PAPERBACKS FROM HELL WEEK: Will Errickson from Too Much Horror Fiction

Will Errickson’s blog, Too Much Horror Fiction, collects and reviews vintage horror literature (mostly from the 1960s to the early 1990s) and celebrates its resplendent paperback cover art. And it’s where I learned about so many of the books that make up this week’s inspiration, the book Paperbacks from Hell.

Will was kind enough to sit down and answer some questions about the site, his favorite books, the movies they inspired and his hopes to get more people into paperback horror fiction.

SAM: How did you get inspired to start Too Much Horror Fiction?

WILL: The internet seemed full of horror movie blogs but very few covered vintage horror fiction. I had a small collection at the time and simply thought, why not? I’ve always loved horror paperbacks since their ’80s heyday, it was kind of an obsession, and obsessions and the internet were made for one another. I scanned a couple covers, wrote a few words, and I was off! That was in 2010, and I haven’t looked back.

SAM: So many of the books on your site — and in the book — were eventually made into movies. Do you have any favorites?

WILL: Whitley Strieber’s The Hunger and Wolfen are very good novels that made good movies. I enjoyed both of those you mention. If people enjoyed those movies I’d recommend the books, which are even better. Of course, Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist are the gold standard of adaptations, but other ones I’ve enjoyed (which were looser adaptations) were Angel Heart, based on William Hjortsberg’s magnificent hardboiled horror novel Falling Angel. The original novel The Howling by Gary Brandner is quite different from its movie adaptation and kinda cool. Two other big novels of the ’70s, The Manitou by Graham Masterton (a great horror novel) and The Sentinel by Jeffrey Konvitz (not a great horror novel), were made into middling but entertainingly cheesy movies. I know James Herbert’s The Rats, a vastly influential novel, was made into Deadly Eyes but I haven’t seen it. Oh, and Pin, based on Andrew Neiderman’s chilling, chilly 1981 novel. Richard Matheson’s “Prey,” was made into that Trilogy of Terror bit “Amelia” with Karen Black, is great as well.

SAM: Are there any you wished had been filmed? Why?

Probably Ray Garton’s Live Girls, set in the sleazy environs of NYC in the mid-1980s. I wish someone had made it back then, but today it’d work too since there is so much demand for entertainment set in that era right now (and HBO’s The Deuce is killing it with its recreation of 1970s Times Square).

SAM: The Other, Harvest Home and Burnt Offerings were HUGE books that became movies. Why do you think they’re forgotten today while the authors and films they inspired live on?

WILL: Yesterday’s bestsellers seem old and musty. Nobody cares about ’em except us hardcore horror fans! I’m doing my damnedest to get people to read those two Thomas Tryon novels!

SAM: Are there any movie novelizations that you’d recommend?

WILL: Yes: Jaws 2! It’s better than the Benchley original. The author, Hank Searls, had previously written books about the sea and you can tell. It’s a downbeat moody novel that was based on an early screenplay so it bears little resemblance to the movie. Also, The Wicker Man has some scenes and character background not in the film. I don’t read novelizations really, although I have a couple in my collection.

SAM: I keep noticing that the taboo of incest keeps popping up in 1970’s horror. Why is that?

WILL: Ugh do you wanna know really? Because I don’t. Ugh. UGH. Probably the thing I hate most about that era of horror fiction.

SAM: What’s your favorite film?

WILL: The Long Goodbye with Elliott Gould. Night Moves with Gene Hackman. Warren Beatty’s Reds. Oh, do you mean horror?! All the usual suspects like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Rosemary’s Baby, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, The Exorcist. Odds and ends like Deathdream, Possession, Daughters of DarknessThe Body SnatcherLes Yeux Sans VisageThe Reflecting Skin. Newer horror movies I’ve enjoyed are Lake MungoAbsentiaThe InvitationSnowtown and Kill List. This Halloween I watched a 1990 horror movie I’d never heard of, Mirror, Mirror, with Karen Black (again!). Don’t know how I missed it, but it was really good, and reminded me of great vintage horror writers like Ken Greenhall and Michael McDowell.

SAM: We cover a lot of TV movies, too. It seems like they go cloven hoof in hand with 70’s horror paperbacks. Do you remember any of them?

WILL: Sure do. I remember the commercials and TV Guide ads for Salem’s Lot being super unsettling. Also The Night Stalker and Trilogy of Terror and Gargoyles. I recently watched Something Evil, one of Spielberg’s earliest, and A Taste of Evil with Barbara Stanwyck. Still have to see Bad Ronald and Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark!

SAM: As part of this weeklong celebration of Paperbacks from Hell, we’re watching some of the films inspired by those paperbacks. Do you have any comments on…Pin?

WILL: Solid adaptation of a fantastic novel.

SAM: The Dark Secret of Harvest Home?

WILL: Pretty good, love the actress playing temptress Tamara Penrose and Bette Davis of course. The male lead…

SAM: Burnt Offerings?

WILL: A cool vintage movie (Karen Black *again*! and Oliver Reed!) but the book isn’t a favorite of mine.

Thanks to Will for spending the time to answer all of these questions! Please don’t forget to visit his site! It’s amazing!

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