At some point, I hope to write a longish essay about Charles L. Grant’s novels and stories. Grant was a writer I was very much aware of as a kid: he was part of that group of horror writers who came to prominence in the early-to-mid-seventies and was at the forefront of the horror boom in the eighties. Of course, he was also well-known for his editing work on the Shadows series of anthologies. It’s his fiction, though, that I want to address here, briefly. When I was a kid, I didn’t care much for it: in comparison to Stephen King’s colloquial abundance, or Peter Straub’s studied mannerism, Grant’s work struck me as thin. I read a few of his stories here and there, but while I had several of his novels in my possession, I never read any of them.
When Grant died in 2006, though, I decided to take another look at his fiction. I chose his 1981 Arkham House collection, Tales from the Nightside. With the second story, “Old Friends,” Grant evoked the idea of a darkness so ancient it has forgotten its identity–and I was hooked. What I realized as I made my way through the rest of this collection, and others such as Nightmare Seasons, was that Grant is one of those writers who really does ask to be read slowly. If Lovecraft was right in his assertion that horror fiction is fundamentally about the creation of mood, then Grant’s work fulfills that claim. The source for his style, though, seems to me more Bradbury than Lovecraft. Like Bradbury, his sentences marry lyricism to a kind of stripped-down prose that seems to have its roots in naturalism.
I continue to read through Grant’s work. Much of it is out of print; although available cheaply through such venues as abebooks. It’s my hope that, at some point, we’ll see a selected stories, then a collected stories. In the meantime, such individual works as Tales from the Nightside, The Orchard, Nightmare Seasons, and Black Carousel are well worth searching out.