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Today’s Top 10 Horror Authors


Cive Barker

It’s all but impossible to please everyone when it comes to any form of top 10 lists. We’re all gifted minds of our own, which enable us to conjure our own personal opinions which make any piece of this nature a simple matter of subjectivity. No one will agree with this list in its entirety, that’s just not going to happen, and I’m happy about that. We’re not drones. We think for ourselves. We function in life without the luxury of a (literal and figurative) hand to hold at all times.

So as you read this piece, view it not as a lesson in objectivity, but a guideline of sorts. If you’re foreign to any of these authors (not sure how that’s possible), hopefully you’ll find reason to invest a little time in their work. Every imagination that helps to comprise this list is remarkable in one right or another. From the unparalleled imagination of Clive Barker to the far less fantastical yet equally frightening visions emitted by Jack Ketchum, these authors stand as profound figures in their field. They’re generally adored, typically outsell the vast majority of their peers and consistently produce highly influential fiction.

Enough praise I say – let me leap right into it: these are the names you should be seeking out at all costs.

Joe Lansdale

10. Joe R. Lansdale: Lansdale is one versatile dude. The man crafts tons of creepy shorts, writes some amazing stories under the intentional design of cinematic transfer and pumps out some seriously farfetched but paralyzing novels. The recently released Edge of Dark Water, The Drive In series, Lost Echoes, the criminally underrated A Fine Dark Line and the unbelievably bold novella Bubba Ho-Tep are just a few superb works to track down.

09. Jack Ketchum: Unlike the majority of others to grace this list, Ketchum prefers to keep his horror rooted in the plausible. Real people, real harrowing scenarios, true terror that could just happen to you. Talk about the kind of terror that climbs under the skin and you’re talking about the terror that is truly tangible. Look into The Woman, The Girl Next Door, The Lost and Red for some unsettling examples of Ketchum’s amazing prose.

08. Richard Matheson: When Matheson writes a novel, he dumps every last piece of himself into it. The man’s works are profound on a truly grand scale, and tend to take on a timeless quality. His novel I Am Legend is commonly regarded one of the finest horror stories ever written. A Stir of Echoes, Hell House and Shadow on the Sun are also stunning works, as is his collection Duel, which ranks as one of the finest compilations to ever see print.

07. Jonathan Maberry: Jon is probably the least appreciated artist to be featured in this list, which is a bit strange. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a very successful author, but the truth of the matter is, he deserves a wealth more respect than he’s already extended. The guy is damn good, to be blunt. A versatile author, Maberry’s pumped out some terrifying tales. Just check out the entire Pine Deep trilogy, his Joe Ledger series (Patient Zero is great) and if you dig the current zombie craze, don’t pass on Dead of Night.

06. Dan Simmons: Much to my personal chagrin Simmons refuses to fully dedicate himself to works of horror: the man loves to dabble in the realm of science fiction (not that I’m against sci-fi, I just prefer horror). That said, when Dan approaches horror…well, he’s an attention thief. It’s rather easy to pick up a Simmons book and hold it tight until the final page has been read. Summer of Night, Song of Kali, The Terror and, my personal favorite, A Winter Haunting are all works of fiction that will render you fully addicted to all things of Dan Simmons.

Robert McCammon

05. Robert McCammon: From this point on, rankings are pretty much irrelevant. For my money, these five authors all tread the same successful status, and each is capable of creating some seriously disturbing fiction. McCammon has a knack for creating characters that stick to the inner recesses of the mind. Both antagonists and protagonists shine in an amazing light, and whether you love or loathe, you will not forget them. Gone South, Baal, Bethany’s Sin, Usher’s Passing and the recent homerun, The Five.

04. Dean Koontz: I’ve confronted a wide disdain held for Koontz by many in the recent past. I myself however, still consider the man an excellent writer who, when he gets it right, gets it really, really right. I’ll always prefer his older works, but he’s produced a few contemporary monsters worthy of note. 77 Shadow Street is a damn fine recent release from Koontz, but I’ll always lean on some of his earlier works: Phantoms, Night Chills, Lightning, The Taking, Watchers and Midnight are all highly rewarding efforts.

03. Ramsey Campbell: Fairly new to my catalogue, Campbell has quickly established himself as a bona fide favorite of mine. The man’s mind seems to function on the same intricate plane that Clive Barker traverses, and I love it. A bit less animalistic than Barker, Campbell is every bit as enjoyable. The Darkest Part of the Woods, The Doll Who Ate His Mother and Hungry Moon are all absolutely awesome. The best part of this whole thing, for me, is the fact that I’ve yet to read the majority of Campbell’s library, which screams of guaranteed terrors.

