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Why is Dean Koontz in the Horror Section...

Thing(amabrarian)s That Go Bump in the Night

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Dec 8, 2010, 1:18pm Top

if he's not truely horror? His works seem more like suspense/thriller than horror because they lack a sense of despair and portrayal of helpless terror with the characters within his novels.

So, someone enlighten me, why is he in the horror section of the book store?

Edited: Dec 8, 2010, 4:21pm Top

I'm really guessing here...

It is foremost a marketing ploy. Dean Koontz started out writing horror and gathered a following. When he decided to branch out, as he so often does now, his name is still branded as "Horror Author". Everyone knows him as such, other than the people that still actually read his novels today. I think there is a true belief that if Koontz novels are in the horror section, more horror fans will come across them that read him previously, in the older days. They are easier to find, and I think both publishers and bookstores think it boosts sales from impulsive buying.

Although not as dramatic, Stephen King fits in this category almost as well. There are many of his non-horror novels in the horror section just because he is considered a "Horror Author".

Edited: Dec 8, 2010, 4:40pm Top

You know, now that I know the difference, I feel misled and deceived! You telling me that it's a marketing ploy isnt helping with the feeling of someone deceiving me either. :/

"Dean Ray Koontz (born July 9, 1945) is an American author best known for his novels which could be described broadly as suspense thrillers. He also frequently incorporates elements of horror, science fiction, mystery, and satire. " http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dean_Koontz

Dec 8, 2010, 4:43pm Top


Maybe it is just because I read The Catcher in the Rye and I am being pessimistic. But honestly, mingling with some horror authors and knowing a little about the industry, I am likely not far from the mark.

The positive side of this is for the die-hard Koontz fans. Can you imagine going to the bookstore and having to check three or four different areas for books from the same author? I would find it irritating. At least you know that if you feel like reading Koontz, all the books are there together before you decide on what to buy.

Dec 8, 2010, 4:52pm Top

You know I've never thought of this as an issue before, but the bookstores I frequent don't even have a horror section. All fiction is listed by author. So I think of it as Dean Koontz section which I can largely ignore. There is something to be said for fiction without labels, except for the Sci-Fi and Fantasy stuff.

Dec 8, 2010, 6:45pm Top

I frequent Borders...

Edited: Dec 8, 2010, 11:52pm Top

#4 - Can you imagine going to the bookstore and having to check three or four different areas for books from the same author? I would find it irritating.

Exactly. I have to admit that as a non-Koontz person, I still think he belongs in the horror section. Sure, he writes tons of suspense thrillers too, but he is broadly known for his horror stories, often with a supernatural angle.

If V.C. Andrews and Laurell K. Hamilton can be shelved in horror why not Koontz? Also, it allows me to tell myself that horror is a broader category than most people give it credit for.

Speaking of Koontz, I can't stand his writing, but two adaptations of his work (where he wrote the screenplay himself) are fantastic. I would highly recommend the movie version of Phantoms and the Fox miniseries of Intensity (so good I bought a bootleg when I realized it will never be released on DVD).

Oh, and Haute Tension/High Tension was plagiarized from Intensity, except for that godawful ending.

Edited: Dec 9, 2010, 10:18am Top

Ironically I'm reading Phantoms right now. Why don't you like Dean Koontz as an author? I'm curious.

Edited: Dec 9, 2010, 10:47am Top

"If V.C. Andrews and Laurell K. Hamilton can be shelved in horror why not Koontz?"

Isn't that the truth! To be honest, a third of what gets put into my local bookstore's Horror section is really just supernatural romance. Nothing scary about them.

I've never actually read Koontz because none of his book summaries ever sounded frightening. Sounds like I'm not missing anything.

Edited: Dec 9, 2010, 11:34am Top

#8 - Why don't you like Dean Koontz as an author?

Something about his 'voice', I mean his actual choice of words, just gets on my nerves. Even when I've read introductions he wrote for others he bugs me.

I've read Darkfall, The Face of Fear and Intensity and none of them were bad, but the writing irritated me.

It has nothing to do with quality as I like Richard Laymon and he writes the same dreck as Koontz.

Dec 12, 2010, 3:23pm Top

So, I just finished another Dean Koontz book Phantoms, which brings my total up to 33 of his books that I've read since i was 16 (I'm 22 now).

I just counted and there is around 26-28 of his books still in print that I haven't read. I feel frustrated. Like it's never going to end. -_-

Every time I look at my bookshelf i'm like "wow I have so much more to read..."

