Sunday, July 29, 2007

Charles Grant

I didn't know Charlie Grant well. He wrote a number of columns for Mystery Scene and we did some business on a few other matters and that was about it. I always had the feeling that he didn't quite approve of me or my stuff. And amazingly, for somebody as occasionally over-sensitive if not paranoid as I am, I didn't really care. And I can't even tell you why. I just don't know.

Grant had one of those careers that, at least from the outside, was frustrating. He was cerainly one of the best horror writers of my generation. I don't know how good he was at the horror tropes because that isn't why I usually read read horror but I do know that he had a true and abundant sense of troubled people like me and, I suspect, himself. His best work was indelibly touched with a sense of working class and middle-class tragedy. Serious and nuanced writing.

The problem seemed, to me anyway, that the early novels that publishers tried to break out weren't his best or at least most representative work. And that true his blockbusters somehow didn't seem to them right for the big push. In A Dark Dream and For Fear of The Night came relatively late in his career, for example, but they're so well-observed, so taut and emotionally brutal as horrorific-suspense that can they bruise you for life.

This isn't to say that he didn't so superilative work from the very start of his career. But as the years passed, and this happens to many of us mid-listers, he had to do work he might not have wanted to if his more serious career had been more successful. Throughout his time he edited the excellent Shadows series of grown-up horror stories.

I'll tell you, see if your local library has a collection (it's been reprinted many times) of a Grant story called "If Damon Comes." I read it last night and it won't let go of me. Except for a few stories by Richard Yates and Stephen King's The Shining, I've never read a more crushing story about a selfish and guilty father. Nor a story about the husband-wife issues particular to my generation. Grant was a hell of a good writer.


Anonymous said...

I haven't tried any novels, but I remember liking his short fiction alot. Particularly one piece, name of which i can't remember, which is as disturbing as anything I've ever read. He claimed to write *quiet* horror, and I guess that was primarily the case, but without any overt sex or gore, that particular short was *loud*, deafening in fact.

Anonymous said...

I'd often thought over the years that I was writing something I didn't want to write because my more serious career had not been successful, until I realized . . . this IS my career.


Anonymous said...

Even if the SHADOWS series had only published Avram Davidson's "Naples," its existence would've been more than justified. As it was...Oxrun Station was filled with terrors that weren't nameless at all, but entirely too familiar to their haunted...