Tag Archives: stephen king

The Ten Books That Have Stuck With Me

This has been a hot little topic running around social media the last week and I figured, “Why not?” So here are the ten books that shaped me as a reader, a writer, and to an extent, a person.

chesbro valhallaThe Beasts of ValhallaGeorge C. Chesbro
My grandmother, that beautiful woman, put this book in my hand one night during a marathon D&D session. “Try this one,” she said. “You’ll like it, I think.” She was right. The fourth book in the Mongo mystery series, The Beasts of Valhalla is a wonderful mix of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, action, and thriller. Dealing with evolution, bigotry, and murder, Mongo the Magnificent must figure out what’s happening to him and his brother before it’s too late, because if they don’t, the entire world will be changed forever.

This book was a game changer for me in terms of cross-genre writing. If you’re a fan of any of the above mentioned genres, pick this one up and give it a whirl. It stands well enough on its own that you don’t need to read the first three books in the series.

imageThe TombF. Paul Wilson
The first Repairman Jack novel, and also the first novel I read by F. Paul Wilson. My aunt loaned me this book (probably in 1990 or so) and we debated over the end. I always voted that Jack died, but we now know otherwise. And trust me, when the second Repairman Jack novel came out, my aunt didn’t hesitate to say, “I told you.”

The novel, also part of the six-book Adversary Cycle, follows Jack as he battles the ancient and mythical Rakoshi. You don’t want to miss this one.

imageThe Tomorrow FileLawrence Sanders
I’m not sure where to start with this book. Sanders, probably best known for his Deadly Sins series featuring Edward X. Delaney, wrote prolifically throughout his career. From male hookers to feminism in the 80s, his off-series books are all incredibly poignant, considering most of them are almost as old as I am.

In The Tomorrow File, Sanders gives us a dystopian vision of America that isn’t too far off from where we’re at now. Acronyms fly, corrupt police, and a government that spies on its own people.

theythirstThey ThirstRobert R. McCammon
This book made my top five vampire novels.  You can read why it made that list on the post here. I hope you do.

Aside from those reasons, it’s here because I love vampires (not as much as werewolves, but close). The classic monsters are a big, big draw for me. McCammon is a hell of a writer and this is my favorite of his, by far. But he also wrote a damn good werewolf novel, an alien novel, and… I could go on. But if you’re into vampires, epic storytelling, a large cast of heroes and villains, then look no further than They Thirst. It has all of that and more.

imageConanRobert E. Howard, L. Sprague de Camp, and Lin Carter
I’m not a Conan scholar, not by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t think this the first collection of Conan stories, or the last, but it was the one we owned when I was a kid. It was an introduction to fantasy that wasn’t “The Hobbit” and really defined “low fantasy” for me. I know that’s an age-old debate (what high vs low fantasy really is), but in my own personal definitions, Conan is some of the best out there. And he’s stood the test of time, still being the baddest barbarian on the block.

imageLightningDean Koontz
When I was younger, I had a hard time deciding if King or Koontz was the better author. Considering I don’t really read either of them anymore (but they’re both on this list) I’m not sure it matters. I enjoyed them when I was younger.

Lightning strikes at pivotal times in Laura Shane’s life. And with it comes a blonde man who offers unconditional aid. Finding out who he is, and why he helps, while weaving a tale of historic importance is what makes this book one of the Koontz’s best.

imageDifferent SeasonsStephen King
Koontz and King… I’ve always enjoyed King’s shorter work more than his novels. In Different Seasons, he gives us four novellas, and they’re all stupendous.

Most of you have probably read this book, or at least seen the movie adaptations based on three of the stories: Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, The Body, and Apt Pupil. The only one not yet a movie is The Breathing Method, which is arguably the weakest story in the collection. That said, it’s still very good. Definitely my favorite of King’s work, as it showcases more than just his horror sensibilities.

imageThe WerelingDavid Robbins
Man, this book took me in a whole new direction when it came to creature horror. It’s a werewolf book, yet it’s not a werewolf book. And if you know me, you know how I love my werewolf horror. That love is one reason why I’ve only written two werewolf-y short stories, and haven’t tackled the novel idea I have.

I don’t want to fuck it all up.

Robbins takes the werewolf idea, the spirit of it, and uses it to his advantage. He gives us a werewolf book that’s not a werewolf book, filled with classic horror archetypes and scenarios. It’s a quick, interesting read that plays on all the classic B elements.

ghoulsGhoulsEdward Lee
I couldn’t remember the name of this book for years. My grandmother had it on her shelf and that’s where I first read it. Initial response was: “Oh, Dean Koontz under a pen name!” I probably read this book four times in a two year span, and then lost track of it. Forgot the name, found the name, didn’t have the awesome blue cover I remembered. Found that next. Google, a lovely thing.

Why this book? I don’t know… It’s just FUN. For someone who read a lot of horror back in the day, this book doesn’t take itself too seriously, but the characters are all well done, and the pacing builds up until it explodes a little over halfway through. And from there, it turns into an action/horror piece that’s hard to quit reading.

