John Saul is an American author of horror novels and thrillers. His first novel, Suffer the Children, was published in 1977 by Dell and became an instant bestseller. Even so, he wasn’t really an overnight sensation — Saul spent many years earning his stripes writing novels that were rejected by publishers. In an interview with Stanley Wiater in Dark Dreamers, Saul said he had 10 unpublished novels under his belt before his first big win at the publishing game. After Dell rejected one of those books — a comedy murder mystery — they suggested to his agent that Saul should try his hand at writing a psychological thriller. And so Suffer the Children was born; Dell bought the book on the basis of an outline alone and gave the book a huge push with television advertising, which was pretty much unheard-of for a paperback original in those days. The book hit all of the major bestseller lists and launched one of the most enduring careers in modern American thriller history.
Saul followed up his debut with the equally successful Punish the Sinners in 1978, Cry for the Strangers in 1979, and Comes the Blind Fury in 1980. When his 1981 novel When the Wind Blows was scheduled for publication, Saul admitted he was worried because Mary Higgins Clark had a novel called The Cradle Will Fall slated to appear at the same time. The publisher assured him there was nothing to worry about. Indeed, they were right — retailers displayed the two titles side-by-side on release.
While Saul is one of the great bestsellers of the horror and thriller genres (I feel like there’s a blurry line in-between), he was seldom mentioned in the same breath as King, Koontz, and Straub. It seems to me that Saul remained an outsider from that crew, even during the height of the genre’s popularity in the 1980s. I noted the other day that Saul had provided a cover blurb for Robert McCammon’s 1987 epic Swan Song, and realized this is maybe the only blurb I ever saw from him on any horror fiction of the time. Saul did not attend conventions, or belong to any writers organizations. He claims to not be much of a horror fan for the simple reason that it scares him — although he enjoys writing it very much.
Despite his professed aversion for the popular works of the genre, it can’t be disputed that John Saul has done very well writing them. To-date, 37 of his novels have been New York Times bestsellers. He was born in California, but has spent much of his adult life in the Pacific Northwest, and now splits his time between there and a second home in Hawaii.
To browse the list of his titles currently available in print and eBook editions, click here.
These cover scans are from the library of author Christopher Fulbright.