These 18 horror writers need to be adapted to film and TV now

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Oct 8, 2017

While Stephen King is enjoying a renaissance on the screen, there are a lot of horror writers out there who should see their work adapted too.

We're pleased as anything to see King's work making a big comeback in theaters and on TV -- the critical and public success of movies like It and Gerald's Game, along with series like Mr. Mercedes, are raising the bar for quality King adaptations and bode well for more to come. But King is not the only author in the field either, and there is a lot of excellent and acclaimed writing in the field -- ranging from decades ago to this year -- that we believe would provide the basis for great horror content at the multiplex or via your favorite streaming service.

Below are 18 writers whose work in the horror genre we'd love to see visualized -- and while we stopped at 18, we know there are a lot more out there. Some of them have have dipped their toes into movies and TV before with varying degrees of success; others have never had the chance. But Hollywood should know that there is a plethora of superb horror out there just waiting to be mined -- all they have to do is pick up some books.

Clive Barker

The esteemed Mr. Barker has been long involved in the film business, writing and directing three features based on his work (Hellraiser, Nightbreed and Lord of Illusions) while also scripting and/or producing a number of others. The adaptations have become more sporadic over the years, but there is still a wealth of untapped Barker material that could be transferred to film or premium cable/streaming services. Several stories in the classic Books of Blood are camera-ready, while epic, baroque novels like The Great and Secret Show or Weaveworld (which was in development at one point) would lend themselves to the limited series format. There's more to this British writer than just Hellraiser.

Laird Barron

The Alaskan-born Barron is one of the weirdest of a recent generation of writers who specialize in what some have called the "New Weird": tales of cosmic and supernatural horror that often bleed over into other genres as well, like crime, noir and even the reliable old Western. Barron has dabbled in all of those, but it's his occult fiction with which he's made his name. His novel The Croning is a masterful slow burn of Lovecraftian horror, while stories like "Blackwood's Baby" and "The Men from Porlock" are genuinely eerie and potent. Filmmakers are starting to notice: the new independent release They Remain is based on his story "-30-".

Ramsey Campbell

This British author is arguably the leading horror writer of his generation and one of the greatest voices in the field of the past 60 years. Starting out as an acolyte of Lovecraft, he began developing his own distinctive voice that combined urban paranoia with awe-inspiring cosmic horror in novels like Midnight Sun, Incarnate, The Darkest Part of the Woods and The Grin of the Dark. Campbell has written more than 30 novels and hundreds of short stories, but just two books -- The Nameless and Pact of the Fathers -- have been filmed, both in Europe. His style is subtle and his horrors often unseen or barely glimpsed, but we could easily see newer filmmakers like Mike Flanagan (Gerald's Game) or Robert Eggers (The Witch) getting it right.

Tananarive Due

A journalist and teacher in addition to a fiction writer, Tananarive Due has dabbled in horror, speculative fiction, historical ficion and mystery. Her major contribution to the horror genre, however, is the African Immortals series, which started in 1997 with My Soul to Keep and has continued with The Living Blood (2001), Blood Colony (2008) and My Soul to Take (2011). The books blend immortal beings, modern African-American life and African history into a unique, character-driven saga that would bring a fresh perspective on a well-worn monster to the screen. A film version of My Soul to Keep went into development more than a decade ago but never popped; it would be just as timely and relevant to revisit it now.

Nancy Holder

Four-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award for superior achievement in horror writing, Nancy Holder earned her fourth Stoker for her debut novel, 1994's Dead in the Water, a grisly shipbound horror tale that would make one hell of a movie if somebody took it upon themselves to do so. She has gone on to co-write the Wicked series, about a coven of witches at war with a cabal of warlocks, and authored a number of novels set in the univere of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. Holder has done a number of other novelizations as well (including Wonder Woman), but it would be nice to see her original work get some love on the screen.

Caitlin R. Kiernan

If horror writing could be compared to the world of cinema, than Caitlin R. Kiernan would undoubtedly be considered an experimental filmmaker. While she doesn't care for the "horror" label, her fiction is thick with atmosphere, tone and imagery, if not so strong on traditional plotting. Nevertheless, her work has earned accolades and awards from both horror and sci-fi organizations, and two of her most highly acclaimed novels, The Red Tree and The Drowning Girl, have been optioned for adaptation by director Josh Boone (New Mutants). Those, plus works like Silk and Threshold, reman exemplary examples of weird fiction.

Bentley Little

Bentley Little published his first novel in 1990 (The Revelation) and never looked back. Since the he has averaged a book a year, with the latest being the upcoming The Handyman. A reclusive figure personally, he writes straightforward, high-concept horror thrillers -- as you can guess from titles like The Walking, The Town and The Burning. His books are cinematic in nature and all sell well -- which makes the lack of interest from Hollywood, as always, mystifying (one book, 1998's The Store, was in development about 10 years ago -- not a peep since -- while his story "The Washingtonians" was adapted for Masters of Horror in 2006). 

H.P. Lovecraft

Yes, stories by the gentleman from Providence have been filmed many times -- movies like The Haunted Palace (1963), Die, Monster, Die! (1965), The Dunwich Horror (1970), Re-Animator (1985), From Beyond (1986), Dagon (2001) and The Call of Cthulhu (2005) are among the more notable Lovecraft joints that have made it to the screen over the years. But we'd still like to see some decently-budgeted, visually striking and truly frightening movies made from the Lovecraft canon, like Guillermo del Toro planned to do a few years ago with At the Mountains of Madness. That story, The Shadow Out of Time, The Whisperer in Darkness and many more are lurking out there...

