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on 31 August 2000
This book is King's dissection of the horror genre between the years 1950-80. Do not read this book if you expect it to be a horror novel, it is really an in-depth look at horror books, films, and TV. King does use autobiographical elements to make the book interesting, and most of his views and interpretations are interesting as well. However, it does tend to drag in a few places as he covers the same ground too often. If you are a new horror fan, use this book as a stepping stone to great horror novels. If you are a hardcore horror reader, I recommend this book to you as well, because King's opinions are very interesting.
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VINE VOICEon 9 March 2008
In this non-fiction book Stephen King examines the horror genre, primarily between the years 1950-1980, although with a quick look at the roots of the genre with Frankenstein, Dracula and Jekyll and Hyde.

King doesnt' really offer any amazing new insights into the genre, but this is a readable enough work, enlivened by odd moments of autobiographical details. Strangely for a writer King focuses as much on movies as novels, though it's interesting to read his various takes on Kubrick's version of 'The Shining' (King maligns it once, then praises Kubrick on other occasions, before indicating the film as a personal favourite in the index!).

The book as a whole can get rather repetetive, as most of it seems to consist of King running through various book/film plots, but at worst this can be seen as a primer for the horror genre, and I suspect most readers will come out of this on the lookout for a handful of books and films that they had not previously experienced.
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on 11 August 2011
Danse Macabre is Stephen Kings study on Horror. He doesn't go that in depth but keeps it an easy read about Horror entertainment. He writes to try to explain why the genre is poular and why it appeals to him. He refers to many books, films, T.V. shows and radio plays, many of which I was aware of, some not.
The book is well organised but I found the book for its length to be a little too on the surface of the subject and repetative. The book is still a good study on horror but is now unfortunately quite dated as the book came out in 1981. As a horror fan I found Stephen kings take on the genre interesting and mostly I agreed with him. The trouble with the book is in 1981 alot of horror fans probably would have found the insights in this book quite revelatory but now I think modern horror fans are more self aware of why the genre is what it is and why they like it. Therefore I can't reccomend this book to non-horror fans(that would be pointless) but I can't really reccomend to modern horror fans either, as despite it being well written it's too long and out dated. For instance King talks abot George Romero(refering to Night and Dawn) and Steven Spielberg(refering to Duel), little knowing in 1981 that King himself would go on to work with Romero(Creepshow) and that Romero would direct his book adaption The Dark half. Equally King couldn't have predicted that Spielberg would become known after E.T. to be known as film maker of family block busters and not famous for well made thrillers and horrors in the style of Duel and Jaws.
I would love to read a follow up to this book to here Stephen Kings opinion on for instance his own book adaptions(when this book was printed his book and film carreer was still at its beginnings) and other horror films such as The Ring, Grudge, Saw and Hostel films and how Teen horror remains popular from the Slashers(Friday the 13th, Scream) to the Twilight books and films. Also I'd like to here what he'd say about successful Horror T.V shows such as The New Outer Limits, X Files, Twin Peaks and Tales From The Crypt as Horror T.V. was not that popular when the book was originally published.
In 1981 I'd have given this book 4.5 out of 5 but now I can only give it 3.3 out of 5 as by the time I got to the end I felt due to it being out dated I'd have been better off reading one of Kings novels.
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on 15 December 2013
I'm re-reading Stephen King's books in chronological order and this was the next book in line. I can now tell exactly how old I was when I originally read his books because this was the first one I bought (well was gifted) brand new from the bookstore. Every July (my bday) and Christmas my dad would give me any new Stephen King books that had come out as presents; so I was 13 when I got this one. I was really looking forward to this, King's first foray into non-fiction, as my first read of it had been soooo enlightening. I wanted to get my hands on every book he mentioned, watch every movie he named but it being pre-internet days that was a very hard task indeed. Now that I re-read the book thirty years later I find that I've watched a great many of the mentioned movies and the major books listed but not all of them so I still had some titles and authors to add to my tbr.

