With my fascination with horror, and my love of books and writing, it’s no wonder that one of my idols would be Stephen King. His writing is witty, creative, acerbic, and all sorts of other adjectives that can be categorized under the heading of GOOD. Those who follow his novels will tend to find he writes forewords and afterwords talking of his experiences with writing the novel in question, or what led to the idea – a very attractive attempt at getting in the head of the writer.
Danse Macabre is Stephen King’s chance at discussing his own experiences in the horror genre, be it movies, television, or books. Some of what he writes about are influences on his own writing; others are aimed at picking out some of the greats of the period between 1950 through 1980. Of course, all of the opinions expressed by King are tinged with his own unique sense of sarcasm and comedy, along with side-notes of autobiographical accounts from his own life.
Despite the fact that this tome of King’s favorites (or least favorites, depending on the subject matter) is outdated, it’s still a great look at the genre for the years depicted. King has some fantastic picks for novels and films, many of which are more obscure than you might imagine. But what stands out more than King’s list of top horror is what he has to say about them and how they’ve influenced his own writing. In fact, I found King’s essays about his own life much more fascinating than his analyses of horror novels, which became quite fatiguing to read and seemed hypocritical to King’s dislike of over-analyzing stories.
Although King can venture off on tangents, he mostly sticks to the topic at hand. The majority of the time, he manages to wrap back around to what he was talking about before, but it’s easy for the reader to get lost in King’s allusions and topic shifts. The end of the novel gets a bit bogged down with all of King’s critiques on horror, and at times, King can come off as a bit of a critic himself, name-dropping those who aren’t up to par with what he considers good writing. Yet that seems to be mostly what Danse Macabre tries to accomplish: pick out the good stuff and let the rest fall away.
Pick up Danse Macabre as a jam-packed roadmap to all the horror you may have missed. Great for those who never lived the ’50s through the ’80s, and even better for those wanting to get into the genre. The best part, though, are King’s essays on his past and how it intermingles with horror; call me a junkie, but I sure love to hear about what influences some of my favorite horror, just as King tries to do here in his dance.