A Few Words About Charles Grant

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.

8 comments on “A Few Words About Charles Grant

  1. Adam says:

    This would be the second time we’ve written about someone in a similar way–D. Winter being the other. I reread all of and wrote about the Shadows series, which had a big impact on me. I can’t remember which 2007 issue of Supernatural Tales it appeared in, so you’ll have to buy them all.

  2. John Langan says:

    Adam–Glad to hear that someone else has been paying attention to Grant. Have you read his fiction? What I’ve read of the shorter stuff is definitely worth checking out.

  3. Jeff Pert says:


    Thanks for talking up Charles Grant. His work was a huge influence on me, and I’m afraid he’s been lost in the swelter of shock and awe that passes for most novel-length horror these days. That said, occasionally Grant’s work could be TOO quiet. I’ve read most of his novels, but think he was best at the short story. My favorite from Tales from the Nightside is “White Wolf Calling.”

    Jeff Pert

  4. John Langan says:

    Jeff–My pleasure. More and more, I’m convinced that there are a lot of fine writers whose work appeared during the horror book but who weren’t as commercially successful as King and Straub and so have faded more than the quality of their work merits. I’m not sure what to do beyond trying to talk about them when and where I can.

  5. Adam says:

    John–I have read his fiction–at least everytime it’s appeared in a “best of” or an anthology–and I’ve never been impressed–indeed, while I can remember titles to his stories (it helps when the titles are lines from Whitman), I can’t remember the stories themselves. At your suggestions, tho, and because I want to like his fiction, I’ll look for the collection you named.

    Also, I believe Stephen Jones is editing (for PS) a best of Grant’s fiction, which might be a good way to get into it.

    Did anyone record his interview at the Chicago World Horror Con.? I learned a bit from that.

  6. Jeff Pert says:


    Here’s a link to the Odyssey Workshop podcast page. If you scroll down to the bottom, the first podcast is Charles Grant from 2000. I haven’t listened to the whole thing, but it’s primarily about characters in horror fiction.


    It’s not about the horror genre in general, but it may prove of interest.


  7. John Langan says:

    Adam–I had the same response to Grant’s fiction, myself; it’s only with (slow) re-reading that I’ve come to appreciate what he’s up to. I hadn’t heard about Steve Jones editing a best of; that’s great news–thanks for passing it along.

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