I was a skittish kid, even a bit of a fearful kid. The mere idea of engaging with something scary — a book, a movie, or a television show squarely in the horror genre — made me preemptively woozy. Once I did finally engaged with such material, though (beginning, of course, with Stephen King), I spent a few years pursuing ever more spins into the darkness. For the most part, I stick with any given author for only a single tome. While the form doesn’t deserve the disdain often heaped on it, accomplished literary figures writing such novels were a rarity, at least around the mid-to-late-nineteen eighties. Besides the parenthetically-mentioned King and the then-hot Clive Barker, the only writers that caused me to seek them out again after sampling their wares were the team of John Skipp and Craig Spector.
As with Bradley Denton, I found my way to Skipp and Spector because one of their works was lauded in the book review section of a monthly publication I got along with my comic shop subscription. The novel in question was The Scream, which found inspiration in the headline-making squabbles happening between religious right figures and fans and practitioners of heavy metal music. That conflict eventually contributed to dawn of the PMRC and the controversial affixing of warning labels on records. Skipp and Spector saw the subject as something more than handy time-filler for a daytime talk show. It was entryway to a horror story that gave them some leeway to comment on religious hypocrisy with surprising insight and yet fairly restrained judgment. And, hey, maybe there could be some actual demons around, too. It’s important to keep the pages turning.
I read a few more books Skipp and Spector tapped out together, most memorably Dead Lines, which managed to craftily thread a few gruesome short stories onto a larger, separated narrative. Much as I valued the satisfaction of their chunky paperbacks, I’ll admit that the recreational reading selectivity mandated by all the assigned text in college caused me to give up on Skipp and Spector before they gave up on their partnership. They’ve both continued to write, but I’ll admit I have difficulty seeing them as anything other than a grandly grim tandem, delivering scary stories at precisely the time I finally realized I could handle them and determined in short order that some were even worth craving.
Previous entries in this series can be found by clicking on the “My Writers” tag.