It's a great book and so interesting to read. Parts of the book are biographical telling about young Steve's life as a kid when he connected with this world of the macabre, but mostly it is his treatise on the horror story genre and what it includes both the good and the bad. The movie section was enjoyable but my favourite part was the longest section: on books, of course. Steve has a great writing voice and it's like taking to someone about a topic you both love over a couple of beers. The only part that was disappointing was the section on TV. The book shows its age here, written in 1981, King is writing from an era of Mork & Mindy, The Dukes of Hazzard and Fantasy Island to name a few. King has no use for television whatsoever, feeling that all who lower themselves to its level, actors, directors, writers are entering an abyss of no return. He does manage to tell about a few gems, in his opinion, and he recommends such as Outer Limits and Dark Shadows. The book was written over quite a period of time which shows as when he first starts the book he mentions his own books: . Carrie, 'Salem's Lot, The Shining (and the corresponding movies), further on Night Shift and The Stand and towards book's end The Dead Zone is mentioned once. He had also of course published Firestarter by the time this book was on the shelves.

Since his opinions and views of television are so outdated from now, where horror is a staple on the tube with King even being behind some ventures himself (Kingdom Hospital), I would sincerely love a follow-up to this book. Two ideas I have Uncle Steve, if you are listening: 1) continue with another book following the same theme horror movies, TV, books from the 80s to the 2010's. or 2) A new book just on horror and TV where King can expound on the very short chapter he included in this book and then go on to talk about what happened with horror on TV after the sitcom driven slump of the 80s up to the present. Why was Buffy a big hit in the 90s? Why is Walking Dead so hot today? Great book for the history of the genre but really worthy of a modern follow-up since there is so much more to say when his opinions are rooted in the eighties.
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VINE VOICEon 21 November 2012
My original copy of Stephen King's Danse Macabre fell apart due to continual re-reading. I read the book cover-to-cover more than once but certain chapters - in particular those on the modern American horror movie and the horror novel - I must have read a dozen or so times. I owe this book a debt of gratitude because it was reading through King's analysis and comments on novels such as Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House that taught me to love the study of literature, rather than to find it a purely dry and academic chore: I discovered how a good teacher can be informative and entertaining, the former quality need not exclude the latter. King is a passionate and entertaining guide and reading Danse Macabre is rather like being in a pub with a much-loved uncle as he tells you stories of ghosts and monsters.

Danse Macabre is King's personal trawl through the world of horror: horror films and fiction in the main, but also the world of 1950s sci-fi radio, the murky world of E.C comics and, well, pretty much anything else he finds relevant and of interest. As someone who grew up in the 80s King's love for the old black and white horror films, and the early Hammer movies struck me as a little quaint at the time but his fascination with them sent me back to the video shops and the DVD stores to see them for myself and, guess what, he's right - those early films are beauties. It's true of many things but to appreciate what is going on in the present it's worth doing your research into the past. To get the full measure of today's vampire films go back to the Hammer movies of the 50s and 60s, go back to Bela Lugosi in the 30s and F.W Murnow's Nosferatu from the 20s. Go back to Stoker's novel and Sheridan Le Fanu's 'Carmilla'. The modern films and novels, the best of them anyway, pay hommage to their illustrious predecessors. As King shows knowing about the past versions helps you understand and appreciate their present counterparts.