02. Clive Barker: I still consider Barker to be the most sadistic, twisted, complex and compelling author in the business. This man is capable of conceiving stories that I couldn’t fathom on the wildest acid trip ever experienced. He’s just insanely far out there with his content, but he’s so amazingly poetic with his craft that he commands more than undivided attention, he commands a level of awe. His words often unravel in an intricately woven manner than feels like Bradbury, Nietzsche and Lovecraft all met in a different lifetime and collaborated on the most scintillating piece of literature ever written. It’s hard to point you to any specific Barker books to seek out because they’re all so moving. Weaveworld, The Thief of Always and Coldheart Canyon are terrific tales. But for every great novel written by Barker, you’ve got two great novellas (Cabal, Haeckel’s Tale) and three great collections (no matter what you do, do not miss The Books of Blood!)

Stephen King

01. Stephen King: King isn’t even remotely near as poetic as Barker, nor as engaging as Campbell or even as prolific as Koontz, but he’s got magic in his mind, and it bleeds onto paper in wondrous fashion. The man is recognized as the true “Master of Horror” for a reason: he writes stories that burrow in the brain, and a great number of them feel as though they were written with the intent of hitting the big screen (a sing of amazing imagery): many of which do. Personally I’ll always lean towards King’s earlier efforts, but he’s maintained strong momentum that still ensnares readers, new and old alike. His horror/fantasy storyline, The Dark Tower makes for a still-growing collection that will go down in history as one of the greatest tales ever told. Misery, Salem’s Lot, The Shining, Christine, Cujo, IT, Pet Sematary, Needful Things and The Stand are just a few of the man’s many masterpieces. And I mean that, those really are just a few of this man’s treasures!

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About The Overseer (1663 Articles)
Author of Say No to Drugs, writer for Blumhouse, Dread Central, Horror Novel Reviews and Addicted to Horror Movies.

71 Comments on Today’s Top 10 Horror Authors

  1. King is by far my favorite author, I’ve only just started reading his work a few years ago so I’ve got a ton of catching up to do. I’m currently on Needful Things and really enjoying it.

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    • i HIGHLY recommend you check out some of his earlier stuff. The character work in Christine is AMAZING and Salem’s Lot is STILL the greatest vampire novel I’ve ever read. FANTASTIC author!

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  2. I’ve read only “Teatro Grottesco” by Thomas Ligotti, but that’s enough to make me love him unconditionally. Hopefully you consider him for an honorable mention. Although I don’t know that he’s written a proper horror novel – checking online, all he’s got are collections.

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  3. Sebastian Saint Anders // September 10, 2012 at 2:52 pm // Reply

    This is a solid list. The only sad part is, I’d be hard-pressed to do a “Top 20” best horror authors. Karl Edward Wagner, H.P. Lovecraft, definietly. But Edward Lee, Richard Laymon? Maybe. Charles Grant? Maybe. Masterton? Maybe. But then I peter out. Poppy Z. Brite, Brian Keene, Laurel K. Hamilton? Nope. It’s depressing, because I could easily knock out a Top 20 thriller author list, or mystery author, or science fiction or even fantasy. From the schlocky movies Hollywood puts out, you’d think there would be a huge demand. But all I see are paranormal romances. WTF?

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  4. Brian Keene should be on this list. Tim Curran is another great one. ” Puppet Graveyard” is a masterpiece.

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  5. Love the list though I would ave replaced 10 with Laymon. Keene is great, but not quite top 10 material. And Joe Hill, he’s got the talent, for sure, but he isn’t even close to making this list yet, but maybe a few more novels down the road…

    I really think going forward everyone needs to keep an eye on Brian Moreland and Ronald Malfi. These guys have something very special.

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  6. I have been reading King for years and he is truly the master storyteller of my generation.

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    • billturecki@yahoo.ca // October 22, 2013 at 2:57 am // Reply

      A master storyteller of your generation? Compared to who? Danielle Steele? King is the master of churning out mediocre books for a generation who can’t be either patient, learned or bothered enough to read truly great authors like Poe, Lovecraft or Barker. But why take granite when you can have Formica?

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      • Your comment was unnecessarily rude and only served to annoy the Internet with excruciating aspects of your personality. I find people unable to convey a point without pretentious aggression to be among the densest people I’ve met. First off, this is a list of today’s horror authors. Your worship of Lovecraft and Poe do not belong here. Secondly, as much as you’d like a world that hates King as much as you do, the reality is that he is called a true Master of Horror for a reason and it’s not writing this mythical steady stream of cheese. Look I’m not saying you don’t have a right to be this unpleasant but there’s no point. It just limits your enrichment.

