Tag Archives: avon horror novels

Avon Horror

Avon Publications started in 1941 by publishing comics and digest magazines, and was one of the first American companies to publish paperback books following the success of Pocket Books, the inventors of the pocket-sized mass market paperback. Avon’s early digest magazines are now highly collectible; Avon Fantasy Reader (1946-52) was edited by Donald A. Wollheim featuring lurid covers and stories by many now famous pulp authors who, at the time, were not well known.

Avon was an influential publisher of romance and horror in the late 1960s and 1970s. The 1972 novel The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss was “the first full-length romance novel to be published first in paperback rather than hardback” according to Wikipedia. The Flame and the Flower is cited by romance scholar Janice Radway as a landmark work responsible for the explosion of historical romance novels in a similar vein; it sold over two million copies and set the stage for Avon’s later romance titles to hit the bestseller lists.

For a period of time from the mid-1970s through the early 1980s, Avon had a strong showing in the horror field with solid entries like The Auctioneer by Joan Samson and The Godsend by Bernard Taylor. Avon’s paperback originals launched the careers of some well-known horror and thriller authors including Robert McCammon, Michael McDowell, and William Hallahan. All Avon horror novels I have read that were published during this period range from good to excellent.

Avon now focuses primarily on publishing romance titles. They were acquired by the New York publishing conglomerate HarperCollins in 2010.

These cover scans are from the library of Christopher Fulbright. Please note that Realms of Night has an eBay page with occasional horror auctions. Follow our page and save us as a favorite seller for updates.

Avon Titles Spotted in the Wild

Robert R. McCammon

Robert R. McCammon is an American author of horror and historical suspense. He was, of course, one of the giants of the genre during the horror boom, legitimately placed on par with usual suspects from the horror pantheon including King, Koontz, Straub, et al. He is a New York Times bestseller and multiple award-winning author.

McCammon was born and raised by his grandparents in Birmingham, Alabama and graduated from the University of Alabama with a B.A. in Journalism in 1974. He was eager to become a reporter in the wake of the 1972 Washington Post exposé by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein that blew the lid off Watergate, leading to the bestselling novel and subsequent movie All the President’s Men.  He was not the only one inspired by the work of Woodward and Bernstein; their investigation had romanticized the profession and intrigued many, so there was a lot of competition for jobs at the time. McCammon was hard-pressed to find a position as a reporter. He eventually landed a position as copyeditor and headline writer for the Birmingham Post-Herald, but this left him frustrated and unhappy. During this time he turned his eye toward writing a novel, channeling his inner turmoil into Baal.

Baal was accepted and published in paperback by Avon books in 1978. He admits in retrospect that he was surprised by this — not expecting his first novel to sell so readily — but he quickly forged ahead and wrote The Night Boat. About this time the horror movie Shock Waves was released, which contained elements similar to his novel, so Avon was reluctant to publish it, opting instead to release his third novel Bethany’s Sin in 1980 as his follow-up to Baal. Avon published The Night Boat later that same year.  They Thirst was published in 1981, followed by Mystery Walk and Usher’s Passing in 1983 and 1984. Mystery Walk was McCammon’s first hardcover release, published by Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, who also published Usher’s Passing in hardcover. At this time he switched paperback publishers to Ballantine Books, who did interesting things with cover art — Mystery Walk had three variations, and Usher’s Passing featured striking, embossed art.

On a personal note, my fondness for Usher’s Passing is the primary reason I am writing this article two days before Halloween. It is a fantastic novel that should be appreciated by anyone who likes a good occult horror tale, but especially those like me who grew up with Edgar Allan Poe at their bedsides. Usher’s Passing is one of the penultimate autumn horror novels, and I highly recommend it.

By 1986, McCammon had met with praise and accolades for his work, but admitted to feeling isolated from fellow writers in the genre. With the idea of fostering a horror community and organization to help writers of like-mind, he reached out to his friends Joe and Karen Lansdale to help organize H.O.W.L — the Horror and Occult Writers League. This later became the Horror Writers of America, with Dean Koontz serving as the first official president. Later still, the organization expanded to include members world-wide and became the Horror Writers Association, which continues to this day.

The year 1987 marked the publication of what some feel is McCammon’s masterpiece Swan Song, an epic that drew inevitable comparisons to The Stand, if only because it was a long novel about the apocalypse by a horror novelist. This also marked McCammon’s return to the paperback format exclusively for a while, with the exception of Stinger, which was released in a Book Club hardcover format the following year. In 1987, McCammon also contributed three stories to Night Visions IV, appearing alongside Dean R. Koontz and Edward Bryant, and an introduction by Clive Barker. One of my favorite McCammon short stories, “The Deep End,” appears in this anthology and remains uncollected elsewhere, as far as I know. It won the 1987 Bram Stoker Award for Best Short Story.

Pocket Books handled the publication of McCammon’s remaining titles through 1993, by which time his books were being released in hardcover once again. These include what I feel is a timeless classic Boy’s Life (see my review here), Mine, and Gone South.