This isn't even counting the 25 or so books of his that are out of print and he still keeps writing. Awesome.

I think I'm getting close to needing a break from him and reading other stuff for a while before coming back to him.

Edited: Dec 12, 2010, 11:52pm Top

#11 - Besides Koontz, what horror writers do you like? We could give you a ton of suggestions.

Dec 13, 2010, 8:54am Top

I stopped reading Koontz some years ago. I really liked his books when I was in high school (I am 42 now) but at some point they started to get too formulaic. That being said, there is every possibility he has gotten better since I quit. The last one I read was about evil insurance companies and some wierd guy who was into sex but didn't like to be touched and rubber bed sheets. Don't remember the name. Anyway, are there later books by Koontz you would recommend? I would certainly give him another try and I am sure there are lots of his books since the last one I read.

Dec 13, 2010, 12:51pm Top

Actually, I have a hunch that his Frankenstein series might be good. I havent read any of those books though.

And I just picked up a non-horror book, Far From The Madding Crowd.

I am going to try and read all of H.P. Lovecraft's works and will try to read more Stephen King eventually and maybe some Brian Keene.

What horror books are your favorite Jseger, out of curiousity.

Dec 13, 2010, 1:55pm Top

#14 - My favorite is Stephen King. He is leagues beyond any other horror author in terms of sheer talent as a writer.

I also like Peter Straub (who is close to King) and Bentley Little (though I haven't read his latest stuff).
If you are looking for recs from these guys, I would say:

King: Try 'Salem's Lot. Hugely influential and for very good reason and spooky. Misery and It are good ones as well. And there's The Eyes of the Dragon if you want to see him try something wildly different and succeed.

Straub: Ghost Story is the best place to start. It's his most famous book and hands down his best. Koko and Floating Dragon are two others that I liked.

Little: I'd recommend The Ignored (the first book of his that I'd read. At the time I had never seen anything like it) or The Summoning which is (amazongly) a vampire tale that is original. I also liked The Association and The Revelation.

With King, it's hard to find a dud (except for The Dead Zone and some of The Bachman Books).

Straub and Little are less consistant. It is possible to get off on the wrong foot with either of them (in particular, avoid The Hellfire Club by Straub and The Town or The Walking by Little).

Dec 13, 2010, 1:59pm Top

Oh yeah, and every horror reader should read some Lovecraft, because he is important. But for me a little of his stuff goes a long way. Read too much all in a gulp and his purple prose will become laughable and his feelings towards... others will be disgusting.

Dec 14, 2010, 1:47am Top

#14 + 15: Oh, don't forget the british writer Ramsey Campbell if you are into quiet, psychological horror. I recommend The Parasite and The Influence. Don't know if these titles are easy to find in the U.S., though...

Dec 14, 2010, 10:10am Top

#14-I appreciate the Little reccomendations. I read The Store and liked it, then some time later I read The Walking and didn't like it ay all. He is fairly prolific, so it is good to know some good ones.

I disagree with your assessment of The Dead Zone as a dud. I liked it a lot but to each his own. I would say the biggest dud he has put out is Gerald's Game.

Have you read If you could see me now bs Straub? I think Ghost Story was his best, but this one was next imo.

Dec 14, 2010, 1:48pm Top

I completely disagree about The Hellfire Club - I found it sublime. Horror proper it's not, but Straub's voice is heads and shoulders above the average genre writer. The way he puts sentences together and how they flow in a paragraph is wonderful and particularly stands out in this book.

Edited: Dec 14, 2010, 6:53pm Top

#17 - I see both The Parasite and The Influence in Half Price Books here in the States all the time. They are not available as new books though.

#18 - Bentley Little is extremely on again/off again. But when he's on, he's great. Aside from The Town and The Walking, I'd also recommend avoiding The Return.

As for The Dead Zone, I remember that the middle section about the Castle Rock murders felt wedged into the book. Like he had a good novella and then shoved a different good novella into the middle of it. If you ever reread The Dead Zone, imagine that the middle section were just summarized. Wouldn't it read better?

I'm reading (or rereading) my way through all of King's books, one a month and haven't yet hit Gerald's Game. But from my hazy memories, I can say that's another that isn't great. Neither is Rose Madder, Insomnia or Firestarter.

If You Could See Me Now and Shadowland are two Straub books that are supposed to be fantastic, but I haven't read them yet.

#19 - Oh, and I didn't mean to slam The Hellfire Club. I completely agree that Straub and King are on a whole different level. (Until they write together. The Talisman = blah!)