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  7. Where are the women authors?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Richard Herald // March 22, 2017 at 12:47 am // Reply

      Try Ellie Douglas as for women writers, she’s new but oh so amazing. She just released a new horror novel and it is packed with gore, outstanding characters and a story that could easily be turned into a movie. Women writers don’t get the recognition they deserve being a man I can appreciate a women writer as much as anyone. And this women is good I will list her website as she is offering a free short story that is in my opinion, funny, epic, gory and it leaves you wanting more. Let me know what you think I’d love to hear others who find her as equally amazing as what I do. Thanks Richard Herald. I don’t know if I can post her site here, but I will try. http://www.authorellie.com/

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  8. What as insane honor to be included on this list. Wow.

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  9. Completely predictable, and uninspired (with the exception of Maberry who deserves the recognition).

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  10. Damn! Just missed!

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  11. Great list. I thought people reading this article may be interested to know that author number 9, Jack Ketchum, will be the guest of honor at Hypericon in Nashville Tn. in 2014. If you like this list you can meet him there.

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  12. Folks like Thania Niveau, Sam Stone and Lisa Tuttle should be on anyone’s horror reading list … surprised that Graham Masterton wasn’t there … and Adam Neville, Simon Clark, Stephen Laws … there are lots of great writers about. But top 10 lists are like that … designed to provoke discussion and one person’s ‘top’ is another’s ‘never touch’ …

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  13. Just like any list, these are bound to be colored by what the list-maker has read. I’d put Ligotti far up the list, would probalby have included Caitlin Kiernan on there, and if we’re basing it on past work, and not present work, Rice as well. I will not slide down any slippery slopes – there is no point in saying so and so is better than so and so because frankly – eveyrone is different, and I suspect that – while you’d get a lot of cross-over between them, a hundred horror fans would create a hundred lists with every few exactly the same.

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  14. King’s “The Stand” is the best apocalyptic horror story ever, but you left out Robert McCammon’s “Swan Song” and that one deserves major kudos.

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  15. Kealan Patrick Burke is also a top ten author-for-today. I highly recommend Kin and his Timmy Quinn series is excellent, as well. Keep an eye out for guys like him, Maberry and Glen Krisch for the future of horror.

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  16. Some good authors on this list, but where are the female authors? Women write horror just as well (and better) than men. Time to break up the “boys club”, Mr. Molgaard.

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    • oh believe me, since writing this, I’ve discovered some AMAZING female authors Sokoloff and Littlewood might easily make a more current list. I’ve got nothing but love for female authors – I’m just now discovering some amazing talents, and expect to discover a whole lot more. I’m definitely not one of those guys who believes women can’t write!

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    • You said it! I have just about everything Billie Sue Mosiman wrote.

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    • Jacqueline Baker’s “The broken hours” and “Horseman’s graves” are quite good. The first is a Lovecraft tribute, the second leans toward historical fiction. Both are truly creepy.

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  17. I would put Brian Keene, Edward Lee, and Wrath James White on there.

    Props to Maberry though, Helluva good writer and helluva nice fella.

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  18. Peter Mark May // August 27, 2013 at 10:00 pm // Reply

    Peter Straub, James Herbert, F. Paul Wilson, M. R . James Brian Lumley

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  19. Felix Kingway // December 4, 2013 at 4:44 pm // Reply

    Dean “Formula” Koontz is an insult to writing. For sooo many reasons. I gotta call fail on that one.

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  20. Laymon who is in my opinion a horror genre legend, and Lee both needed to be on that list.

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  21. A modern list without Adam Nevill is a tad out of date…he is leading a new wave of British horror writers,,,his work is truly terrifying.

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  22. I agree that Koontz being on here is insulting. Not having any newer authors on this list makes it lose status in my eyes. Where are the Tim Curran’s and Brian Hodge’s of today?

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  23. Kealan Patrick Burke and Brian Hodge both have yet to disappoint me. I’d replace Koontz with Peter Straub, but that’s just me.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Ray Bradbury !!!!! (Maybe not HORROR, except for The October Country) but still one of the greatest writers since the 30s.

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  25. Where’s Peter Straub? Shame on you!

    Liked by 1 person

  26. djohnsen // May 5, 2014 at 4:47 am // Reply

    20th century ghost by joe hill is very good

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  27. I might have added Dennis Etchison, Charles L. Grant, Peter Straub, T.E.D. Klein, Robert Bloch and Anne Rice, to name a few others.

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  28. very good authors, William Miller, specially Dennis Etchison and T.E.D. Klein, and what about Karl Edward Wagner?

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  29. james zalitis // December 9, 2014 at 8:50 am // Reply

    Thomas Liogtti obviously… Laird Barron, Simon Strantzas, HP Lovecraft, TED Klein, Robert Bloch, Algernon Blackwood, Arthur Machen, Edgar Allan Poe Karl Edward Wagner Franz Kafka, Jorge Luis Borges etc etc. Obviously not all these authors are still living, but their work stands head and shoulders above the majority of what is being published today.

