My Ten Favourite Books – In No particular order…
1) Clive Barker’s Books of Blood
I’m cheating a little by including this as one book, but then I do have the hardback Stealth edition which gathers all the six volumes together in a single gorgeous tone. Anyone who knows me and my work will know how much of an impact and influence Clive’s fiction (films, paintings…you name it) has had on me. This is where, like many people, I came across his stuff for the first time in my teens and it simply blew me away. At the risk of repeating myself, this collection turned things around and made me realise just what could be done with the horror genre. You could make people laugh (in tales like ‘The Yattering and Jack’) make them think (in stories like ‘Human Remains’), make them question their very humanity (‘The Skins of the Fathers’) or sanity (definitely in ‘Age of Desire’). You could also put your own spin on stories from the past, as Clive did with ‘New Murders in the Rue Morgue’ (which I was proud to include years later in my own anthology Beyond Rue Morgue). Little did I also know, when I was reading these and the comic adaptations of the same – in Tapping the Vein – that I would end up adapting one of them into a motion comic myself, for Seraphim/MadeFire: the iconic ‘In the Hills, The Cities’. Simply put, eighteen stories: one big inspiration.
2) The Hellbound Heart
You only have to look at the titles of some of my books (Hellbound Hearts, The Hellraiser Films and their Legacy, last year’s award-winning sellout Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell) to understand the impact this one had on me in my youth. So much so that the novella and the subsequent movie based on it, spawned a lifelong obsession with the mythology. But The Hellbound Heart, first published in Night Visions, was the one that started it all. It’s hard to remember now, but I think I read this around the same time as the Books of Blood, or not very long afterward anyway, then just fell in love with the story – and, of course, the Cenobites. Well, they’re just such lovable creatures, aren’t they. To me, one of the most interesting things about the original story, though, is the relationship between Julia and Frank, dealing with the theme of their twin obsessions. I read this again not long ago, as I often do periodically, and it’s lost none of its impact.
Yes, I’m including three Barker books in my list – and I make no apologies about that. The mythology surrounding the Nightbreed, first seen in this short novel – and then expanded upon in the movie – is almost as fascinating as that of Hell and the Cenobites to me. In fact, one of my favourite crossovers of all time, unsurprisingly, is Jihad: the two-part comic which saw the ‘breed pitted against Leviathan’s armies. But the main reason I like Cabal so much is not because of the variety of monsters, nor where they came from, it’s the clever reversal of having them be the heroes and the humans as the real monsters; whether it’s the psychopathic Decker (played to disturbing perfection by David Cronenberg in the film), or the sadistic policeman Eigerman determined to wipe out the inhabitants of Midian. As a side note, I’m delighted that there’s a now Director’s Cut of the movie, as I had been wanting to see that since I learned about the footage that was taken out.
The first of the non-Barker books I’ve chosen. For me Frank Herbert’s Dune is a massively important book. I first read it during my ‘absorb everything genre-related’ period which began when I was about nine or ten and finished… well, it hasn’t yet really. I was just blown away by the scope of the story, which included its very own glossary at the back! This was a totally immersive depiction of the future and I was in there, with the sandworms and ‘thopters, with all the different Houses and the Fremen. Most importantly, I was captivated by the story of this young man – Paul Atreides – who, like Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, had this destiny to be a kind of superhuman. It’s the story of an underdog who comes good, an outsider who not only wins round people that don’t understand him and can’t relate to his background, but also goes on to lead them. Superb.
5) The Rats
I’ve long been an admirer of James Herbert and his work, and feel very privileged that I got to know him before his untimely death; my last abiding memory of him was the signing he did for us at FantasyCon in 2012, where he took time to chat to everybody and was telling tall tales – what else would you expect? What Jim did here with his first chiller (a term he coined himself) The Rats was take a tired horror genre and create something fresh within it that was copied again and again. The Rats was probably the first full on horror book I ever read, and I loved it! The terrifying notion of these giant killer rats plaguing London made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. It still does, frankly. When it was reported a while ago that giant rats the size of dogs had actually been found, I said to myself: Jim was right all along! There was also the sense that when you were reading The Rats you were doing something forbidden. To be fair, I probably was – reading gore and sex scenes at such a tender age – but boy was it a ride. I can’t mention The Rats, though, without including Lair and Domain, which raised the bar even higher.
