From the darkness has curiosity ever reached out and struck you? Has it caused you to wonder about your favorite genre writers and what’s on their bookshelves? It’s reached out and struck me. Do they have some classic pulp detective novels? What about graphic novel collections? Maybe the severed head of the poor unfortunate soul who sent them their first rejection letter….
Like the person in a horror story that hears a strange noise, I ventured alone into the darkness to investigate. And here at Ravenous Monster I will share with you horror authors’ bookshelves and their personal thoughts on their collections, until the thing in the shadows finally reaches out and claims me.
MY BOOKCASES: A TOUR
As a writer of horror, thrillers, suspense and crime fiction in both novel and short story length, my shelves reflect a certain narrowing of reading tastes from when I started collecting books, really, as a kid. That was a long time ago. My collection reflects four and a half decades of buying.
I started out reading science fiction and nonfiction, and later added lots of military and war history, books about organized crime, and things like UFO abduction, secret societies, conspiracies and archaeology (which I later touched on in my college years as well). I added fantasy later on, and moved past the more typical Tolkienesque kind when I discovered the variations urban fantasy, steampunk, and alternate history at roughly the same time in the early 80s. Yes, I was there at the beginning of steampunk (reading Tim Powers and James Blaylock, its “originators”), and urban fantasy first attracted me with the work of Charles De Lint (novels such as Moonheart and Mulengro, for instance). I never expected steampunk would become a style trend! For me, it was the perfect bridge between the early SF I’d read (Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, of course) and the elements I’d come to love, such as time travel, alternate history, and Egyptology. Between, I’d read a fair amount of golden age SF and, later, I was captivated by the New Wave as exemplified by Harlan Ellison and Philip K. Dick (who himself bridged golden age with New Wave!).
But, wow, I also took long tangential reading journeys through mystery starting with Sherlock Holmes and jumping rapidly to hard-boiled and noir (think Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett through the modern masters such as Lawrence Block, Donald Westlake/Richard Stark, Robert B. Parker, and others, later, like Robert Randisi). I left mystery and headed full-tilt into thrillers, focusing for many years on mostly the British version as practiced by the likes of Alistair MacLean, Jack Higgins (Harry Patterson), Duncan Kyle, Ian Fleming (who led me to other spy novelists), and Desmond Bagley. Then I ran into James Herbert and Richard Matheson (who also bridged thriller and horror) and, in 1976, a fellow named Stephen King who had just published his second novel. Horror stole me away at that point, and I edged ever closer toward that genre both as reader and writer leaving SF and fantasy mostly behind (with the eternal exception of steampunk, alternate history, and urban fantasy).
From the mid- to late 80s I found the Splatterpunks: Richard Laymon, David J. Schow, Skipp & Spector, Ray Garton, Ed Lee, and Joe Lansdale and Robert R. McCammon ( who were making only a detour into splatter among their much wider spectrum), and others. I found newer cross-genre masters: F. Paul Wilson, Carl Hiaasen, Michael Slade, Tom Piccirilli, Preston & Child, Lee Child, and Robert Crais, among others. Later I would realize that I rather naturally combined horror and thriller elements regularly in my own work.
My “main” bookcases, therefore, showcase these interests almost exclusively. I have other bookcases which contain a more eclectic mix of mystery, thriller, horror, SF/fantasy, and whatever else might lie between. These cases are stuffed, some triple-shelved, and I’ve left them out of the photo essay (to find one book I’d have to remove several dozen, in some cases). I still have most of the paperbacks I bought as a kid in the early 70s spending his lunch allowance on thrillers! The only SF and fantasy I keep these days is what I consider “classic” and early personal inspiration: Philip K. Dick, Harlan Ellison, single-volume classics by various authors, and some I read as a kid-getting-to-be-adult (Alan Dean Foster comes to mind, Frank Herbert, Harry Harrison, Arthur C. Clarke…).
