Read or Die

Many of you have asked me if I’ll ever go back to writing a non-fiction column again. I’m very happy to announce that I’ve struck a deal with Shroud Magazine. I’ll be writing a regular column for them beginning with their next issue.

Quite often, I’m amazed by the number of young readers I meet at book signings or conventions who have never heard of Robert R. McCammon or William Hope Hodgson or who have never read a novel by King, Laymon,  Lansdale, Ketchum or Koontz. When I ask them what they do read, they shrug and say, “Your stuff.” This always perplexes me until I remember that I am getting old, and this new generation of young adults didn’t grow up on the same books I did. Stephen King is your parent’s horror writer. You grew up on Goosebumps and have apparently graduated to me (you poor bastards).

Now, there’s nothing wrong with Goosebumps. It got you reading, the same way comics got me reading back in the 70’s. But there’s a wealth of good things you’ve missed out on. Stories that will make you a more informed fan. Books that will make you a better writer. Required reading. Many years ago, an amazing writer/editor named Karl Edward Wagner created a list of what he felt were overlooked or seminal gems within the field of horror fiction. I intend to do something similar. Each issue, the column (tentatively titled ‘Seminal Screams’) will focus on a different classic work of horror fiction. Regardless of whether you’re a fan or a writer, these are works you should read at least once in your life. From Poe to the Splatterpunks, we’ll cover novels and stories that have shaped and changed the genre. You’ve gone on long enough without reading “Sticks” or The Drive-In or Salem’s Lot or The Girl Next Door or “Scoop Makes A Swirly” or The House On The Borderland or “The Great God Pan”. It’s time we fixed that.

Participation is mandatory, so go ahead and get yourself a subscription to Shroud Magazine. Trust me, it will be worth it. This column is important to me. I have a feeling that once you read it, it will be important to you, as well.

28 thoughts on “Read or Die

  1. Jamie

    I already have a subscription and it is one of the best mags of it kind out there. I look forward to reading your column in the near future. (wow, Knost and Keene in the same place!)

  2. Mastodonisgod

    “You grew up on Goosebumps and have apparently graduated to me (you poor bastards).”

    Holy shit! Are you spying on me? No joke.

  3. Jason L. Keene

    Hell yeah. Looking forward to it.

    Shroud’s still my fav horror fic mag on the market at the moment. And now with columns by you and Knost both, I’m looking forward to it that much more.

    Will be nice to have some genre gems given the attention they deserve for a new generation.

  4. mikekaz

    I am extremely curious as to my “Read Ratio”. That would be the amount of books that you mention which I can say “Already read it.” I’ll probably be enticed to pick some of them up again and re-read them. But I’m going to be more interested in what gems I’ve missed.

  5. KentAllard

    That is a great idea for a column. I’m always pushing writers like Wagner onto people, so hopefully it will turn some people on to the older writers.

  6. Mike Lombardo

    I read your books in addition to my usual Goosebumps intake. Figure I can get some good cheesy fun in after R.L. Stine finishes putting me through the emotional wringer and scaring the shit out of me with his terrifying tales. Yep, your work makes a nice contrast Brian…

    The column sounds great, I’m always looking for new books to get my bloody little hands on!

  7. Sel Goktekin Engelmann


    I am Sel and I come from Amsterdam. I ordered, City of the Dead and Dead Sea. I received them today, I will read them after my dinner.
    Greetings from Amsterdam, The Netherlands (The Land Beneath the Seas)

    Brian Keene is infecting Amsterdam!!!!!!!

    Cheers and keep on going….

  8. Rick Smith

    Phenomenal. I’m gonna get some SHROUD, pronto.

    Been wishing someone would tackle this topic in depth for ages. I’m a huge fan of Stephen King’s DANSE MACABRE, which basically taught the 18-year-old horror newbie I was in (jesus!) 1985 exactly where to go to learn how we got from Shelley and Stoker to Lovecraft and Poe and King himself. (And I still say DANSE MACABRE, which tackles movies as well as books, is required reading for ANY horror enthusiast — you will find treasures there, people. TREASURES!) I’ve given up hope that King will ever pen a second volume. Go for it, Brian. You’ve clearly got your finger on the pulse. Hope the SHROUD gig leads to a big fat DANSE MACABRE-esque volume so I can hand em both to my son when he starts hunting for “the good stuff” too. =)

  9. Rick Smith

    And it was fantastic to meet you in Nashville, sir! Hope for another opportunity down the road to buy you a beer and talk tales at greater length!

  10. Troy


    You wrote: “Many years ago, an amazing writer/editor named Karl Edward Wagner created a list of what he felt were overlooked or seminal gems within the field of horror fiction. ”

    Do you have a link to this list by Wagner?


  11. Kurt Criscione

    BY next issue do you mean #6 which should be out soon or do you mean with #7… either way I’ll have a subscription I just wondered how instant my gratification would be. :P

  12. Louise

    I think this means I really must invest in that Shroud subscription after all. I grew up on King, Koontz, Barker, and whatever else I could find in the Castlegar Library or bookstores. (Was reading Goosebumps to my friend’s son, teaching him how to pronounce his ‘th.’ lol ) But there are so many from that time frame I’ve missed, too. This will be a great chance to fill up the holes in my list. :)

  13. Brian

    TROY: Karl Edward Wagner’s list appeared in (I believe) an old issue of The Twilight Zone magazine. I don’t believe it has been reprinted since.

    Another great reference (as pointed out earlier in the thread) is King’s Danse Macabre, although it’s now quite a bit dated.

  14. Sir Otter

    My introduction to horror was an old anthology I found in my school library about 1966, filled with great names like Oliver Onions, Arthur Machen, Wm Hope Hodgson, E.F. Benson, Guy de Maupassant, Lady Asquith. By the end of the decade, I’d accumulated every Whitman or Alfred Hitchcock anthology I could get my hands on and had read most of the classic novels – Frankenstein, Dracula, The Werewolf of Paris, The Phantom of the Opera, Notre Dame de Paris, Jekyll & Hyde, etc., etc., etc. By the time the Goosebumps books came along, I was lightyears beyond them. It’s nice to see that the great stories of yesteryear are not forgotten.

  15. geoff guthrie

    Sounds like a kick ass column. Younger reader’s definitely need to find out some of these older horror books that rock. And I look foreword to learning something new too!

    btw, I already subscribe, so I’m set, who hoo!


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