Horror fans often talk about the biggest influences on the genre. You know the list: Shelley and Stoker. Lovecraft, Jackson, Bloch, Bradbury, Matheson. Karloff, Lugosi, Chaney, Price. Corman, Lewis, Romero, Carpenter. There are obviously a lot more. We know these names like we known our own families.

I don't see Charles Addams discussed a lot. I kind of doubt many fans even know that the famous television show, and movies, were derived from comic strips.

Charles Addams, who signed his pieces as Chas. Addams, was incredibly famous in the post World War II years, up through the 1960s. His cartoons often graced the pages of The New Yorker, and he became an international celebrity for his strips about a most unusual family of ghouls.

We all know about The Addams Family. The show and films have entered the lexicon of our society. I knew about the art of Addams from way back. My own weird family owned one of the numerous collections of strips that were published as hardcover books. I loved it and these little slices of depravity were a big part of my upbringing.

The Addams creations were huge catalysts for the horror craze of the '60s. Monster Boomers like myself love to cite Famous Monsters of Filmland as our biggest inspiration, but Chas. Addams reached more people.

When I learned about a biography of Addams, I jumped on it. The world needs a chronicle of his life and work.

Unfortunately Charles Addams: A Cartoonist's Life is a huge disappointment.

The early parts of the book are pretty good, and I was especially interested in the background material about The New Yorker and the cartoons whose work appeared in its pages. It's a whole world I was almost totally ignorant about.

As the book goes on author Linda H. Davis devotes a disproportionate amount of time on Addams' love life. She goes on in far too much detail about his various trysts and relationships. It starts to read like a prurient gossip column.

Around the halfway point Charles Addams: A Cartoonist's Life became excruciating. Despite his tomcat ways, Davis obviously feels a tremendous amount of affection toward her subject. By all counts Addams was liked by nearly everyone, but I started getting a bad taste in my mouth about him. I undoubtedly would have liked the man as much as others did, but the depiction of him in this book tainted my memories of the work.

My God, I am becoming so much of a curmudgeon. I'm starting to irritate myself. I've never set out to dislike a book, but lately I have found so many lacking in quality. I just wish people would write better books.

Written by Mark Sieber

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