I’ve panned this wall of cases counter-intuitively from right to left, fiction to nonfiction. If you’d rather be traditional, then look at them in reverse order and think of them flowing from left to right, nonfiction to fiction. An added bit ironic trivia is that in my day job I’m a library stacks supervisor, so Order is my business… yet my own library isn’t ordered at all – no Dewey Decimal, no LC (Library of Congress) – no, I prefer a quirky, eccentric (“favorite-centric,” if you will) scheme in which I can usually find what I want because I’m the one who put it there. Do try this at home!
Books 1 and 2
First of 5 cases on my basement office wall, this is filled with favorite such as reissues of just about every Richard Laymon title, down to a fair number of Cemetery Dance limiteds, Deadline Press very limited editions (including a copy of the prized A Writer’s Tale by Laymon), a couple volumes of the Underwood Selected Letters of Philip K. Dick (in which I have a tiny volunteer transcriber credit), and various other goodies, many of them signed and limited, some signed to me. The bottom of that case contains numerous limited chapbooks, short novels and novellas, and other 90s-era esoterica along with more hardcover limited, but the bottom shelves are filled with my prized Alistair MacLean 70s-80s Signet editions and many, many Jack Higgins novels, some of which are under Harry Patterson’s many pseudonyms.
Books 3 and 4
The top of this case is all ego. Numerous copies of all the editions of my own novels, including the small press of Wolf’s Trap, plus the three printings of the Leisure edition, then copies of the others from Leisure (Wolf’s Gambit and Wolf’s Bluff), and finally the Samhain editions of Trap and Wolf’s Edge. Missing: copies of the 47North print edition of Gambit, which I have in an upstairs case. Copies of the Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror anthologies in which my stories have Honorable Mentions are shelved here, along with copies of every other anthology in which I’ve had stories, either solo or I collaboration with author David Benton. There’s an errant copy of the CD signed edition of Robert Bloch’s Psycho hiding next to the CD lettered edition of Robert Bloch’s Psychos because… well, because: “Icewall” was my first pro sale, and it symbolizes a turning point in my career. The lower half of the case brings me back to earth. Some horror nonfiction, a few toys (a working 60s toy slot machine and an authentic M6 bayonet for the M14 rifle), and an eclectic collection of thrillers: everything from Harlan Ellison paperbacks to the Pendergast books by Preston & Child to the Jack Daniels books of friend Joe Konrath to the thrillers of another friend, Jay Bonansinga, to the novels of TV’s “Richard Castle”! And a Publix Christmas car toy to remind me of my parents’ decade in Florida.
Books 5 and 6
Watched over by one of my gargoyles is a case filled with special steampunk and urban fantasy favorites: just about every edition of Tim Powers (including the Charnel House “denim” edition of The Stress of Her Regard), James P. Blaylock, and Charles De Lint. Below those, a smattering of alternate history and other “special” fantasy novels, such as Mark Frost’s The List of 7 join a wide spectrum of Joe Lansdale’s work, above my Harlan Ellison hardcovers. My most inspirational bookcase!
Books 7 and 8
Another gargoyle stands guard over a small selection of Tarot decks and books, my Stephen King collection (including the very paperback ‘Salem’s Lot that started it all for me), and my Peter Straub collection (he was born in Milwaukee, did you know?) flowing into another uncategorizable fantasist, Bradley Denton (author of the nonsupernatural but essential American classic Blackburn). A strong splash of Robert Bloch novels and collections bleeds into the start of my nonfiction sections, starting with books about a favorite military history topic, the battle of Rorke’s Drift, and including books about Giovanni Battista Belzoni, coffee table books on noir and horror art, political commentary, and… guns, mostly military, including a couple editions of Smith’s Small Arms of the World (a bible of sorts for thriller writers). A few more blades from my collection stand sentry: a replica Sykes-Fairbairn commando knife, a replica USMC combat knife, a well-worn Buck folder, and an authentic 1890s sword bayonet of indeterminate origins.
Books 9 and 10
Toys: lighthouses, a Gurkha knife replica, replica .44-caliber Rogers and Spencer and Walker Colt Dragoon revolvers, a boat’s compass, a couple clay flutes, and various nautical ephemera. Books’ reference cross-section: the occult and dark arts, Egyptology, vampires and werewolves, Arthurian literature, crime and serial killers, folklore, UFOlogy and more secret society-conspiracy-Chariots of the Gods type stuff. Incongruously, a book about pool and billiards! Also, there are some Nazi-related occult books on the floor now, because I used them recently (not pictured).