6) The Silence of the Lambs
For me, the serial killer, crime thriller, whatever you want to call it, has always been as terrifying as any horror novel. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the more mystery-based ‘whodunnit?’ type of book (Colin Dexter’s Morse novels, for example, hugely influenced my own Gemini Factor…), but I also have a soft spot – if that’s the right word – for more extreme crime fare. I came to John Connolly’s work late in the day (shame on me!) and love his stuff so I could have chosen Every Dead Thing, his stunning debut, or I could have picked books by Mo Hayder, Boris Starling, Tess Gerritsen, Mark Billingham, Tania Carver… The novel I have gone for in this vein is what I consider to be the pinnacle of the police procedural/serial killer sub-genre. I have to say, I read this – back to back with Red Dragon – after seeing Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster strut their Oscar-winning stuff, so it was always them saying the lines, but there was so much more to the novel than the movie. More character background, more about Lecter and Starling’s relationship, more about the investigation, more… if you’ll pardon the expression considering Hannibal’s appetites, meat on the bones. Thomas Harris doesn’t write many books, but when he does he turns out belters.
7) The Hound of the Baskervilles
I’m a huge fan, as most people will have read when I did the publicity for Servants of Hell last year, of Sherlock Holmes in all his incarnations – though for me the definitive screen Holmes will always be Jeremy Brett. I came across the original Conan Doyle stories at around the same time as Clive’s work, which is probably why the two were forever linked in my mind, but my very favourite tale from the original canon is The Hound of the Baskervilles. It’s the definitive ‘horror’ Holmes really, with a huge supernatural dog running around killing people… even if it did have a more earthly explanation at the end. It certainly fired my imagination and I was delighted to be able to bring the hound in question back to roam the corridors of Hell in my own novel. It was probably also in part responsible for RED (published with the sequel Blood RED by SST), as well as the obvious fairy tale influence.
8) Smoke and Mirrors
For my money Neil Gaiman’s Smoke and Mirrors is one of the finest genre collections ever written. It’s definitely up there with Christopher Fowler’s wonderful Flesh Wounds, Simon Clark’s Salt Snake and Other Bloody Cuts and Joe Hill’s 20th Century Ghosts. I absolutely adore Neil’s work: I love his comics, his novels, his ‘children’s’ books (which are tons better than some adult books I’ve read)…but I especially love his short stories and poems. I don’t think I could pick a favourite out of the collection, but the ones that really made me go, wow this guy is something else, are ‘Murder Mysteries’ (angels investigating the first ever killing) and ‘The Wedding Present’ (a kind of Dorian Gray deal, tucked away in the introduction – I’d never seen that done before). I also love it when writers give an insight into why they wrote a story and luckily Neil’s one of those… It’s probably why I did the same thing at the end of Touching the Flame and The Butterfly Man.
9) Brother in the Land
I read this one, by Robert Swindells, for the first time in English lessons at school. To say it had an impact on me – and later my fiction – would be a massive understatement. The post-apocalyptic story of Danny, who finds his hometown of Skipley has been destroyed and has to deal with the consequences, is for me at least as terrifying as something like Threads. These were people I could relate to, in a place similar to where I lived, going through the harshest of times. Draw whatever parallels you will with my Hooded Man stories… It was also a YA book before that marketing term ever existed, and one of the reasons why I turned my hand to that form with The Rainbow Man.
10) The Shining
No genre book list would be complete without an entry from the King. Stephen King that is. I always thought of King, Barker and Herbert as the unholy trinity when I was growing up, and read everything by this man I could get my hands on. As much as I love Carrie, ‘Salem’s Lot, The Stand, It and so many of his others, I’m going to go with The Shining for this, as I read it practically in one sitting and it gripped me from page one. There was just something about the location, the isolation of the Overlook, which spoke to me – surely one of the most terrifying places ever.
Paul Kane is the award-winning, bestselling author and editor of over seventy books – including the Arrowhead trilogy (gathered together in the sellout Hooded Man omnibus, revolving around a post-apocalyptic version of Robin Hood), The Butterfly Man and Other Stories, Hellbound Hearts and The Mammoth Book of Body Horror. His non-fiction books include The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy and Voices in the Dark, and his genre journalism has appeared in the likes of SFX, Rue Morgue and DeathRay. He has been a Guest at Alt.Fiction five times, was a Guest at the first SFX Weekender, at Thought Bubble in 2011, Derbyshire Literary Festival and Off the Shelf in 2012, Monster Mash and Event Horizon in 2013, Edge-Lit in 2014, HorrorCon, HorrorFest and Grimm Up North in 2015, The Dublin Ghost Story Festival and Sledge-Lit in 2016, plus IMATS Olympia in 2017, as well as being a panellist at FantasyCon and the World Fantasy Convention, and a fiction judge at the Sci-Fi London festival. His work has been optioned and adapted for the big and small screen, including for US network television, and his latest novels are Lunar (set to be turned into a feature film), the Y.A. story The Rainbow Man (as P.B. Kane), the sequel to RED – Blood RED – the award-winning hit Sherlock Holmes & the Servants of Hell and Before. He lives in Derbyshire, UK, with his wife Marie O’Regan, his family and a black cat called Mina. Find out more at his site www.shadow-writer.co.uk which has featured Guest Writers such as Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Charlaine Harris, Dean Koontz and Guillermo del Toro.
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