I don’t know about you guys, but I LOVE obscure facts.
If you need a conversation starter? Obscure fact. If you want to feel smart? Obscure fact. If you want to make your non-horror loving pals look at you as if you just grew another head? Obscure fact.
A quick Google search on just about any topic can give you obscure facts. However, a reference book gives you so much more detail! You will come across things that you never would have thought to search for, and you will want to dig and dig and dig into that weird little nugget. Your to-read list will grow. Your to-watch list will grow. And your appreciation for the subject matter will grow and grow and grow.
In honour of the publication of Paperbacks From Hell by Grady Hendrix, I’ve revisited some of the books on my shelf and put together this list of non-fiction that every horror fan will enjoy!
Paperbacks From Hell: The Twisted History of ’70s and ’80s Horror Fiction by Grady Hendrix
Grady Hendrix has taken readers to some very interesting places. In his novel Horrorstör, we got to visit a haunted IKEA. In My Best Friend’s Exorcism, he blended the nostalgia of an 80s movie with the fine line between demonic possession and teenaged girls being awful. And now, he turns to the bizarre world of horror publishing. The only difference is, this time, it’s true.
This book is incredible. It features all kinds of beautiful photos of wonderful, bizarre and downright disturbing cover art from the 70s and 80s, accompanied by insight into trends in the publishing industry, popular cinema, and social climate of the time that allowed this bizarre bubble to not only grow, but flourish.
Not only is this book unique, interesting and visually appealing, it has the added bonus of being something that even true horror fans haven’t seen a million times over. I consider myself a bibliophile and I have done my fair share of digging through musty boxes in used bookstores, and there are still PLENTY of titles in here that I have never read, much less heard of. Hendrix is clearly a true book lover. He handles the subject so well, and with such a great tone. He clearly knows that these books are fun, and that they don’t need to be considered great art to be enjoyed. However, he handles it with an awe and respect for the creativity that went into the writing of these bizarre novels that makes me want to grill him on what he reads and go through all of his bookshelves for hours and hours. This book is necessary not only for any hardcore horror fan, but any book lover interested in publishing history. Be forewarned, though – it will make you want to run to the nearest dusty used bookstore and get completely lost in the stacks.
The Bradbury Chronicles: The Life of Ray Bradbury by Sam Weller
Ray Bradbury…do I really need to explain why he is such a fascinating subject? Several of his books rank as some of my all-time favourites, including The Illustrated Man, Dandelion Wine, and, not surprisingly, Fahrenheit 451. His short stories can’t be beat for being entertaining and impactful, and I re-read them regularly. His story, The Whole Town’s Sleeping, gets my heart racing every single time!
The first Ray Bradbury I was exposed to was, of course, Fahrenheit 451. It was clearly not a modern title, but it felt like such a modern topic when I read it. As a book lover, I really believe that this is a book that everyone has to read; I don’t think I’ve run into a single person who hasn’t had great things to say about it. I quickly gobbled up his more popular titles, like Something Wicked This Way Comes and The Martian Chronicles. The more I read, the more impressed I was with the scope of his writing – it is so poetic for a so-called science fiction writer. He wrote for an unbelievably long period of time, beginning with short stories in the late 30s and continuing until his death in 2012. He is considered a classic American writer and yet, I feel like a lot of his works are criminally under-read; beyond the titles that are now considered classics, people don’t actively seek him out. Those people don’t know what they’re missing!
This biography is clearly written by someone who is a huge fan of Bradbury’s work. He writes a heartfelt introduction as to why that is, and is very open about what his stories have meant to him over the years. Through this lens of awestruck fandom, Weller examines Bradbury’s life in a way that allows you to enjoy his works in a new way. He explores some of the major influences of the political climate around him, including the Red Scare and McCarthyism. He also looks at some of the relationships Bradbury had with some of the greats, including Hitchcock, as well as his influence on culture through his television, screenplay, and comic book work.
An opinionated, insightful, and highly interesting individual, this one is great for anyone who believes that Bradbury has been overly simplified as a “science fiction writer,” and anyone who already appreciates the dark nature of his stories will gain so much more insight into his work, making them love it all the more.
Horror Cinema edited by Paul Duncan and Jurgen Miller
I received this mini coffee-table book as a birthday gift (thank you again!). It is published through Taschen, who is known for publishing books full of beautiful photographs. This one is no different! It is full of movie posters as well as stills, and covers suggestions for watching from German expressionist silent films to 90s slasher flicks. I might be biased because as a huge film nerd I will admit that the paper I wrote on German expressionism with a focus on The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was probably the most fun I ever had doing homework.
While most hardcore horror fans will recognize the bulk of the titles referenced, there are still several films in this 630-odd page reference guide, there were still a few in there that I now have to track down. Whether your taste is Nosferatu or Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, Pet Sematary or 28 Days Later, Suspiria or The Alligator People, this book has something for everyone.
Plus, it looks REALLY PRETTY on a book shelf!
Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy – The Making of Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street by Thommy Hutson
Whether you love him or hate him, it is hard to deny the impact that Freddy Krueger had on the horror movie landscape.
Wes Craven is now considered legendary, reviving the slasher movie with smart, meta movies such as his Scream series. However, until I read this book, I had never really considered the amount of detail that Craven packed into his movies, and the fine tuning decisions that he agonized over that as viewers we don’t think about. For example, the choosing of Freddy Krueger’s sweater was based on a scientific article that he read about how the eye processes colour, and how some colour combinations are harder to look at than others. In choosing the now iconic stripes, he was choosing to make Freddy actually even more difficult to even look at, adding to the psychology of how we perceive the character. Honestly, he is a dead child molester who tortures his former victims in their sleep…he did NOT need to be more difficult to look at! But Wes Craven added that layer that we didn’t even consider. And once you know, you respect him all the more for it.
For anyone who thinks that 80s horror is cheesy, this book is for you. After reading about how the use of practical effects and real maggots in this low budget movie made for some genuine reactions, as well as the attention to detail and the passion that Craven threw into this project, you will watch A Nightmare on Elm Street with fresh eyes.
Rue Morgue magazine
Rue Morgue is a magazine headquartered right here in Canada that really delivers on content. Book and movie reviews, product offerings, excellent interviews, and examinations of forgotten and obscure films are just some of the articles that you’ll find in this bi-monthly magazine. There is real passion in each and every item that you find in here, and it is clear that this is a publication by fans, for fans.
On top of their regular magazine, they also publish several specials in their Rue Morgue Library series. These are not books, more like a special issue of the magazine, but they are well bound and clearly made for repeat reference. They range from about 80 pages to 130 pages each of a specific topic; they have run issues on everything from Phantasm to shark movies to H. P. Lovecraft. If you’re looking for a variety of reference and interesting facts presented by people who are excited to be doing so, Rue Morgue is where you want to be!
Enjoy adding a whole new layer of appreciation to the genre you love!