I guess I should start with how the love of horror was instilled in me to begin with. It can all be traced back to my mother. When I was at a very young, impressionable age she allowed me to watch movies such as Halloween, Poltergeist, Children Of The Corn, Jaws, et cetera on TV. Now, keep in mind this was in the '80s and we had, I think, about 3 television stations to choose from. We didn't get cable until my senior year of high school. So of course she let me watch them because they were edited for broadcast television. No nudity, no naughty language, minimum violence and gore. It was also around this time that she told me how she saw the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre in the theater. Basically she said it was scary as shit and vile. Well now, I just HAD to see the film after that little chat. So one day it came on tv. I was FLOORED. I sat in awe and watched it from beginning to end. It is still my favorite horror film to this day. Yes, there are horror films which have been made since that are better and much creepier but it will always hold a special place in my heart.
Now, another area my mom really influenced me in is reading. She was always a voracious reader and she instilled that trait in me by always encouraging me to read. She wasn't really a horror fiction reader. But since I already had a love of horror films it was a natural progression for me to gravitate toward the genre. One day, while at the local mall, we paid a visit to the book store and I went to the horror section intent on picking something fun to read. Well friends, the book I chose was none other than Robert R. McCammon's STINGER. That's all it took. I devoured that damn book. From that moment on I was off and running. I started blowing through Stephen King and Dean Koontz. Coincidently, the following Christmas my cousin bought me Robert R. McCammon's SWAN SONG. As some of you may know, this is still, to this day, my all-time favorite novel. I try to read it once a year. I used to commonly refer to it as my "bible". Needless to say, I raced through McCammon's catalog as well. A little later I discovered Poe and fell in love. And Ray Bradbury. Then...H.P. Lovecraft. That totally changed the game for me. And yes, I have read Robert Bloch. Yay for me!
These were the authors who took up the majority of my teenage years. Then, in my 20s, I discovered Richard Laymon. Because I purchased a few of his books from Amazon.com, that ever so clever website recommended a little book called THE RISING by none other than Brian Keene. I read that and it's sequel CITY OF THE DEAD. By the way, unlike most people, I was quite satisfied with the ending to THE RISING. Though I hear Keene loves when people ask him about said ending. Seriously, ask him. Repeatedly. To this day THE CONQUEROR WORMS is my favorite of his novels. Obviously for the Lovecraftian feel of it.
Through the wonders of the internet I was able to keep up with what Keene had going on and had the opportunity to meet him in person at one of his signings. It was a blast. That was also the first time I met Mike "Reel Splatter" Lombardo and Matt "Monrozombi" Blazi. At the second signing of his, I got a hotel room and got to hang at the bar with the above mentioned folks. This is also the first time I met Jeff "Bamfer" Heimbuch and the seeds for Drunken Tentacle Productions were planted.
Because of Keene I was introduced to many other authors: Edward Lee, J.F. Gonzalez, Wrath James White, Joe Lansdale, Bryan Smith, Ray Garton, Jack Ketchum John Skipp, and so many more. Hanging out in Brian's old office one day I became intrigued by a section of books on his bookshelf by a man named Carlton Mellick III. This was my introduction to Bizarro Fiction (I won't go into any more detail on this. See my blog entitled "Carlton Mellick III" for more info). Bizarro typically incorporates horrific elements.
These are just the high points of my career as a horror fan. There have been many other authors sprinkled in there through the years. I'm sure I left out a few that were influential to me. I'm still discovering authors, new and old. My tastes are ever expanding. Oh, and I still have an immense love of horror films. I am not nearly as critical or jaded as a lot of horror fans have become. There are some who were once die-hard horror fans who think that every new film that comes out is trash. I don't belong in that camp. There are many very good horror films still being made. Just as there are many great horror books being written.
Feel free to post some authors or films that you feel I may have never heard of or just omitted. It will help me out. Who knows, maybe you'll be responsible for me discovering my next new favorite author...