Meet Grady Hendrix @grady_hendrix #HorrorLounge
Tell us about your book, Paperbacks from Hell
It’s an illustrated history of the horror paperback boom of the 70s and 80s including everything from Nazi leprechauns to flocks of killer jellyfish.
Why the particular love of 70s & 80s horror?
I have no special love for the era, but if you’re fascinated by lost paperbacks that’s where they all live. The boom was unique in publishing history and can’t happen again, so if you want to see what it was, learn why it happened, or how it died, these are the decades you have to explore.
Tell us more about the cover design and illustration from that era
Horror paperbacks were the second to the last gasp of the brush stroke on book covers. Art directors wanted covers to look realistically painted, but they didn’t want to use photographs of models because they thought that would alienate readers. They also faced the problem that artists in the 1950s and 1960s were encouraged to paint their feelings so art schools didn’t turn out painters with the chops to tackle realist illustration. Some art directors, like Milton Charles, took it on themselves to train illustrators, others scoured dark bars. By the time the boom went bust digital had taken over and a lot of horror illustrators had fled the increasingly gory covers to paint romance covers. By the mid-1990s, digital had totally taken over the field and the era of the painted cover was dead as disco.
First memory of reading horror
When I was five I found a book of folktales and the supernatural in a house we were renting. It had a plain black cover and was full of lurid engravings of witches being burned and heretics with their hands tied to the clapper of a ringing bell. The horrifying world that surrounded me suddenly so much more sense.
For readers new to horror which 3 books would you
recommend they start with?
Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.
Do you have a favourite horror sub-genre, and why?
For me, nothing beats a good animal attack book. Dogs, cats, bees, rats, jellyfish, whales, maggots, panda bears — they’ve had it up to their mandibles with our shenanigans and they’ve sworn to turn humanity into an all-you-can-eat buffet. Game on!
Most terrifying book you’ve ever read.
The Art of the Deal
Your favourite Stephen King book.
Cujo is as close as King ever came to putting James Dickey’s poetry on the page. It’s a book about fate, accidents, and just plain old bad luck. If you don’t shed a tear for Cujo by the last line then I question your humanity.
New horror authors you’d recommend.
There are a ton of people out there doing great work, from Elizabeth Hand’s Cass Neary series, to John Langan’s The Fisherman and Paul Tremblay’s Head Full of Ghosts.
Who do you consider the King and Queen of horror fiction?
I’m from the States where we fought a war to get rid of kings and queens. I’m not about to restart the aristocracy.
Your favourite horror film (adapted from a book) & why?
PIN is a fantastic book about a brother and sister engaged in an incestual threeway relationship with a talking anatomical dummy they inherited from their father. It got turned into a really queasy-making Canadian movie.
Horror book that you’d like to see adapted to film & why?
John Christopher’s The Little People speaks to the moment in which we’re living. An animated film that brings his psychic Nazi leprechauns to the big screen sounds like a way to mint money.
Best horror TV?
There’s a channel we get in our building that just shows the rear stairwell. I think it’s tied into the security camera system. Nothing much ever happens, but occasionally a dog floats out of the wall, biting itself and snarling. After a while, it goes away again.
Did you write in other genres or straight to horror?
I’ve written cookbooks, YA, journalism. Horror’s just a marketing category someone else puts on your books.
Tell us briefly about your route to being published
I was a journalist for a long time, went to the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop in 2009, and then wrote three novels no one published. I co-authored some YA, co-authored a graphic novel cookbook, and failed to sell a novel to my editor, who then hired me for Horrorstör.
Tell us about your fans
It’s just one guy who follows me around and talks to himself a lot. I think he has his mother’s severed ring finger in his pocket so I don’t get too close.