I usually try to keep my reviews quite impersonal but it's rather difficult in this case. I don't always agree with King's comments - at one point he discusses the novels Frankenstein, Dracula and Jekyll and Hyde and announces that Frankenstein is, for him, the best written. Well, personally I'd say Jekyll and Hyde was the most beautifully written of the three by a country mile but that's part of the fun. You don't have to agree with King's comments to find them fascinating and arguing with his conclusions can only help improve your own understanding of the horror genre. Reading Danse Macabre, searching out the films King loves (and those he frankly finds rather wretched) and searching out the novels and old radio shows he discusses, set me off on a journey of discovery and gave me an affection for the off-kilter, the haunted and the frightening that lasts to this day. Danse Macabre is a fascinating and personal account of the horror genre and, whether your preference be for the old black and white films of the 30s or the more visceral flicks of the 80s; the classic novels of the late Victorian era or the horror comics of 50s America there will be something here for you. Splendid stuff, and if you have ever enjoyed a vampire film or a good ghost story you really should treat yourself and buy a copy. Superb.
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on 28 March 2013
Considering that King is such a successful author of horror stories, he has some very strange views on horror. To give one example, he criticises the universally-acknowledged classic CAT PEOPLE, yet raves on about the turgid and almost-unwatchable CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON as if it were a masterpiece. He's similarly enthusiastic about such films as I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN and THE BLOB. In fairness, he rightly identifies other great movies such as THE HAUNTING and NIGHT OF THE DEMON, but he seems overly-keen on too many trashy films, in my opinion. The book was mildly interesting but is most certainly not an 'in-depth' appraisal of horror is all its guises. It's simply a stream-of-consciousness chat about his various likes and dislikes, some of which people will agree with, but much that a lot of people won't agree with. He offers little real serious dissection of the mechanics of horror, which I found disappointing. By the way, the Kindle edition of this book does not contain the extra essay advertised on the cover of the hard-copy version.
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on 7 March 2015
I'm a huge fan of Stephen King and I initially was skeptical about reading but the book wore on me. It's more of a treatise on the horror genre in general but it is written in his witty style which helps. I especially like the appendices of books and films which for me meant giving this book an extra star
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on 27 December 2003
I mistakenly purchased this book believing it to be another piece of horror writing in the same vein as many other great King novels. I was at first disappointed to find it is King's personal comprehensive look at the horror genre (film, radio, novels etc) from post WW2 to 1980. It was written as a response to all those who have ever asked why somone should want to write this type of material - and some equally facinating concepts as to why we buy it!
Despite not being a big movie fan or knowing much else about horror apart from King's work I found the book largely enjoyable. King analyses many examples of classic good and bad horror writing and explains what he believes constitutes a quality horror story and why it actually works for the reader. Occasionally the chapters can drag a little too long; but largely the subject keeps moving to maintain interest.

Even if you are not a big-horror buff the titles quoted and referrred to are described in such a way that even those who have not seen / read the material can enjoy and benefit from King's criticism.
Many readers will be inspired to go and find new horror material which is highly recommended after the analysis in this book. Films and radio are similarly delt with - not just well known horror but the obscure and sometimes little-discovered gems waiting to be re-discovered.
Not too heavy or academic; interspersed with King's dry humour and oberservation, an approachable way to learn more about how horror really works and why we people are drawn to this subject.
Overall worth reading as a change from just fiction.
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on 3 February 2003
Like ' On Writing' and the introduction to 'Night Shift', 'Danse Macabre' offers some wonderful insight into Steven King's mind. More than that, however, it provides us with an important key to unlocking the complex puzzle of horror fictions' enduring popularity.
King not only writes with wit and wisdom, he charts the socio - cultural significance of his subject which, whilst written from an American standpoint, does translate well to those of us on the other side of the Atlantic.
His enthusiasm is genuinely endearing although the obscurity of some of the American movie references to British readers might leave them feeling a little puzzled, due primarily to the fact that some of them were not released here.
Nevertheless, if you're interested in how and why horror fiction in books, movies, TV and, to a lesser extent, radio retains its popularity and you want to know why we should carry on reading and watching it, 'Danse Macabre' comes highly reccommended.
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on 24 July 2016
make a note for this to be the last time you exploit your die hard fan base. I don't see any reason for this book. I think anyone who does has got far too much free time. It's just his thoughts on endless pieces of media ( many I assume influenced him) so why read it? Would you honestly want to listen to some die hard fan talk endlessly about why he loves what he loves? After five minutes id be like 'OK I get it! You know everything there is to know about everything on tv! Seek help for OCD and ego inflation!' . Sorry if I got carried away there ( and for using too many of these!). So yeah that's what this book is. You just sit there wondering why it exists. Incidentally I think Ste published this at a time when he needed to be bucking his ideas up a bit. Personally I love the guy but think some of his best work is overrated, namely The Shinning (sic) and his most vivid and passionate storytelling was overlooked and/or made into terrible films such as It and The Running Man. Skip this. Go for It instead. It's a long read but It's brilliant. I think It's his best novel by far, as though all his best ideas are in It and he worked on It little by little for years while working on other projects (It.It.IT!). Thanks for reading.
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