By this time McCammon had published 12 well-received novels and the collection Blue World. He took some time to focus on family and spend more time with his wife and daughter. He took two years to complete his next novel, Speaks the Nightbird, which was a significant departure from the work he had done up to that point. Since it was not a “McCammon novel” — at least as far as the publishers were concerned — they recommended changes to the book that would have transformed it into a historical romance.  Editorial commentary on the book led McCammon to pull it from consideration and start work on another novel, The Village, which took three years to finish. Again a significant departure from his previous work, publishers were cool on the book overall. Finally, McCammon announced his retirement from writing fiction in 1999.

Of course, we all know that was by no means the end of the story — Speaks the Nightbird was published in hardcover by a small Alabama press, River City, in 2002.  This opened the door for McCammon to return to the world of fiction. In a somewhat ironic twist of fate, Pocket Books ultimately published the book in mass market and trade paperback editions. He has written several new works since then, including new horror and historical novels released by Subterranean Press, Pocket Books, and TOR. As of this writing, his latest novel The Listener, is scheduled to be released in Feburary 2018 from Cemetery Dance Publications. Perhaps this goes without saying, but anyone looking for information on Robert McCammon needs to visit his official website, which is maintained and curated by Hunter Goatley.  It contains staggering amounts of information on McCammon and is frankly one of the best author websites I’ve visited. For fellow paperback collectors, it includes complete cover galleries for every edition published to-date.

To browse the list of Robert McCammon’s titles currently available in print and eBook editions, click here.

These cover scans are from the library of Christopher Fulbright. Please note that Realms of Night has an eBay page with monthly horror auctions. Follow our page and save us as a favorite seller for updates.

Michael McDowell

Michael_McDowell_authorphotoMichael McDowell (June 1, 1950 – December 27, 1999) was an American author of genre and non-genre works, best known for his horror novels and his original screenplay for Beetlejuice, the 1988 movie directed by Tim Burton.

His first novel The Amulet was published by Avon in 1979, followed in 1980 by Cold Moon Over Babylon. Both novels helped establish McDowell as a serious contender in the burgeoning horror market, with an engaging voice and a talent for writing wholly effective Southern gothics. His 1981 novel The Elementals is what I consider to be a classic of modern horror; it’s one of a select few novels that sent genuine chills down my spine. His 6-part epic Blackwater series chronicled the horrors of the Caskey family, and firmly cemented McDowell’s place in the pantheon of writers of the true Southern gothic. McDowell wrote several other novels throughout the 1980s, including horror novels Katie, Gilded Needles, and Toplin, published as part of the Dell Abyss line. Toplin was also issued in a signed, limited hardcover edition by Scream Press, included in the gallery below. McDowell wrote a three-book literary saga chronicling the lives of Jack and Susan, ranging from the years 1913 to 1953. He also wrote several novels under the pen names Axel Young and Nathan Aldyne, plus several series titles under the names Preston Macadam and Mike McCray, and the novelization of the movie Clue.

McDowell met with success in Hollywood with his Beetlejuice screenplay, as noted above, and went on to work on The Nightmare Before Christmas and the adaptation of Stephen King’s Bachman novel Thinner. He wrote many episodes of popular suspense and horror shows popular throughout the 1980s and 1990s including Tales from the Darkside, Tales from the Crypt, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Monsters, and Amazing Stories.

McDowell was born and raised in southeastern Alabama. According to Douglas Winter’s Faces of Fear interview, he moved to Boston after graduating high school in 1968 to attend Harvard and study English. After graduating from Harvard with a Master of Arts degree, he earned a PhD in English from Brandeis University. He was working as a secretary in 1977 when he saw a trailer for the movie The Omen, which inspired him to try something different and ultimately write The Amulet, which sold in a two-book deal to Avon. The sale gave him enough money to quit his job and write full time. After many prolific years and much critically acclaimed fiction to his credit, McDowell was diagnosed with AIDS in 1994. After the diagnosis, Wikipedia reports that he taught screenwriting classes while working on commissioned screenplays. He died in 1999 in Boston. Tabitha King, who shared an affinity with her husband for McDowell’s work, completed an unfinished novel left behind among his papers; Candles Burning was published in 2006.

For anyone looking for more information about Michael McDowell, I recommend Douglas Winter’s 1985 book, Faces of Fear. You can also hunt down Fangoria #40 from 1984, which featured an interview with McDowell by Stanley Wiater. Better yet, check out this website – Cold Moon Over McDowell – a seriously dedicated fan site with lots of great stuff to explore.

The fine folks at Valancourt Books have reprinted, or have plans to reprint, much of McDowell’s horror fiction. To view a list of McDowell’s books available in print and ebook formats, please click here.

These cover scans are from the library of Christopher Fulbright. Please note that Realms of Night has an eBay page with monthly horror auctions. Follow our page and save us as a favorite seller for updates.