A Dark Week for Horror…

Three blows, each one harder than the last.

Wednesday I learned that prolific and popular horror writer James Herbert died. He had a great influence on the genre, with his huge mass-market hits The Rats, Fluke, The Fog, Lair. Critics might have thought he wrote garish horror; he had the last laugh when he received the Order of the British Empire as well as the Grand Master Award at the World Horror Convention.  Alas, I never met him.

Then on Friday, within an hour, I learned of the loss of two more, much closer friends.

Bestselling horror writer Rick Hautala died unexpectedly of a heart attack on March 22. Rick was a wonderfully good-natured, super-friendly guy who wrote some major bestselling horror novels in the 1980s. I especially remember Nightstone and Little Brothers. I met Rick several times at conventions as my career was taking off, though I headed more in the SF direction than horror. My girlfriend at the time, Ginger, was a big fan of Rick’s work, and I introduced him to her at a con. He gave her a signed copy of Little Brothers—and I certainly got brownie points for that! She was walking on air.

Rick had a tough time as the publishing took a downturn, and he reconnected with me with great enthusiasm and good cheer a few years back via Facebook, so we corresponded back and forth. He sent me new signed copies of his books The Mountain King and Bedbugs (he always drew a little skull next to his signature.) Rick was pulling out all the stops to get his career going again. Only four days before Rick died, his agent had just sold two new novels for him.

Christopher Golden sent a wonderful tribute, which expresses better than I ever could.  I’m repeating it here:

Dear friends,

I don’t have the words to put Rick Hautala’s death in any form of context.  His wife, Holly, told me this morning that it’s blown a crater in her life, and that’s as good an image as any I could imagine.  So many people have written so sincerely and so eloquently about their love for him personally or their admiration for him as a man and as a writer.  Holly and those of us who were closest to Rick always tried to tell him how much he was loved, but he never believed it.  I only wish he could have seen the outpouring of love and support that has come in the wake of his passing.  Holly would like me to pass along her love and gratitude.  She has been deeply touched and hopes, in time, to personally thank everyone who has reached out to her.

Unfortunately, Rick’s sudden death could not have been more untimely.  The life of a freelance writer is often one lived on the fringes of financial ruin, and Rick struggled mightily to stay afloat in recent years.  Just within the last couple of months, that struggle became difficult enough that he could not afford to continue paying his life insurance bill, and allowed it to lapse.  Though he could never have foreseen it, the timing, of course, could not have been worse.

Then, just this morning, Holly discovered that the social security benefits she might hope to receive as Rick’s widow are not available to her until she turns sixty, three years from now.

Efforts are under way on projects that we hope will earn some money for Rick’s estate, but meanwhile there are costs involved with his death to consider, and then, for Holly, the struggle will continue.

If you’d like to help, any donation would be appreciated.  You can PayPal directly to Holly at holly_newstein@hotmail.com.”


Less than half an hour after I learned of Rick Hautala’s death on Friday, I got another round of devastating news—David B. Silva, horror author and long-time editor of seminal magazines The Horror Show and Horrorstruck, had also passed away.

Dave Silva was very important to me. His magazine, The Horror Show, was a truly influential and groundbreaking publication in the horror field, one of the very best small press magazines.  He published many of my early stories, “Drilling Deep,” “Notches,” “Leatherwork,” “A Glimpse of the Ankou,” “The Circus,” “Baggage Check”…I can’t even remember them all.  He featured an excerpt and an interview around my very first novel, Resurrection, Inc. When I was an aspiring writer, The Horror Show was one of my go-to markets.  Many of those stories were collected and reprinted last year in my book Tucker’s Grove.

When I lived in the San Francisco area, Dave lived in northern California, but we never met in person.  He was an avid correspondent, read all submissions, answered all letters, did a great job editing, but he was something of a recluse. I never saw him at conventions or writer’s gatherings. He published several novels of his own, and also published a news magazine for the horror field, Horrorstruck—the horror genre’s equivalent of Locus.  When Dave stopped publishing the magazines, and I moved away from writing horror,  we lost touch.  I just learned that he had moved to Las Vegas. If I’d known, I would have tried to see him on one of my many visits there.

Even though I never met Dave in person, I like to think we were good friends via correspondence. And I can’t stress enough how important he was to me. Dave Silva helped launch my career; the exposure I got from being published again and again in The Horror Show was a key push to me when I needed it.  Thank you for all you did for me, Dave.  I wish I could have known you better.