Today we’ll look at authors like Stephen King, talented horror and thriller writers you need to read before the entire world discovers them.
Some of these authors have already reached a high level of success and had their books optioned for movies. Other writers are flying under the radar, or swimming in the dark and swampy depths, waiting for you to dredge them up.
As of my last update in September 2021, Paul Tremblay is an American author known for his contributions to the horror genre. Born in 1971 in Aurora, Colorado, Tremblay grew up with a love for reading and writing. He studied at Providence College in Rhode Island, where he earned a degree in Mathematics. Before dedicating himself to full-time writing, Tremblay worked as a high school AP Calculus teacher. His diverse background brings a unique depth and perspective to his literary work, often blending psychological insights with chilling narratives.
Paul Tremblay gained widespread recognition for his novels “A Head Full of Ghosts” (2015) and “The Cabin at the End of the World” (2018). “A Head Full of Ghosts” received the Bram Stoker Award for Novel and was praised for its clever subversion of horror tropes and deep psychological insight. The book tells the story of a suburban family dealing with the possible demonic possession of one of their daughters, using a “reality TV” setup to add layers of meta-commentary on the horror genre itself.
“The Cabin at the End of the World” also received critical acclaim, including the Bram Stoker Award, and deals with themes of apocalypse and home invasion. Tremblay’s writing often explores the boundaries of horror, drawing on psychological, supernatural, and existential fears to create stories that are as thought-provoking as they are terrifying. His works have been noted for their complexity, intricate characters, and the way they engage with both contemporary culture and classic horror themes. Alongside his novels, Tremblay has written short stories, essays, and has co-edited anthologies, further establishing himself as a versatile voice in modern horror literature.
As we delve deeper into the story, we begin to question what is real and unreal. A Head Full of Ghosts plunges us into the stormy waters of a New England family teetering on the brink of its own destruction, and when the story reaches its climax, Tremblay tears our hearts out.
Don’t believe for a second that Paul Tremblay is a one-trick pony. His novel, Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, is at-once frightening and heartbreaking, one of the most disturbing novels I’ve encountered in recent memory.
Jack Ketchum was the pen name of Dallas Mayr, an American horror writer born on November 10, 1946, in Livingston, New Jersey. Ketchum passed away on January 24, 2018, but during his lifetime, he left an indelible mark on the horror genre. He was initially inspired to become a writer after meeting Robert Bloch, author of “Psycho,” when he was a teenager. Ketchum later attended Emerson College in Boston, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English. Before embarking on his writing career, he held various jobs, including acting, teaching, and social work.
Ketchum gained notoriety for his unflinchingly brutal and psychologically harrowing stories. His first published novel, “Off Season” (1980), was a visceral work that set the tone for his career. The book was initially deemed too disturbing by some critics but gained a cult following and is now considered a classic in extreme horror. Over the years, Ketchum received several Bram Stoker Awards, including one for his novel “The Girl Next Door” (1989), which was based on a real-life crime and explored themes of evil and the human capacity for cruelty. His work often delved into the darker corners of human nature, pushing boundaries and challenging norms within the genre. Ketchum was lauded by some of the greatest names in horror, including Stephen King, who referred to him as one of the best writers in the field. His other notable works include “Red,” “Joyride,” and “Stranglehold.” Ketchum also wrote several short story collections and novellas, broadening his impact on the genre. His influence continues to be felt, both in horror literature and in the various film adaptations of his work.
The late Jack Ketchum walked the tight rope between splatterpunk and thoughtful, literary horror. While the graphic contents of Ketchum’s stories were often shocking, he breathed life into complex characters and made us care about them. From Hide-and-Seek and Off Season to The Woman, Ketchum’s novels are an idyllic mesh of old drive-in movie horror and scholarly, poetic art.
Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door is the most-frightening novel I’ve read, so disturbing that I haven’t successfully forced myself to re-read this classic, despite it being my favorite horror novel.
Last spring, I didn’t know much about Matthew Brockmeyer, except that he’d written a successful horror debut, Kind Nepenthe, to strong reviews.
It took me until April 2018 to catch up to Kind Nepenthe, which I chose as one of my go-to beach reads while vacationing in Florida. Brockmeyer’s ability to pull readers into his characters immediately struck me, and though it was not clear what would befall them at book’s end, I could see the train hurtling off the tracks in slow motion from chapter one.
You might not know Matthew Brockmeyer’s name yet, but you will. Kind Nepenthe is a truly dark morsel of horror goodness, and the cataclysmic ending will leave you breathless.
I won’t stop recommending this novel until everybody knows Brockmeyer’s name.
Jonathan Janz is a rather unique beast in the horror menagerie of authors like Stephen King.
Perhaps he is friend. Follow Janz on social media and you’ll discover a devout family man who, when he puts pen to paper, creates memorable and likable characters that remind us of people we care about.
Or perhaps he is fiend. When Janz goes for the jugular, the dripping gore he dreams up is enough to make Edward Lee and John Skipp nod with approval…before vomiting.
Jonathan Janz is one of horror’s fastest rising novelists. Whether you prefer the supernatural, gory horror of Exorcist Falls, or the incredible Children of the Dark, which meshes coming-of-age with slasher horror and an insane monster invasion, you can’t go wrong with a Janz novel.
“The most terrifying vampire novel since Salem’s Lot”
Nick Cutter is the pen name of Craig Davidson, who also writes as Patrick Lestewka.
I can think of only one novel which frightened me almost as much as Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door, and that is Nick Cutter’s The Troop, of which Stephen King wrote, “The Troop scared the hell out of me.”
And for good reason.
From the moment a food-crazed maniac stumbles onto an uninhabited island temporarily occupied by a troop of boys learning to survive in the wilderness, The Troop is utterly relentless.
I don’t wish to spoil the story, but I’ll say Cutter’s body horror is top-notch and horrifying. The turtle scene delivered an emotional punch of pure anguish that I can’t get out of my head a year later.
And if serial killers are more your speed, by all means read the heart-pounding Darkwater Cove.
I could list another twenty authors like Stephen King, but I’ll stop here for today. Did I miss someone? Comment below!