Reviewed by Scott A. Johnson
Written by Gary A. Braunbeck
Published by Apex Publications
What makes a horror writer? No doubt, there are dark recesses in all our imaginations. But what is it that drives a person to spend the time and pour those macabre images out on paper? And, even once one decides to do so, just how does one do it effectively? With the release of To Each Their Darkness, multiple Bram-Stoker-Award-winning author Gary Braunbeck attempts to answer at least a few of those questions.
To Each Their Darkness is not the kind of book that easily fits into any category. One part autobiography, one part confession, one part critical analysis, and one part how-to, this book is not only a glimpse into the process of writing horror, but also into the man himself. Within each section Braunbeck delves into his background and provides insight into his process, while at the same time pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of his contemporaries. He also addresses some of the bigger pitfalls of being a writer including re-writes, the used book store, and getting the hell out of your own way.
To try to take this book by section would be an exercise in futility, mainly because the book isn’t organized into rigid sections. There’s no “Here’s the Stuff About Writing” chapter. So it would be best, it seems, to focus on the articles that are the most useful, most poignant, etc. Braunbeck begins with a healthy list of movies that are well crafted and qualify as how a movie should be made. He also discusses the various adaptations of Stephen King’s movies, a few by Carpenter, and the artistic merit of the music of The Who.
As far as writing advice, Braunbeck showcases the knowledge and skill that has won him so many awards. His essay on DOTS (Definition of the Self) should be required reading for any aspiring young writer. Similarly, his heartfelt diatribe on why horror should be respected rather than reviled should be engraved on large bricks and hurled at the halls of snobbish academia. Through the examples he gives, a person may not become the greatest writer in history, but they’ll be a damned sight better off than they were.
Peppered throughout are little tangents, details from Braunbeck’s own difficult life. In cathartic fashion, he talks about growing up the son of a poor factory-working alcoholic, abuses both psychological and physical, PTSD and depression, and failed relationships. Through it all, Braunbeck never once comes across as self-indulgent, does not beg for pity, nor does he whine that the world owes him something. No matter how difficult his life has been, Braunbeck emerges with grace and dignity as well as a razor-sharp sense of humor. These moments, which will genuinely take the reader aback and have them wonder how any man could’ve survived such horror, much less make it out as a semi-well-adjusted person, bring a sense of humanity to the book and make the reader feel like they’re not just learning how to write, but how to live.
Like any autobiography, this book is not for everyone. People who are not interested in learning to write or learning about one of the most decorated writers working today should probably pass. But for the rest of us, who just can’t help but want to get to know the hand that writes the words, the book is a riveting read.
4 1/2 out of 5
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