The preceding bookcases, as they look scanned from right to left.
Books 12 and 13
From the corner (right) to left again.
Eclectic! On the ledge: The Saint and Man From U.N.C.L.E. collectibles surround the leaping marlin. Then: tons of stuff, including most Titan-published Sherlock Holmes novels, a smattering of erotica including some in horror (the Hot Blood series, for instance), SF and fantasy, and a few classics like The Story of O. Then continuing on, right to left, titles by Tom Piccirilli and Jack Ketchum, Donald Westlake (Richard Stark), Michael Slade, Robert B. Parker, Lee Child, and Charles L. Grant – all of which are meaningful to me! On the cheap white cases lie eclectic stacks of various writers and review copies and ARCs, and on the ledge a selection of original pulp novels grabbed from eBay.
The rest of that wall is eclectic. In there you’ll find (reportedly) some political books, cheap sets of Shakespeare and Mark Twain and Conan Doyle, an almost complete Man From O.R.G.Y. series, all The Inquisitor novels written by Martin Cruz Smith as Simon Quinn, all the James Bond novels from Ian Fleming to Charlie Higson (the newest by William Boyd is upstairs on a To Read pile), all the Brains Benton kid detective novels, the F. Paul Wilsons, the Carl Hiaasens, all the Robert Crais, a few stacks of eclectica, a portion of my Cemetery Dance, Deathrealm, The Twilight Zone Magazine, and The Horror Show collections. My 1999 Darrell Award plaque is hidden there, as well.
Books 15 and 16
This time we read left to right! It’s another wall made up of two cases, one containing many single title classics in horror, SF, fantasy, and/or mystery. Here you’ll find the White Wolf Borderlands books, P.N. Elrod’s Jack Fleming vampire PI books, Tanya Huff’s Blood novels, most of the HWA anthologies, and sundry others in hardcover, trade, and mass paperback. The next case to the right is overstuffed with… anthologies! Theme, unthemed, pulp, SF, fantasy, horror, Fantasy & Horror, many of Martin Greenberg’s TeknoBooks paperback anthologies, and so on. Double and triple-shelved.
Flowing around the corner are eight more bookcases I won’t bother you with: mysteries (Bill Pronzini, more Lawrence Block, Warren Murphy, more Robert B. Parker, etc.), the Three Investigators series and the Hardy Boys, lots of Leisure horror, James Herbert, and many others who just won’t fit on the “main” shelves. (Here also you’ll find tucked away my Hammond M3 organ, a couple-three Korgs, an Arp Axxe and Sequencer, a Roland piano, various sound modules such as a classic Proteus 1 and a Yamaha TX81Z, a PAIA Vocoder, a Theremin, and a few more dusty musical odds and ends. Yeah, I am a has-been wanna-be musician!)
There are also a couple narrow bookcases (not pictured) that hold books about progressive rock, prog bands, Bondian cinema, Seinfeld (the show), and novels by long-time friends such as Tamara Thorne and Elaine Bergstrom, plus a few stacks of extra copies of the Leisure Wolf’s Trap and Wolf’s Bluff (hint hint, write to me for deals!).
Books 17 and 18
Jumping up to my only “upstairs” bookcase (though there are a few strategically spread To Read piles here and there throughout), here you’ll find recent titles that will slowly filter downstairs to join their fellows. Newer F. Paul Wilsons, Powers & Blaylock, anthologies I appear in, copies of my recent novels, a portion of my Cinema Retro magazine collection, some older titles I’m in the mood to reread, some CDs and DVDs that have spilled over, and a scattering of toys and knick-knacks given to me by folks I value (see the Cthulhu water bottle?). The bottom shelf is piano music, incorporating a fair amount of “album” books from the likes of ELP, Genesis, Yes, the Alan Parsons Project, and others.
And that concludes today’s tour of the W.D. Gagliani Library of Disorder! Please come back someday. In the meantime, Keep It Dark!