays a dark, gloomy and sinister atmosphere, patchworked with themes of madmen, murder, dungeons, and death.
Everything. Read them all.
It might not come as a surprise that ‘The Master of Horror’ Stephen King takes the top spot on this list. He’s written at least 80 books during his incredible career, with the vast majority of them becoming bestsellers around the globe, making him by far the most successful author of our time.
Though most of his books bear his famous moniker, he’s also the author behind the pseudonym Richard Bachman.
His classics such as It, Carrie, The Stand, Misery, The Shining, and Pet Sematary have gone down in horror fiction history, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this exceptional author’s vast repertoire.
Salem’s Lot, Misery, The Stand, Pet Sematary, It. The titles go on and on and on and you really can’t miss. I recently sat down and listed my Top 10 Stephen King Books of All Time. Go check it out for a comprehensive breakdown.