April 15, 2013

Rabid Reads: "To Each Their Darkness" by Gary A. Braunbeck

To Each Their Darkness
by Gary A. Braunbeck
ApexBooks (2010)

As much as I enjoy reading horror literature from authors, I'm occasionally drawn to their opining on the genre and writing as a whole through their nonfiction titles. Stephen King's On Writing sits at the tippy-top of that list. Gary A. Braunbeck wrote a book in a similar vein, which was published by Apex Books, and much ballyhooed by his peers. It is not strictly a memoir though, but more a collection of essays and criticisms, and it had me riveted much of the time.

The book offers everything from Gary's thoughts on his favorite films and what makes a great story (and a not-so-great story), all the way to some of the most heartrending glimpses at his personal and professional life. It ain't pretty at times, but it's honest. It's kind of funny in a way, because I'll piss and moan about something or other with a put-upon attitude, but by comparison to some of the stuff Gary A. Braunbeck has endured my first world problems really look weak.

I've only read one of his novels so far, Coffin County, but it was enough to know this guy is a heckuva storyteller and a writer to be heeded when he's waxing poetic on the craft of storytelling. A couple of the chapters feel meandering, as he digressing from one crystallized thought to the next, but he brings it all together by the end to get his point across. And at the end, I really came to appreciate the process he goes through in approaching his work--and agonizing over it.

If there are any authors out there that didn't already have a sobering realization as to what the life of a writer provides, both financially and emotionally, Braunbeck heaves a healthy bucket of cold water on your most fanciful dreams. That said, it's not a discouraging portrait--quite the opposite. Just about every chapter provides some kind of micro-revelation, whether it's figuring out why he loved Rob Zombie's House of a Thousand Corpses while everyone around him hated it, or coming to the conclusion that what is really holding your story back from what it should be is you and finally getting out of your own way, or how in Gary's poetic phrasing: "... horror fiction is still the deformed drooling bastard child who picks at its scabs and who Literature keeps locked up in the cellar when company drops by ..."

If you are a writer, a reader, a horror hound, a literary snob, a pessimist, or an optimist, I doubt I can recommend this book enough. And I dare say that like House of a Thousand Corpses, you'll probably walk away loving or hating his book--no room for fence-sitters. It's either a medley of disjointed ramblings or a mosaic of one author's love-hate relationship with the horror genre. Take your pick.

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