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  30. michaelperkampus // February 21, 2015 at 11:39 am // Reply

    Thomas Ligotti, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Poe, Michael Cisco, Dennis Etchison, Franz Kafka, Steve Rasnic Tem, Peter Straub, TED Klein, Bruno Schulz, Julio Cortazar, Jorge Luis Borges …. whats up??

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  31. Hello HNR (Horror Novel Reviews)

    That’s a splendid list of “Today’s top-10 horror authors”. (Of course, since the list was created, Richard Matheson has left us.) I suppose that the keyword is “Today’s”, otherwise I would have missed the late Richard Laymon on that list. But I do miss Bentley Little here.

    “Little is absolutely the best in the business.” – Stephen King

    “If there’s a better horror novelist than Little, I don’t know who it is.” – Los Angeles Times

    “Bentley Little is on a par with such greats as Stephen King, Clive Barker, and Peter Straub.” – Midwest Book Review

    Yours sincerely

    Johan Fundin

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  32. Reblogged this on HJ Williams.

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  33. No Peter Straub? Shame on you!!!

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    • To be honest, while Straub has released a few gems, in general, he doesn’t stimulate me much. I think his reads can be a little bland, unfortunately. I know I may catch some heat for that statement, but it’s the truth from my perspective.

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  34. See Harvey Click’s horror novels. They are original and well written — truly creepy and horrific.

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  35. Stephen King is the true master of horror., no doubt there. Man, look at that backcatalogue: It would surely stand against the collective backcatalogues of other nine others. Incredible. IT should be arguably one of the best novels, let alone the best horror book.

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  36. Peter Straub, Richard Matheson and although I only seen the movie, inspired by his book John Ajvide Lindqvist, and Joe Hill is on his way. Anne Rice, Laurell K. Hamilton and Kim Harrison Should certainly ,mentioned somewhere.

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    • I’m not too familiar with Hamilton or Harrison. Straub had Ghost Story, and every other novel he’s written puts me to sleep. I hate saying that, because I know he’s a very well respected author with a fine work ethic, but he just bores me – personally – to near tears. Matheson is of course a master, but I consider him one of the kings of a generation already gone. Lindqvist is no doubt amazing, and Joe Hill is a damn fine writer himself. I’ve always considered Anne Rice to be a pretty mediocre author. I’ve reviewed a lot of self published novels by authors who will likely never achieve a fraction of the fame Rice has, and they put her work to SERIOUS shame.

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  37. We would love to see one of our authors, Mylo Carbia, on your list of the Top 10 Best New Horror authors. She’s a former Hollywood ghostwriter turned novelist. Her debut novel “The Raping of Ava DeSantis” won numerous literary awards and hit #1 bestseller in New Releases and #1 Bestseller in Horror (beating Stephen King and Dean Koontz) only 2 days after its release. Check her out!

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  38. Can you do a new list with the best of all time ?

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  39. I just cannot stop reading Stephen King books since I was introduced to his work through my grandmother, when I was a kid. I stopped reading when I was a teenager and picked it up again several years later and am extremely glad I finally started reading again. Horror is my favorite genre and each King book I’ve read so far in chronological order (just starting Misery today) is fantastic. I haven’t read a bad King book yet. In fact most of them are very well written. I just love the characters in his books. I can feel an emotional connection with several of them, and that keeps me engaged.

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  40. I love Stephen King books but Richard Laymon’s books are AWESOME! They catch you at the beginning and keep you riveted until the end.

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  41. @ billturecki

    It’s quite apparent from your venomous review that you truly despise Stephen King but what about the millions whoconsider him the undisputable master of horror, period!
    As one reviewer points out (to your post) in this very blog that regardless of your worship of Poe ,King still stands as the greatest fiction writer from America. Proof is here only, I’m an Indian yet have bought “all” his books at sixty times multiplied cost as my currency is sixty times weaker to the dollar.Yet you’re Free to carry on your hatred of the billion selling author and disregarding him as merely an mediocre writer!

    Thanks, but No thanks, Sam Singer ,India

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  42. King is a great writer but he shouldn’t be placed on top of the list.My top authors are Clive Barker,Peter Straub,Robert Mccammon,Jack Ketchum,Ramsaey Campbell,Stephen King,Christopher Fowler and Brian Lumley.

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  43. Very good list, besides Koontz. I would easily replace him with Straub. I would also switch Barker and King. To me, Barker is the master.

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  44. Richard Herald // March 22, 2017 at 12:48 am // Reply

    Great list of horror writers, thank you for your hard work on this, it couldn’t have been easy.

    Like

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