Disclaimer: I have never read a word of John Saul's paperback originals. He's not an author I think of as horror, but you wouldn't know it by the stacks of his titles in used bookstores everywhere. He's one of those boring brand-name writers whose derivative potboilers instantly hit the top of the bestseller lists (or at least was), but he's never been part of the horror community, nor has he ever even been nominated for a Bram Stoker award and he certainly doesn't show up at horror conventions. Saul's work isn't collectible because there are millions of copies of his books everywhere, no specialty publisher is putting out $100 hardcover reprints of his early novels, and no major movies have been made from anything he wrote. In a1990 interview with Stanley Wiater for Dark Dreamers, he reveals he's only seen two horror films and never reads horror fiction. Errr....
To me Saul is simply a hack whose publishers slotted him into the formulaic baby-in-peril/possession crap subgenres, with no relation to our actual beloved horror fiction tradition (market-based tradition, sure!). The Gothic romance novel, which had been so popular in the late '60s and early '70s, was on the wane as more modern and/or more graphic books and movies like Rosemary's Baby, Audrey Rose, and The Exorcist - and, yes, a little thing called Carrie - became enormously successful; looks like Saul's paperback originals sprang from these wells, amping up Gothic-y terrors while still appealing to a readership made up mostly of housewives and teenage babysitters. None of Saul's titles never even came close to appealing to me!
Saul always seemed to me more akin to a Mary Higgins Clark or V.C.
Andrews than a Stephen King, and I always hated selling his shit to
self-professed "horror" fans when I was working in bookstores while
better books went unbought. And the nursery rhyme-style titles alone!
I've resisted featuring
him on TMHF for all these reasons. Sure, it's prejudiced to bitch about Saul without having read him, but I'm speaking of my impressions based on years of working in bookstores and reading horror and understanding something about how publishers market their books, particularly during the paperback horror boom. Saul's books come across as mere product, not as authentic horror fiction.
But my archival impulse is strong,
and the paperback cover art is so perfectly vintage, that in the
interest of completion, I give you this John Saul paperback covers post,
with his titles from 1977 to 1988 (his covers got a lot more boring
after that). These are all first editions, first from Dell and then
after he became successful, Bantam even published a couple in hardcover
first. Nathaniel (1984) has my, uh, favorite cover art here.
Looking for a forgotten horror novel or short story? Remember the cheesy paperback art but not who wrote the book? Send me an email at toomuchhorrorfiction[at]gmail.com describing it and if I don't know it, one of my readers might!
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