Peter Straub, writer whose literary novels of horror, mystery, and the supernatural, has died. led him to lead the horror fiction boom of the 1970s and 1980s, along with such writers as Ira Levin, Anne Rice, and his friend and collaborator Stephen King. His death Sunday in Manhattan at age 79 was caused by complications from breaking his hip, according to his wife, Susan Straub.
Peter Francis Straub was born on March 2, 1943 in Milwaukee. When he was 7 years old, he was hit by a car and almost died. He had to learn to walk again, and the experience left him with a pronounced stutter that he outgrew but did not outgrow completely. He studied English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and later became a private school teacher. Along with his wife, he is survived by his children, including the novelist Emma Straub, who He has dedicated a great thread to it that is receiving a lot of circulation on twitter.
Ok this is going to be long and rambling but here goes. My father, Peter Straub, died on Sunday night. He was the fucking best, and here’s why, with photos: pic.twitter.com/vR3gV1KZP2
— Emma Straub (@emmastraub) September 6, 2022
Renovator of literary terror
Straub was a master of his genre with novels such as ‘Julia’ (1975) and ‘Fantasmas’ (Ghost Story, 1979) who helped revive the genre even though he didn’t want to be typecast as a horror novelist. A fan of Henry James and John Ashbery, he published several pieces of poetry before turning to novels, and although he did not originally aspire to write about the supernatural, he turned to the subject after two more conventionally themed novels flopped.
According to the author, in an interview in The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in 1996: ‘
“’Julia’ was a novel involving what turned out to be a ghost, so it was a horror novel. He didn’t know much about the field at the time. He really wanted to write a novel that would make money so he wouldn’t have to get a job. With the first sentence, I felt a huge relief. I felt at home immediately.”
The novel was very successful and was quickly adapted into theto exceptional ‘Circle of Death’ (1977), in which Mia Farrow is persecuted by a spirit that may or may not be her dead daughter, giving a film that would now be classified as that label that does not exist “high terror”, but that remains in a quite unknown field within the classics of the terror of that time.
his great masterpiece
Straub won praise from critics and topped the bestseller charts with a type of story that had previously been sidelined as subliterary. ‘The Baby of the Devil’ (1968) by Ira Levin and ‘The Exorcist’ (1971) by William Peter Blatty changed the perception of the genre, which was also becoming with Stephen King’s first novel, ‘Carrie’, from 1974, the year before ‘Julia’. However, his biggest solo success was ‘Fantasmas’.
Coming off his second hit with ‘If You Could See Me Now’ (1977) the author published ‘Ghost Story’ in 1979, becoming a New York Times bestseller. which led to another new adaptation, starring Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and John Houseman. ‘Historia Macabra’ was a film that did not capture the epic aspect of the novel, but it is still a great piece of horror away from the trends of his time, with a terrifying Alice Krige.
Edgar Allan Poe was also another of his influences, taking the supernatural to the moderate and implicit, as he told The Times in 1979on writing ‘Ghosts’:
“I wanted to take the terror and take it a little higher. Not exactly transcending the genre, but doing a bit more of the material than has been done in the recent past.”
The team with Stephen King
Not infrequently Stephen King has recognized that ‘Ghosts’ served as inspiration for him to write ‘IT (that)’ (1986) and has always professed devotion to him, as he has commented to New York Times in a recent interview:
“He was a unique writer in many ways. He was not only a literary writer with a poetic sensibility, but he was readable. And that was a fantastic thing. He was a modern writer, just like, say, Philip Roth, although he wrote about fantastic things.
He commissioned me to write an advertising note for ‘Fantasmas’ and he sent me the galley proofs, which I went to look for at the post office and they had all kinds of open cracks. My wife opened it and started reading to me as she drove. When we got back to our house, we were both very excited, because we knew it was really some kind of masterpiece.”
It was Straub who, in the early 1980s, suggested that he and King team up to write a novel, on modem-connected computers and matrix printers. King was already a bestseller, but he said yes right away, mostly out of admiration. Their collaboration, ‘El Talisman’ (1984), was a great success. It told the story of Jack Sawyer, a 12-year-old boy who ventures into an alternate universe to save his cancer-stricken mother. The book spent 12 weeks at the top of The Times bestseller list.
King and Straub reunited in 2001 to write a sequel, “Black House,” with Jack Sawyer as an adult. They were discussing a third book, but it was still in its early stages when Straub’s death occurred. The novel has been recognized by the Duffer Brothers as one of the influences of the upside-down world of ‘Stranger Things’. In the conclusion of volume 2 of the season a scene is included in which a character is reading the novel, with what could be inspiration for season 5. The Duffers are going to adapt it with Steven Spielberg for Netflix.
Although not as prolific as King, Straub continued to write best-selling books, not all of which involved horror. His ‘Blue Rose’ trilogy revolves around the search for a serial killer. Although there is nothing supernatural in them, each book won a Bram Stoker Award. His literary influence on many current authors continues to have an impact.