But The Hellfire Club is weak compared to the other Straub books I mentioned.

Dec 14, 2010, 8:27pm Top

Shadowland is good, but I find it simplistic as an adult. I can't remember ever reading the blue rose novels, so I should find them.

Dec 14, 2010, 8:37pm Top

#21 - I can't remember ever reading the blue rose novels

I've only read Koko so far, but that one was very good. Like The Hellfire Club, not a horror novel as such, but a really memorable book that is still creepy.

Dec 15, 2010, 5:27pm Top

#2 and #3, the whole system of category sections in bookstores is entirely a marketing thing. Publishers and booksellers figure out where to position the book where they think it will get people's attention and sell. This has as much to do with what the writer has done before, the title, the cover etc. as it does what the "true" genre of the book is. Note too that the borders between genres are very blurry anyway, even without this marketing stuff going on.

Edited: Jan 3, 2011, 4:51am Top

I just finished The Funhouse by Dean Koontz. Gave it a bad review. lol

I'm not sure why I like to read Dean Koontz if I give his books consistently mediocre revews and ratings. Eh, I promised myself I would read all his stuff in print and by this time it's comforting in an odd way to read his stuff.

Jan 4, 2011, 9:48am Top

I don't know if anyone will laugh at me, but I've just figured out that the best part of Dean Koontz books is learning new vocabulary now.

I just got done reading another book of his (I'm flying through them now) called Shattered and I looked back at my electronic dictionary history (you should get one if you want to expand your vocabulary) and i counted 25 words that I looked up while reading it.

High score on the GREs here I come!

Jan 4, 2011, 6:45pm Top

You wanna read scary stuff and build your vocab? Try some H.P. Lovecraft. Cyclopean, stygian, affrighted...

I pick on him, but I ought to try some Lovecraft again. I never did read Cool Air.

Jan 8, 2011, 10:57am Top

I'm like jseger in that Koontz's style grates on my nerves, but I've found I do like the Odd Thomas books. I don't know if it's the first person narration (maybe the awkward phrasing is just easier to take when it's attributed to a character) of if it's just that he's improved some since I gave up on him years ago.

And there's a very fine line between suspense/thrillers and horror novels. From a publishers standpoint, it's always going to come down to "where are people looking when they're likely to choose this book?" If you go to one of those super-categorized bookstores (where romance, fantasy, horror, etc.) are all broken out onto their own shelves, the "fiction" shelves are dominated by people like Jodi Picoult and Ann Tyler (what I always think of as "book-club fiction). Koontz certainly doesn't belong there. He's a genre writer, for sure. And there usually isn't a "suspense" shelf. It's either mystery or horror, and of those two, he's more horror than mystery. A lot of it also comes down to internal publishing house issues, too. If you're published by a "horror house" or the "horror editor" at your publishing house, you're going to get shelved based on that.

By the way, when we had these discussions in grad school, we always compared it to zoology. We'd say, those biology people are lucky. If it has fur, but it still lays eggs, it can't be a mammal, but it can't be a bird, so they just call it a marsupial and go home. So these discussions usually ended with somebody saying, "That's it. It's a marsupial."

Edited: Jan 21, 2011, 2:24pm Top

I haven't read Koontz for awhile, and I do understand the criticisms. But I always appreciated his compassion and his humanity.

Jul 22, 2011, 4:59pm Top

My favourite of Koontz's horror novels is The Mask. A recent one that I read a few years ago is Odd Thomas which was alright, it had some tropes and cliches but was well-written. I've never been a big fan of his so can't really judge but Odd Thomas was definitely not a horror novel and I've gotten the impression that he doesn't like to be seen as in that genre anymore.

Edited: Jul 24, 2011, 9:35pm Top

I enjoyed most Koontz books in the 80s. He had a string of good one word title horror books like Watchers Phantoms and Strangers. The 80s saw a lot of good horror and I'm trying to go back here and there and read what I missed.

Jul 24, 2011, 10:58pm Top

I read Koontz in the late 80s, and found whatever I read forgettable. I read his Odd Thomas books a couple of years ago for some reason, and I liked them.

Edited: Jul 26, 2011, 3:18pm Top

#30 - The 80s saw a lot of good horror and I'm trying to go back here and there and read what I missed.

Yeah, I'm doing that too. love browsing through the horror section of Half Price Books, looking for those '80's gems.

Some of those covers are so cheesy they are downright embarrassing. And yet secretly I love them too.

Aug 2, 2011, 12:14pm Top

#32: *giggles @ Jseger's guilty pleasure*


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