As you may know from my various writings about their Paperbacks From Hell series, I have become an avid follower of Valancourt Publishing. So, a few months back when I saw that they had started a new imprint called Monster, She Wrote, I got very excited. A series of books with consistent cover art spotlighting female horror and weird fiction? I was in! But, I was having trouble finding the non-fiction book that started it all! What happened and how did it work out?
Well, first and foremost, it helps if you look for a book at the correct publisher! Valancourt is great, but Quirk Books actually published Monster, She Wrote by Lisa Kroger and Melanie R. Anderson last year! Just as with Paperbacks From Hell, Quirk put out the non-fiction book while Valancourt’s publishing reprints of the novels mentioned therein where and when they can!
With Monster, She Wrote, Kroger and Anderson break down a variety of female horror, speculative and weird fiction authors based on the time period and geenre they published in. They kick off with the Gothic mothers and women who wrote haunting books in the 1800s and move on to icons like Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Shirley Jackson and Anne Rice while also mentioning a number of other authors I mostly hadn’t heard of.
One of the aspects of this book that I really enjoyed is that Kroger and Anderson not only gave concise bios on these fascinating women, but also worked out a Reading List section for each woman with sections like “Not to be missed,” “Also try” and “Related work.” As someone who keeps an active Note going on his iPhone while reading a book like this, this section was very helpful when trying to figure out which books to check out! I wrote down the names of 29 of the authors included in this volume and at least that number of books I want to check out!
I gotta admit, it was also cool seeing a few authors in this book that I’m already a big fan of! Last year, I became aware of Lauren Beukes, the author of The Shining Girls and Broken Monsters, thanks to my friend Sam Walker. She recommended Beaukes’ work when I asked about female horror authors well before I knew about this book and I’m so glad she did! I had also just read Elizabeth Engstrom’s fantastic When Darkness Loves Us, which STILL sneaks up on me a few times a week!
I was fascinated by every chapter of this book and was so excited to find out about more authors to check out, but this book also reminded me of the Gothic literature class I took in college back in my Ohio Wesleyan days! I read a few of the iconic books of the genre and even had a few of the tomes still on my shelf. That was exciting to me because it reinvigorated my interest in some books that might have otherwise just sat on my shelf until I 86ed them in favor of my horror paperback collection!
Having finished this very enjoyable book, I feel more enlightened when it comes to these women who have been crafting these wild books for hundreds of years! I now have that handy list on my phone of items to add to my To-Read box, but Valancourt also has four tomes under their Monster, She Wrote series: Nightmare Flower by my new favorite Elizabeth Engstrom, The Women Of Weird Tales, Lisa Tuttle’s collection The Dead Hours Of Night and The Bishop Of Hell And Other Stories by Marjorie Bowen. As of right now, I have the first two on my shelf ready to read and will probably get the other two pretty soon because I appreciate a trusted source curating my entertainment for me!