F451Fahrenheit 451Ray Bradbury
Probably the only true “classic” on my list, which isn’t to say that I didn’t read any of the others, or didn’t like any of the others (I’ve read and liked my fair share), but Bradbury’s story of a fireman burning books hits close to home. Not only do we see a downside in education and people reading in general, but a complete lack of respect for authors in general.

Reading is an immense joy for me. I’m a firm believer that reading books makes us better people, more empathetic towards others, by exposing us to ideas, cultures, and situations we may not normally find in our everyday lives. I mean, c’mon, I’m a fat middle-aged white guy from Missouri who grew up at the high end of  the middle-class… what the fuck did I know about oppression? Nothing, until I started reading. And Fahrenheit 451 only confirms what we all know… if you haven’t read this book, it’s a must.

What about you, Brownies? Sound off in the comments about these books, or any others that have stuck with you over the years! I’d love to hear about them.

My Top Five Vamper Novels…

As promised last week, I’m going to take a hot minute to list my top five vampire books. Mind you, these are novels, so I’m not including vampire movies or comics or television shows. I read these books once every couple of years and I’m always finding different reasons to love them. I think readers are hard pressed to find better bloodsucker fiction out there. The five listed here have influenced my love of vampires and still do, and since I want you to read them (if you haven’t), I’m going to give a very brief “this is why I loved it” paragraph about each one and I’m going to list them in reverse order, from 5 to 1.

5. Vampire$ by John Steakley

vampire$Where do I start here? Vampire hunters who work for the church and are paid well for it. Deals well with the religious aspect of vampirism (being on hallowed ground hurts, which speaks to the existence of God), as well as the toll hunting the undead might take on a person. They kill hard, drink hard, and die hard. The vampires are mean, they have an agenda, and this novel is good on so many levels it’d take two or three blog posts to cover them all. If you’ve only seen John Carpenter’s film based on the book, do your brain a favor and get the real deal. Read the book.

4. Midnight Mass by F. Paul Wilson

midnightmassF. Paul Wilson is one of my favorite authors. With this book, Wilson also deals with religion in vampirism, but he does it differently than Steakley does. You see, the main character is a rabbi and he doesn’t like the implications of vampires fearing the cross and holy water sizzling on their skin. Along with that, we have an interesting cast of characters, which stick out to me still for their diversity: the rabbi, a drunked out and blacklisted priest, a lesbian, and a nun. Plus, the vampires are mean as hell, and it’s one of the first books I remember reading where vampires have human lackeys working for them. The last battle for these characters takes place in the church of the blacklisted priest, and it’s a fight that will restore hope to the human race. If the humans can win, that is.

3. I am Legend by Richard Matheson

iamlegendcoverI’m not sure if this book even needs more words written about it, as it’s a classic in every sense of the word. However, like any book, it’s impact on readers vary and I’m not excluded from that. I’m sure what I loved about it, another person may have hated. For me, it was always Neville’s loneliness, and how he took to Cortman in the novel. It didn’t humanize the vampires (as a whole) that showed up at Neville’s door, but it illustrated how a man can humanize a single entity in the group, can empathize and have sympathy for something that’s perceived evil. This book is one of the main reasons why I believe reading makes us better humans, better able to relate to people who aren’t quite like us. If you’re that rare vampire fan (meaning you’re probably very young) who hasn’t read this book, then do it. Today.

2‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

salemslotcoverAnother classic vampire tale that doesn’t need an in depth discussion from the likes of me. I’ll cut right to the chase and what made this book stand out for me was King’s willingness to turn kids into vampires. It was one of the first books I’d read that killed kids without really a second thought. That, of course leads into King’s quiet destruction of the entire town, where even good people end up dying and, really, for what? There’s a certain amount of hope that’s stripped out of the world when you read this book at a young age, simply because King shows us that small and tranquil doesn’t mean shit-all for safety. Everything (and everybody) hides something from the world, and usually that something is heinous.

1. They Thirst by Robert McCammon

theythirstcoverAnd we’re to my top vampire novel. The reason is simple, which is that They Thirst encapsulates the best elements of the other books on my list. McCammon’s novel is a larger version of King’s novel, insofar as the vampires are after Los Angeles as opposed to a small town in Maine. McCammon addresses the religious aspect of vampirism, but takes it to the next level, he pits an odd mix of humans against the seemingly unstoppable force of vampires, and there’s a sense of isolation despite the large L.A. setting. And beyond that, there was something beautiful about McCammon’s descriptions in this book that turned L.A. into a character, and this is the first book where I really noticed the setting as character. They Thirst, in my opinion, stands as one of the seminal vampire novels of the last 50 years. There you have it, my top five vampire novels.

Next week, I’ll range into my top five vampire movies…

Don’t miss another post! Subscribe here or sign up via email over on the right!