It's kind of a shame that I listed my favorite mystery writers first before revealing my favorite horror writers. This is partly because despite the fact that list-making is my thing, it is hard to narrow down my favorites to the nitty gritty. I think I pulled it off.

Here are my top 10:

Mary Shelley: She ranks in the top 10 on the strength of Frankenstein, a book that continues to be powerful and thought-provoking two hundred years after it was written by a girl in her teens. I thought it was a gripping piece when I first read it 20 years ago, although it is bogged down a little with a lengthy beginning. Regardless, it fires my imagination as it does for many others.

Bram Stoker: Much like Shelly, most of my respect for Stoker rests on one book: Dracula. He's probably my favorite villain of all time. The level of horror is usually subtle, but some of the book's elements were subversive for their time. This book succeeds as a weird tale, travelogue, and manhunt story while told in the epistolary format. The style went over my head as a teen, but I came to appreciate it as I got older. There's no doubt that this book made waves since its first publication in the 1890s.

Edgar Allan Poe: There's no horror without this man. His artistic vision was unique for its time and that's partly why he wasn't appreciated until long after his death. Today, he is the master of atmosphere, the pioneer of psychological horror. If there's anyone who can eloquently voice fear and misery, it is him. In the prologue of Robert McCammon's Usher's Passing, a barkeep called Poe "the Shakespeare of America" and that phrase left an impression that stays with me.

Arthur Machen: Another writer of unique vision, I went crazy for this man when I read "The Great God Pan" and still revere him for his contributions to folk/pagan horror. The Hill of Dreams is relatable for anyone who feels that they don't fit in with the norm. Although it's not a novel of boogeymen and jump scares, it is a tale of spiritual isolation.

H.P. Lovecraft: It seems like he was a natural descendant of Poe, Machen, Blackwood, and Hodgson. Not only did he nail down a definition of weird fiction, but he exemplified it with his tales of cosmic horror. When Weird Tales Magazine started out in 1923, they explicitly stated that their mission was to find the new Poe. That same year, Lovecraft submitted his first story to them. In that sense, Weird Tales was a success.

Robert Bloch: He shows up frequently in my articles, partly because I vowed that I would do whatever I could to see his work restored to print even if it was just me blabbing about him whenever I had the chance. Bloch combined humor and horror successfully either through well-placed punchlines, clever wordplay, or in the nonchalant attitude so many of his characters had when confronted with the supernatural. Not only did he write Lovecraftian short stories, but he also wrote tales of unbearable suspense and madness. Some of his excellent novels including The Scarf, Night of the Ripper, The Will To Kill, and Psycho.

Stephen King: To be honest, I've gotten tired of his work. It's great that he's still writing but not every piece is a winner. Regardless, he accomplished mainstream success writing mostly speculative fiction. The Shining, 'salem's Lot, Misery, are some of my favorites, but I still say his most terrifying novel is Pet Sematary (although the climax in Revival was especially unsettling). One of the best things about him is his ability to write relatable characters and to chronicle their struggles.

Ramsey Campbell: He deserves as much attention as King. Campbell wrote weird fiction of urban horrors that are powerfully haunting. The Parasite, The Nameless, and Ancient Images are a few of my favorites by him. There is subtlety in his work and although it's daunting to read some of his prose, there's no doubt that he's worth the effort.

Harlan Ellison: He would take exception to being called a horror writer. He would have preferred the term "macabre." I think this is an accurate word for my umbrella definition of horror because it is the common element that unifies horror's subgenres. Ellison had a way of introducing the horrific into his work in variety of different approaches, including numerous out of the box ideas I wish I thought of. Always, he brings a cynical, yet understanding view of humanity to his work. For anyone who can see beyond his crankiness, there is also lot of compassion and love in his voice as well. My favorite, by far is the title story of his collection, I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, but there are excellent horrific pieces in so many of his books such as Strange Wine, Slippage (which contains his Stoker award-winning novella Mefisto in Onyx), No Doors No Windows, Deathbird Stories, Stalking the Nightmare, and Shatterday. I also have a particular affinity for fiction and pop culture from the 30s and 40s and can always rely on some anecdote from him about his childhood to remember why I feel that way.

Manly Wade Wellman: I told my wife I would only sell my original copy of Worse Things Waiting if I could replace it with a paperback copy. Out of economic necessity, I had to sell it last year and replaced it as quickly as I could. That is how much I respect Wellman for his knack of telling terrifying stories, particularly ones set in the American South. He's always worth a revisit. Also excellent is his collection Lonely Vigils.

Runners Up: Ray Bradbury, Algernon Blackwood, Ambrose Bierce, Frederick Cowles, Jean Ray, Stefan Grabinski, Brian Lumley, Ronald Kelly, Michaelbrent Collings, Bill Pronzini, Guy de Maupassant, M.R. James, Karl Edward Wagner, Robert E. Howard, Peter Straub, Edogawa Rampo, Mike Mignola, H.G. Wells, Robert Westall, Charles Birkin, Shirley Jackson, Marjorie Bowen, Lafcadio Hearn, Joe Lansdale, William F. Nolan, Robert McCammon, Thomas Ligotti, Robert Louis Stevenson, Fredric Brown, and Clive Barker.

When you love a genre and have been involved in reading it for as long as I have, it feels a little unjust to restrict a list to a "top ten". Frankly that grouping I just made might change tomorrow, which is why I threw in the Runners Up list like I did with favorite mystery writers. There is something about horror that magnetizes me. Maybe it's fear of the unknown or maybe it is a fictional fear that I can have some control over as opposed to some of my real life concerns. I'm not completely sure. All I know is that it continues to hold me in its spell, although not as tightly as it used to. That's all for now. I'd better go before I add any more names.

Written by Nicholas Montelongo

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