Dark Hearts: The World’s Most Famous Horror Writers

Penguin Workshop. Dec. 2021. 144p. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9780593222782.
Gr 6-10–While books like Frankenstein and Dracula remain hallowed works, the lives of the authors responsible for them, and other shudder-inducing yarns, are not as well known. Enter this dark little tome by Giglioti. The book contains profiles of 14 authors ranging from the time of the Gothics to the New York Times bestseller list. Mainstays such as Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King are in attendance, and those just getting introduced to the horror genre will be delighted to see more women practitioners of this shadowy art, such as Shirley Jackson, Daphne du Maurier, and Anne Rice. Each profile provides biographical details in addition to assessments of the authors’ monumental works. Naturally, fun trivia abounds: Count Dracula was likely based on a famous Shakespearean actor that Bram Stoker worked for; “Goosebumps” author R. L. Stine was a notorious “fraidy-cat” when he was a kid. Gigliotti maintains an upbeat voice throughout with a breezy, informational tone, though some of the novels and stories discussed include unsavory details, like the skin-collecting habits of the serial killer character from The Silence of the Lambs. It’s this combination of punchy writing and mature content that makes this a likely hi-lo hit with older readers looking for a quick book with morbid appeal. This title comes handsomely illustrated with Mountford’s portraits of each author that appear as chapter openers.
VERDICT A nice crash course in Horror Lit 101 for browsable nonfiction shelves. This could also be used for creative writing and language arts curriculum.

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