I discovered Dean Koontz when I was given a second hand copy of Phantoms by my grandmother. I was gripped from the very first page, and although I'd read scary stories before, I'd never read anything so absorbing. I curled up in an armchair and just kept reading. In fact, I think Phantoms and Midnight are my two favourite Koontz novels (though others such as Intensity are great at "doing what they say on the tin", an impressive match of form and theme). I loved the way Koontz novels would open with either action or tension, then ramp them both up along with the stakes throughout the novel. The ideas also grabbed me. Ever-living protoplasmic beings of unstoppable power? Human-computer interfaces for emotionless killers? Wow!
My first taste of Stephen King's writing was a battered copy of Night Shift given to me by another grandparent. I started reading it in the back of the car on the journey home, the text fading out between streetlights. I was hooked. Standout stories for me were:
- Graveyard Shift (I could really picture the descent into hell)
- I Am The Doorway (awesome concept)
- The Boogeyman (excellent increase in tension)
- Grey Matter (really creepy)
- Battleground (tense action)
- The Ledge
- Quitters, Inc. (like The Ledge, a non-supernatural, high concept story)
- Children of the Corn (definitely an influence on Turner)
- The Last Rung on the Ladder (a beautiful work, personal horror, and it really hit me in the gut)
- Despite its bad rep The Mangler also terrified me as a child. I'd been reading alone in the parlour and when I got to the last paragraph I had to go into another room where there were people.
I loved both King and Koontz for their differences. Koontz generally got down to things straightaway, whereas King would spend a lot longer building up the story. Koontz usually offered some kind of scientific explanation, whereas King was happy to allow a hidden world without it needing explaining. I was so proud of all those horror books on my bookcase, and always looked forward to going back to them.
It's been years since I felt an obsession like that, but I have so many memories of spending an afternoon or reading their works that I'll always be grateful to these writers.