Golden Ages of Horror: Reading Elizabeth

About two years ago, I discovered Valancourt Books, which reissues out-of-print horror, generally from the 1970s and early 1980s, in really attractive slim trade paperbacks. My latest read from them was Elizabeth by Ken Greenhall (originally published under the pseudonym Jessica Hamilton). What a disturbing little book about a 14-year-girl who seems to be a complete sociopath and also thinks she’s a witch.

I think this time period was a Golden Age for horror. Rosemary’s Baby had set the stage, Stephen King was just getting big, and a lot of people were experimenting. A lot of the horror was bonkers, just pure over-the-top mayhem, but it still had heart. That seemed to change when the soulless, crass commercialization of the ’80s took over and publishers just put out scores of King wannabes writing to formula. It’s fun to be able to go back and revisit forgotten gems from time. If you’re interested, I highly recommend Paperbacks from Hell, which is a wonderful retrospective of horror and their lurid covers from the ’70s and ’80s.

I think we’re in another Golden Age of horror right now, fortunately, but today’s horror is more subtle and psychological. Not disturbing so much as in there might be a monster in your closet who’s going to rip your head off but more as in everything you think you know about reality is a lie.

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