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This book, written using the author's notes from a college course he taught, explores the techniques that horror writers, filmmakers, and television producers use to scare us, entertain us, and keep us coming back for more. Along the way, King explores the horror genre from the 1950's through the 1980's and traces several key influences on his development as a horror fan, then author.

The author finds the roots of modern horror in three "tarot cards" or character archetypes, each represented by a key literary work. Our expectations about "The Vampire" were formed by Bram Stoker's Dracula; we see the essence of "The Werewolf" in the protagonist of Robert Lewis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde; and experience "The Thing Without a Name" as recurring versions of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein. He traces the influence of these themes in written fiction, radio, movies, television and in popular culture.

Most interesting is King's three-level taxonomy of fear reactions. The most refined is "terror" as the suspenseful anticipation of fright which can be induced by a skilful writer with the monsters off-stage. He believes that finely-tuned terror is best achieved through books and radio because they require more active engagement by their audiences. "Horror" is secondary, as we recoil from the hidden monster as it is revealed. "Revulsion" is the lowest, most visceral reaction triggered when we are "grossed out" by slime, gore and vomit. King admits that as an author he makes unrestrained use of all three.

This book is recommended for horror fans, Stephen King fans, and all those who work to improve their writing. Readers can learn more about the author's writing style and process in his subsequent nonfiction works On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft and Secret Windows: Essays and Fiction on the Crafts of Writing.
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on 2 February 2010
Really excellent study of the horror genre by S.King, and far better than the slightly patronising On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. He clearly knows his stuff (and cares about it), and has evidently devoured enough films/books to offer a detailed, never dry or dull, context of the field in which he operates so successfully.

This book also works as a sort of 'consumer guide', and will send you off to read masterpieces such as The Haunting of Hill House. If you're curious about the bigger picture of Stephen King's world, and how this sort of fiction WORKS, it's a must-read.
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on 30 July 2000
I read this book as someone that couldn't get enough of Stephen King, but had already read the rest of his novels.
It gave me some great insights in to the mind of the author himself as well as the horror genre as a whole. What it also did (and this is true of all of King's books) was provide a springboard to other authors; at the back is a list of films and books that he feels have given something to horror, which is a great reference if you are stuck for something to read or watch.
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on 2 April 2004
Let's face it, who else but Stephen King could take you on an exhaustive horror tour of movies, books, television and radio?
The man certainly knows his stuff, and delivers a thorough guide to every horror text you could ever wish for. King describes the films and books which have kept him awake at night as well as filling you in on how these products have inspired his own writing.
King goes in depth, telling of how society and culture influence, and are in turn influenced by the genre of horror. From the 'Reds Under The Bed' paranoia of the fifties when King was a child, to the slasher pics which were a direct reaction to the permissive society of the sixties, and into the psychological thrillers of the seventies and eighties, there is little that the author doesn't know about the scary and the shocking.
The only slight problem is that the references end in the mid-eighties, but there are still enough recommendations to keep you going. The content is ididosyncratic enough to give even the self-proclaimed experts a few books, films and TV shows to dig up.
Any fan of horror will never want to be without his lists of recommended texts. I am slowly working my way through it and have found what have turned out to be some of my favourite films and books with the help of Mr King. A great and interesting read from start to finish.
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on 25 May 2014
As a big fan of all things by Stephen King I was disappointed with this book. Maybe I should have checked it out more first, I tried to get into it but it was about Stephen Kings life and the way he wrote his books, this different style of book wasn't for me. Many will like it I am sure but not me sorry.
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on 25 July 2013
As everything Stephen King writes this is very readable. It's also a very interesting and insightful analysis of how and why things scare us. When King gets more specific and refers to obscure B movies I have no idea about, I lost interest a bit, but mostly this is a very enjoyable read.
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on 25 July 2007
Anyone interested in Horror will 'love' this. It's a thought provoking & insightful book that explores & encapsulates the world of Horror. King shows us the nuggets of gold he has found along his yellow brick road.They shine brightly.... Excellent book.
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on 11 February 2000
King basically breaks down the entire genre into 4 archetypal monsters, with loads of examples. A bit heavy going in places, but mostly very engaging. Really useful if you're a critic or writer in the feild.
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on 5 February 2013
Good product (as described) and dispatched promptly. All in all, an excellent product and I'm totally satisfied with the purchase.
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on 10 January 2015
Little bit disappointed in this book as I thought it was anothero stephen kings classic horror stories and when I started reading it I realised it was stephen king talking all the way through it I wouldn't say I wasn't interested in the reading but definitely not what I thought it was going to be
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