Saturday, September 8, 2018

Of Dark Origins

When I was a little girl, my favorite reward for a job well done was when my parents would take me to our local bookstore and let me pick out a new book. The children's section was a down a narrow staircase and at the back of the store.
The owners had a whole bookcase full of chapter books under the heading, "Mysteries". It was my goal to own all the spooky titles. My favorite author was John Bellairs. His books had the best covers illustrated by Edward Gorey who also illustrated some pictures inside too! At some point, I had exhausted the Mystery section downstairs in the kid's library and I needed something to fill the void. I remember my mom researching some appropriate titles and making some suggestions  that we then checked out at the library. One of those books is still a favorite, it's called The Witch at Blackbird Pond and I've been on the search for the same edition I read as a child, I'd love to read it again. Around this time, I also started reading Agatha Christie novels. I lived for the scenes of murder and mayhem.

At the same time I was discovering a passion for "dark fiction" my mother's collection of horror was growing. My dad bought her a bookcase for her new addiction. One of my favorite things to do was to pull an "adult scary book" off the shelf and read the tantalizing synopsis on the back. Sometimes the books even had a scary cover I could stare at.
One fateful day, I grabbed Salem's Lot off the shelf and instead of putting back, I took it into my room.
I remember thinking that this book would be a good selection because the cover wasn't that scary, that little town locked inside the "O" looked pretty quaint, actually. I was ten years old. At night, in secret, I read Salem's Lot and to be perfectly honest, I was terrified. I regretted my decision to read such an adult story. It felt so wrong and I was scandalized by all the grown up subject material but I couldn't stop reading it. It felt wrong, yes but it also was everything I ever wanted. I devoured it.
A Constant Reader was born.
When I finished, I slid the book back into its spot on my mom's shelf and I vowed to stick to my own "child appropriate" spooky stories.
After a few attempts, those books weren't cutting it anymore. I read Firestarter and Carrie shortly after Salem's Lot.
But the book that called out to me the most was also the biggest and had the most intriguing cover. I avoided it as long as I could but after having read three Stephen King titles and jonesing for more, I finally relented and pulled IT off the shelf. I was thirteen.

Stephen King's IT scared the shit out of me. I think I finally confessed to my mom that I had been stealing her King books and reading them in secret after I finished defiling my young brain with tales of shapeshifting, demonic clowns. The amusing thing is that she wasn't mad. At all. She encouraged it, actually! I didn't take her up on her offer right away. IT scared me off of horror books for a pretty long season. I did read The Eyes of the Dragon and The Talisman, because she told me those weren't scary and I fell in love with both of those stories.
In high school, I started the Dark Tower series and I also started venturing out into the works of Peter Straub and Anne Rice. Horror found its way back into my good graces. It wasn't long before I consumed Stephen King's entire back catalog and also started buying his new releases for my own collection.
I became a horror junkie but it's interesting how it wasn't my genre of choice for a long, long time. I went through a whole phase of murder mysteries where I read everything I could get my hands on by Patricia Cornwell and John Sanford. The grislier the details of the crimes, the better.
Eventually, I found my way back into horror and now, in this season of life, it's the only thing I want to read. I feel like horror, as a genre, as really arrived. It's a new animal. There are so many sub genres and so much diversity, I don't feel the need to satisfy a lacking need in my heart with anything else. I'm still a Constant Reader but I'm also Mother Horror and I'm loving it. I'm enjoying my non stop parade of chills & thrills and reviewing it, professionally. This isn't a hobby or a pastime anymore. It's a lifestyle.