Sunday, October 12, 2008

Horror Is Not a 4-Letter Word by Matthew Warner (horror essays)

Subtitled Essays on Writing and Appreciating the Genre, short story writer and novelist Matthew Warner's first collection of nonfiction, Horror Is Not a 4-Letter Word, is ideal reading during the month best known for ending with Halloween. And it's a must-have for fans of the horror genre.

In these articles that span from 2002 to 2007 — with all but two coming from the author's tenure as a columnist for Horror World — Warner covers a variety of diverse topics from horror stereotypes (and why we need them) to the importance of research for verisimilitude, from why Buffy the Vampire Slayer is an example of excellent plotting to the secrets of a successful collaboration, from how to write "invisible" dialogue to tips on public speaking.

Warner even gives new readers a taste of his short fiction ("With the Eyes of God") and then shows how he got there. (Those whose appetites are whetted can seek out Death Sentences, his short fiction collection). Horror Is Not a 4-Letter Word also contains a critique of Left Behind from the horror writer's perspective, one essay each focusing on the subjects of his two novels to date (The Organ Donor and Eyes Everywhere), a lengthy exposé on his summer working for notorious "book doctor" Edit Ink, and even insightful articles on censorship and the connection between horror and violence.

Warner has an engaging conversational style that makes even the most indepth material go down easy. But I'm not sure I can bestow a greater compliment than the fact that reading Horror Is Not a 4-Letter Word is the first time I've almost been late for work because of essays. As I finished one, the next one's title intrigued me to continue. Kudos to the author and Guide Dog Books for assembling a collection of horror-related articles that are just as accessible to the horror reader as to those who want to write in the genre — and is far more readable than others of its ilk.

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