Robert R. McCammon

Until he walked away from writing in the early 1990s, Robert R. McCammon was one of the biggest names in the horror field, right up there with folks like King, Koontz and Rice. Yet strangely, with the exception of one short story ("Nightcrawlers") that was adapted for the mid-1980s Twilight Zone reboot, McCammon's work has been passed over by the Hollywood powers that be. What makes this even stranger is that he has written some truly epic and engrossing novels: the classic Swan Song is a post-apocalyptic showdown between good and evil that rivals The Stand, Stinger is a camera-ready sci-fi monster movie and They Thirst had vampires overrunning Los Angeles long before The Strain brought them to New York City. McCammon unretired in 2002 and began publishing again (both horror and historical fiction), so it's time for another look at his canon.

Adam Nevill

This British writer has been quietly amassing a back catalog of stories (eight novels and two collections to date, with the second collection, Hasty for the Dark, due out on Halloween) that has established him as the U.K.'s top exponent of the genre. His work relies on atmosphere, tone and character more than blood (although he will let that fly) and his concepts can be large, frightening (like the horrific cult in Last Days) and Lovecraftian. We expect that you will see his stuff hitting the screen soon: one of his books, The Ritual, has been made into a movie that opens in the U.K. this month, while several others are in development. 

Sarah Pinborough

Another British writer, Pinborough shifts easily between genres and has written psychological thrillers, monster tales, ghost stories and crime fiction. Her 2006 novel Breeding Ground found women all over the world giving birth to giant spiders (!), while the more recent The Death House is a dystopian tale set in a house for "defective" children. She's also penned YA stories and urban fantasy, and like some of the "newer" writers on this list, has several projects in development (one with Netflix). It's just a matter of time before you see "based on a book by Sarah Pinborough" at a theater near you.

Dan Simmons

Word got out recently that Dan Simmons' horror novel Summer of Night was being put into development as a film -- not surprising considering that the book has many surface similarities to Stephen King's It. it's still a cracking good tale in its own right, as is much of Simmons' work, which spans sci-fi and historical mystery as well as the supernatural. His far future saga The Hyperion Cantos has been in development hell for years, while his historical monster story The Terror is being adapted by AMC. But there are still a number of Simmons books -- Carrion Comfort, Song of Kali, A Winter Haunting and Children of the Night, gripping horror stories all -- that are ripe for filming. 

Peter Straub

In the late '70s and early '80s, the names Stephen King and Peter Straub were intertwined: not only were the two authors good friends, but they produced some of the landmark horror fiction of that time and eventually collaborated on the dark fantasy The Talisman. Unlike King, however, Straub has not seen much of his work reach the screen: only two books, Julia and Ghost Story, have been filmed, both inadequately. Ghost Story is one of the masterpieces of modern horror fiction and needs a remake ASAP; but other excellent Straub works that should be adapted include Shadowland, Floating Dragon, Lost Boy, Lost Girl and If You Could See Me Now. The Talisman has also been in development for decades: that book and its frightening sequel, Black House, could both benefit from a full-scale limited series adaptation.

Melanie and Steve Rasnic Tem

Together and separately, this husband-and-wife team has produced some of the best and most unique horror fiction of the past 30 years. Melanie wrote some 15 or so novels before her untimely passing in 2015, while Steve has penned six novels and hundreds of short stories. Both have been long acclaimed within the field as top practioners of the genre. The couple collaborated a number of times, most successfully with The Man on the Ceiling, an autobiographical and experimental tale that won a slew of awards and was later expanded into a novel. More recently, Steve published Ubo, a grim tale of a bizarre dystopian future with strong horror overtones.

Paul Tremblay

Colorado native Tremblay is a relatively "new" writer on the horror scene (he's been publishing since around 2000 as far as we can ascertain) but he's become in that time one of its most acclaimed. His career went next level with A Head Full of Ghosts, a genuinely frightening tale of a family in which one of its daughters has either gone insane or been possessed by a demon -- with the entire ordeal filmed for a reality series (what could go wrong?). The 2015 Bram Stoker Awards winner for Best Novel has been optioned by Robert Downey Jr.'s production company, Team Downey, so we hope to see it on the screen soon. Tremblay's follow-up, Disappearance at Devil's Rock, has received rave reviews as well. His other work blurs genres more overtly, ranging from detective fiction to post-apocalyptic sci-fi, but there's potentially cinematic gold here.

F. Paul Wilson

A full-time doctor for years when not writing, Wilson penned sci-fi in the 1970s but switched to horror -- and knocked it out of the park -- in 1981 with The Keep, one of the premier genre novels of that decade. It's a shame that Wilson's gripping tale of Nazi soldiers encountering an ancient evil in a Romanian castle was made into one of the most notoriously bad movies of that era as well, since he has not had any cinematic luck since. But if Hollywood wants to come around again, he's got plenty for them: in addition to five other eerie books that follow The Keep in what is known as the Adversary Cycle, he's also penned a long series starring Repairman Jack, a supernatural detective and fixer. Wilson's series cross over with each other as well, which means he's got his own shared universe all ready to go.

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Anne Rice may have written lots of books about the vampire Lestat, but since 1978, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro has published some 28 volumes about her own undead anti-hero, the Count of Saint-Germain. This historical horror cycle remains the centerpiece of a lengthy career that has also included non-series horror, sci-fi, fantasy, mystery and more over a span of five decades and more than 70 books. At the age of 75, she's still publishing several books a year and shows no signs of slowing down -- all she needs is a few movies based around the Count.