How Stephen King’s second novel cemented his reputation as America’s foremost horror writer
Stephen King, Salem's Lot
Stephen King, ‘Salem’s Lot

Stephen King first found his way onto the international stage with 1974’s bestseller, Carrie. But it was his next published novel, ‘Salem’s Lot, that cemented his reputation as America’s foremost writer of horror fiction. King, who had been working in obscurity until his newfound success, had two unpublished manuscripts. In his 2005 introduction to ‘Salem’s Lot, King recalls a conversation with his editor Bill Thompson, who was enthusiastic about one of the two manuscripts, calling it ‘Peyton Place with vampires’. It had bestselling potential, Thompson had said, but there was one problem: the decision would forever type him as a horror writer. King was relieved: ‘I don’t care what they call me as long as the checks don’t bounce’.

The cheques didn’t bounce. In the four decades since ‘Salem Lot’s publication in 1975, Stephen King has become one of the world’s bestselling living authors. And, while his work ranges a broad range of styles and genres, including thrillers, fantasy, and nonfiction, his reputation as the ‘King of Horror’ persists. It seems Thompson had been right on both counts. (more…)

Stacey Abbott discusses the role that vampires and zombies play in 21st century culture
stacey-abbott-undead-apocalypse-vampires-zombies-21st-century
Stacey Abbott, Undead Apocalypse: Vampires and Zombies in the 21st century (EUP, 2016)

Recent decades have brought an increasing preoccupation with the gothic figure of the vampire and the apocalyptic zombie. Rather than reading them in opposition to each other, Stacey Abbott traces the similar places they hold our collective imagination. Through a series of engaging and incisive readings encompassing film, television, literature, and pop culture of the 20th and early 21st century, Abbott examines our fascination with these monstrous creatures and the cultural anxieties that they reveal. Undead Apocalypse delineates a contemporary canon of vampire and zombie texts to shed new light on our present historical moment, and the ‘culture of apocalypse’ that surrounds us.

I caught up with Stacey Abbott to discuss her book, published by Edinburgh University Press in September 2016. She shares her personal interest in vampire and zombie texts; what she considers the classics of the genre; and her thoughts on the proliferation of apocalyptic narratives across graphic novels, video games, and cosplay. With critical precision and a fan’s enthusiasm for the subject, Abbott offers a guide to navigating the impending undead apocalypse. (more…)

David Sexton explores the lineage of one of modern literature and film’s most chilling villains in his critical study, The Strange World Of Thomas Harris
Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs
Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs
One of Lecter’s most obvious fictional precursors is Sherlock Holmes and before him, therefore, Poe’s Dupin. Many of Lecter’s observations are pure Holmes in style, if not content. As he tells Clarice: “‘You use Evyan skin cream, and sometimes you wear L’Air du Temps, but not today.'” On their next meeting, he detects a Band-Aid under her clothes.

Compare Holmes on his first meeting with Watson in A Study In Scarlet: “‘You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive.’ ‘How on earth did you know that?’ I asked in astonishment.’ ” When, at their next meeting, Holmes explains his deductions, the amazed Watson says, rightly enough, “You remind me of Edgar Allan Poe’s Dupin. I had no idea that such individuals did exist outside of stories.”
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