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Top 5 authors who helped shape Southern Horror

It is the 4th of July today, so in honour  of Independence Day we bring you the 5  authors who helped  shape Southern Horror.  This list is in no way definitive, it is merely a list of  authors who have entertained us through the years.

anne5. Anne Rice

It would be remiss to have a top 5 list of Southern Authors and not mention Anne Rice.  Born in New Orleans in 1941, she went on to become one of America’s top selling authors of all time with sales of nearly 100 million. She is perhaps best known for her influential Vampire Chronicle series featuring the vampire Lestat. First published in 1976, Interview With a Vampire initially received less favourable reviews from critics which caused her to retreat from the supernatural genre for a time.  However Rice’s works are now regarded as having had a major impact on the vampire fiction genre, and are seen by many as the progenitor of the romantic vampire.

Recommended reading: Interview With a Vampire

4. James Dickey

While not really a horror author, it would be unfair to exclude James Dickey from this list. Born in 1923 in Georgia Atlanta, he went on to become Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1966. Dickey is best known for his 1970 novel Deliverance, which is widely regarded as one of the finest examples of ‘backwoods horror’. Dickey’s  popularity exploded after the film adaptation was released in 1972. Dickey had a cameo as the sheriff. The film is best known for the scene where Ned Beatty’s character is forced to ‘squeal like a pig’, a line which Beatty claims to have come up with.  Sadly James Dickey passed away in 1997, only six days after teaching his final class at the University of South Carolina, where he taught as poet-in-residence.

Recommended reading: Deliverance

kelly3. Ronald Kelly

If there is an author who best sums up exactly what ‘Southern Fried Horror’ means then it is Ronald Kelly. Born and raised in Tennessee, Kelly rose to fame in the horror boom of the 1990s.  Sadly when the bottom fell out of the market a few years later Kelly was one of the biggest casualties of the crash. Left without a publisher, Kelly grew disillusioned and retired from writing.  Then in 2006 Kelly finally gave in to pressure from fans and returned to the world of horror writing with his chapbook Fleshwelder.   Sadly overlooked by many Kelly is a fantastic writer, whose coming of age novel  Fear should really be held in the same regard as McCammon’s A Boy’s Life and Stephen King’s The Body.

Recommended reading: Fear

2. Poppy Z. Brite

While Poppy’s writing may not be to everyone’s liking, you cannot deny her brilliance with her mix of Gothic storytelling and a heavy dose of graphic sex. Brite’s recent work has moved into the related genre of dark comedy, of which many are set in the New Orleans restaurant world. Brite’s novels are typically standalone but may feature recurring characters from previous novels and short stories.  Poppy’s writing best captures the hot, steamy and languid nights of New Orleans.

Recommend reading: Exquisite Corpse

robert1 Robert R. McCammon

McCammon’s contribution to the horror genre is nigh on immeasurable, ranked alongside Stephen King, he is one of the most important and best-selling horror authors of the last 40 years.  It was clear even with his debut novel Baal, that he was going to become a major player within horror. In the preceding years his novels touched on a wide range of subjects.  McCammon has always brought a fresh and interesting perspective to staples of the horror genre, from axe-wielding women in Bethany’s Sin, to vampires in They Thirst , and werewolves  in Wolfs Hour. However it was with his magnum opus Swan Song, that McCammon really made an impact on the horror genre.  Swan Song is the story of Susan Wanda a girl with psychic abilities, and her struggle for survival in a post nuclear war world. Along with  Kings The Stand, Swan Song is regarded as the best in post apocalyptic horror fiction.

Recommended reading: Swan Song


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    • JW Schnarr on July 4, 2012 at 8:58 pm
    • Reply

    Great list, but if I’m not mistaken Poppy has come out as transgendered. I checked his website to be sure, and Wikipedia seems to back it up (wiki also said he had begun gender reassignment, which I didn’t find on Poppy’s site). That would generally mean you should be referring to Poppy as a he, wouldn’t it? If he does identify as male, that is.

    1. Hi JW – Yes, absolutely. I was aware of the gender reassignment process but unaware of whether Poppy is referring to him/herself as him or her. I need to find the official line on this and update or keep accordingly.



        • JW Schnarr on July 4, 2012 at 9:08 pm
        • Reply

        Great to see Exquisite Corpse on your list. That book blew me away when I read it back in the 90s. I was familiar with Poppy’s work before that, but E.C. flipped my idea of horror on its head.

        • Bill on July 4, 2012 at 9:33 pm
        • Reply

        I think you can still refer to Poppy Z. Brite and (her) work with the feminine pronoun. The new, male, identity is “Billy Martin” which I believe would be given the masculine pronoun. This is just my hunch.

    • Randy Chandler on July 4, 2012 at 9:07 pm
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    Michael McDowell should be on that list. Sadly, his novels seem to be mostly out of print. Someone should make them available for Kindle and Nook.

  1. I agree with McCammon, for sure, and the the others are all good writers, but what about Flannery O’Connor, Joe Lansdale and William Faulkner? All strong development forces within Southern Gothic and Horror…

    • Scott A. McWaters on January 17, 2013 at 10:58 pm
    • Reply

    No Flannery O’Connor! She is the single most important writer at establishing the Southern Gothic horror story (and don’t tell me she didn’t write any horror). Thes lists are top-heavy with living writers (Anne Rice, Ronald Kelly?) and don’t reflect what they purport to.

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