Spotlight On: Peter Straub


His mother wanted him to be a wholesome minister, but Peter Straub became something else entirely. He had a passion for writing which he pursued but did not find much of note. That was until he changed course and wrote a horror novel and that book, Julia proved to be the breakout hit which had alluded him. From there he changed his focus to the horror genre which changed his career forever. Peter Straub would find critical and commercial success in this endeavor even writing Ghost Story, which is recognized as a classic of horror literature. Becoming an undisputed great in the world of scary reads has earned Peter Straub a bit of spotlight.

Julia: After two books of little success to start his career as a novelist, Peter Straub delved into the supernatural in 1975 with his first horror book Julia. This move gave his writing career the jolt it needed and put him on the path to being one of the greatest horror writers of all time. After finally leaving her abusive husband Magnus following the death of their daughter, American ex-pat Julia has purchased her dream home in London. Her optimism towards the future begins to shift however, as the ghost of a little girl seems to haunt the home. On top of dealing with the spiritual entity, her ex-husband has become increasingly obsessive in his pursuit to have her back. Though, as Julia delves into the mystery of the ghost of the girl, she learns that it may have ties to the past in an unexpected ways.

Ghost Story: The book still viewed as Peter Straub’s greatest masterpiece, and many argue that it is the scariest book of the 20th century. In a small town in upstate New York, four old men have formed the Chowder Society. They meet regularly to share tales of ghosts and the supernatural while they all try to ignore a terrifying moment they all shared years ago. However when one of their members dies, the others know that a secret they tried to bury has reared it’s ugly head. When the nephew of this fallen member comes to town he joins the Chowder Society in the efforts to deal with a supernatural evil which is now pursuing them. An absolutely chilling story which truly brought Peter Straub onto the global literary stage and stands as a masterpiece of the genre.

Koko: A book Peter Straub considers his most emotionally rich, does not feature ghosts but rather the repercussions of the horrors of war. In Southeast Asia a number of victims of ritual murder have surfaced. The tying link is that each of the victims had a card in their mouths with the message “KOKO”. In the United States four platoon-mates from the Vietnam War reconnect. They know the truth about who Koko is and he was tied to their actions on the battlefield. Knowing they have to stop him, the four set off on a dangerous journey to stop the bloodshed.

Shadowland: The book which earned the author a World Fantasy Award nomination. When summer hits, Tom Flanagan and Del Nightingale, have the opportunity to learn magic from Del’s uncle the world famous Coleman Collins. The book is broken into two narratives, one showing the boys in their harsh true school environment the other learning the craft of magic. In an eerie slow burn storytelling style, Tom begins to learn the truth about Coleman Collins.

The Talisman: Fellow icon of horror literature Stephen King has made no secret of his admiration of Peter Straub and the two have forged a close friendship. This led to a collaboration between the two titans of terror. Jack Sawyer wants more than anything than to save the life of his dying mother. The only way to do this is to find the Talisman which leads him across the country and into “the Territories” a parallel universe inhabited by “Twinners” and monsters. Needless to say with two of the biggest horror authors of the twentieth century behind it, the Talisman did blockbuster sales and spawned a sequel Black House.

Lost Boy, Lost Girl: In a short span of time, Timothy Underhill lost his sister-in-law to an abrupt suicide and his nephew who vanished. Underhill wants to know what happened to his nephew and discovers the kid was on the trail of a serial killer operating out of a nearby abandoned home. Even stranger, it would seem the ghost of one of the killer’s victims is who led him to this. This 2003 novel proved to be a critical hit and even won Peter Straub a Bram Stoker Award.