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Remembering horror legend Peter Straub through 5 of his best stories
Looking back at the legendary career of Peter Straub.
Peter Straub, one of the most important voices in horror fiction of the last 50 years, died Sunday at the age of 79. Straub's death was felt deeply and widely across the literary world, with fellow authors including Neil Gaiman, Stephen Graham Jones, and Straub's close friend and collaborator Stephen King, all paying tribute to the author when news of his death reached the world on Tuesday.
Straub's legacy is a substantial body of work that spans five decades and includes novels, poetry, novellas, short fiction, and anthologies he edited which helped promote his peers and up-and-coming writers who benefitted from his mentorship and endorsement. He is perhaps best known, at least as a solo writer for his 1979 novel Ghost Story, which was adapted into a feature film in 1981 and remains one of the most enduring horror works of the 1970s. As literary as he was scary, Straub blending elements of multiple genres and multiple eras of speculative literature into his fiction, inspired as much by Henry James as he was by his peers.
Now that he's gone, you may be on your way to out to pick up a Peter Straub book to read, but where you should go first? Assuming that you already know about Ghost Story, let's take a look at five other Straub releases perfect for a spooky read in memory of the horror legend.
Thought it never achieved the same popularity as its predecessor, Straub's follow-up to Ghost Story remains one of those perfect 1980s paperbacks, a book you can get happily lost in no matter your age or the era in which you find it. The story of a group of boys at a prestigious school who are sucked into a world of magic that may or may not be real, it's one of Straub's more overt efforts in the realm of dark fantasy, and like so many of his books, there are layers upon layers to the narrative.
While Ghost Story is perhaps his most famous solo novel, Straub's other best-known work is part of a collaboration with fellow horror luminary Stephen King. Released in 1984, The Talisman is King and Straub working in the realm of fantasy adventure, with no shortage of horror elements thrown in, to tell the story of a boy named Jack who must venture into another dimension known as "The Territories" to save both that world and the life of his mother back in our world. Intense, imaginative, and heartfelt, it remains one of the best books either author ever produced, and was followed by a sequel, Black House, in 2001. There's been talk of a third book in the story for quite some time, and Straub's death makes that possibility even murkier, but perhaps King will pick up the tale one more time in memory of his friend.
A visceral, thrilling novel about ritualistic murders and the group of Vietnam veterans who take it upon themselves to seek out and find the killer, Koko is one of the works longtime Straub finds most often bring up when discussing the depth and sheer power of his prose. Rich with unforgettable imagery and character work, it won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel of 1988, and remains one of his most stunning longform achievements.
Houses Without Doors
Though he's best known as novelist, Straub was also a versatile and gifted practitioner of the art of the short story and the novella, and this 1990 collection is proof. His first collection of short fiction, it features "A Short Guide to the City," which is a thrilling experimentation with form, as well as The Blue Rose and Mrs. God, two novellas that remain among Straub's best remembered stories.
A Dark Matter
Straub's most recent (I hate to say final, and I'm hoping posthumous releases might be coming) novel arrived in 2010, and stands as proof that while he's most often associated with the horror boom of the 1970s and 1980s, he never lost his gift for chilling tales. The story of a group of people forced to revisit terrible memories of a 1960s ritual gone wrong, it's Straub playing with perspectives in horror fiction in truly chilling ways, and will serve forever as a reminder that Straub was a great horror novelist throughout his long, varied career.
Looking for more thrills and chills? Check out SYFY originals like Chucky, Reginald the Vampire and SurrealEstate all on SYFY and the SYFY app.