By G. S. Norwood.
I am not a horror fan. While I deeply respect Stephen King, and am happy to recommend his memoir/advice book, On Writing, I’ll be the first to admit I haven’t read many of his other works. I don’t enjoy being scared. It’s not a recreational pursuit for me. Film franchises like Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street do not tempt me. I’m not tuning in to Lovecraft Country, although I hear it’s terrific.
Funny horror stuff is okay for me—films like The Addams Family and Beetlejuice. Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride knocked me out with its stop-motion animation. But I’m too chicken for the super scary stuff. In fact, when I was three, I was too chicken to watch The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.
Imagination Makes it Scary
Still, I wonder sometimes if the horror is more horrible in my imagination than it is in reality. I remember a childhood friend describing James Whale’s Frankenstein to me after he’d seen the 1931 horror classic on TV. It sounded really scary. I avoided watching it until 2014, when the Dallas Winds did a live concert performance playing Michael Shapiro’s brooding orchestral score under the film.
Boris Karloff was the best part, of course. I felt tremendous sympathy for his misunderstood monster. But the rest of the story? After decades of avoiding it because it was “too scary,” I walked away thinking, “C’mon, buddy. You want to create new life? There are time-tested methods for that. You’ve already got the girl. It could be fun.”
Horror? In a Time of Virus?
In this Time of Virus, I have found myself turning more and more to books that soothe and reassure me. I’ve re-read mysteries where I already know the ending. I’ve chain-read a series of romantic comedies by British author Jules Wake, set in the London theatrical scene, or in cozy country villages.
I put off reading Elly Griffiths’ The Stranger Diaries for months because the cover blurb sounded too creepy. As it turned out, it was just a slightly stalkerish murder mystery, and I enjoyed it immensely.
Two other recent reads stepped out of my usual comfort zone into the realm of horror. One was a terrific ghost story/mystery called The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James. It skirted pretty close to my limits in the beginning, but I’m glad I stuck with it.
The other was a real-life horror story. Jerry Mitchell was an investigative reporter for the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger. His book, Race Against Time recounts four horrific crimes committed by members of the Ku Klux Klan during the 1960s Civil Rights era. Through work by Mitchell and others, these criminals were finally brought to justice.
Horror? I was certainly horrified by the violence Mitchell depicted. But I was also uplifted by the understanding that evil can be defeated whenever good people—real or fictional—have the courage to stand up and fight back.
The Movie poster for The Ghost and Mr. Chicken The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the film, Universal Pictures, the publisher of the film or the graphic artist. Image via Wikipedia. The movie theater lobby card for Frankenstein is by Employee(s) of Universal Pictures. Now in the Public Domain, this image is from Wikimedia Commons.
The header for The Sun Down Motel is courtesy of Simone St. James’s website. Quote by Riley Sager. Book cover photograph by Tom Hogan/Plain Picture; Jacket design by Sarah Oberrender/Berkley books. The photo of author Jerry Mitchell is by James Patterson, Mississippi Clarion Ledger. Cover for Race Against Time is courtesy of Simon & Schuster.