Paranormal literature guru Peter Straub dies at 79

Peter Straub’s horror, mystery and supernatural literary novels unite him with Ira Levin, Anne Rice and his close friend and collaborator Stephen King ( Stephen King, among others, topped the horror novel boom of the 1970s and 1980s. in Manhattan on Sunday. He is 79 years old.

His wife, Susan Straub, said he died at Columbia University Irving Medical Center from complications following a fractured hip.

Mr. Straub is both a master of his genre and an angst of the genre. Novels like “Julia” (1975) and “Ghost Stories” (1979) helped revive a once-shaky field, though he insisted that his work transcended categories and that he wrote what he wanted, just to see To readers and critics classify him as a horror novelist.

Not that he can complain about what critics and readers think. Beginning with his third novel, “Julia,” about a woman haunted by a soul that may or may not be her dead daughter, Mr. Straub has won praise from critics, and has delivered an It has previously been marginalized as sub-literature.

“He is a unique writer in many ways,” Mr. King said in a phone interview on Monday. “Not only was he a poetic literary writer, but he was readable. That’s a remarkable thing. He’s a modern writer, on par with Philip Roth, though he writes fantastic things .”

Countering his dark texts with a bubbly personality and bright shirts and bow ties in a preppy wardrobe, Mr Straub started horror fiction at just the right time. Beginning with Mr. Levin’s “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968) and William Peter Blatty’s “The Exorcist” (1971), the genre gradually became mainstream. Mr. King’s first novel, Carrie, appeared in 1974, a year before Julia. Ms. Rice’s debut novel, Interview with the Vampire, came out in 1976.

A fan of Henry James and John Ashbury – who had published several books of poetry before turning to fiction – Mr Straub didn’t initially want to write about the supernatural. In fact, he only turned to it after two other traditional novels went bust.

“‘Julia’ is a novel involving ghosts, so it’s a horror novel,” he told the Milwaukee Sentinel in 1996. “I knew very little about the field at the time. I just really wanted to write a novel that would make money so I wouldn’t have to look for a job. I felt a huge relief when I heard the first sentence. I immediately felt at home. “

In fact, Julia did make money, as did his next two novels, If You Could See Me Now (1977) and New York Times bestseller Ghost Stories. Both “Julia” and “Ghost Stories” were made into films, the former being 1977’s “Full Circle,” starring Mia Farrow, and the latter 1981, starring Fred Astaire, Mel Starring Ving Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and John Hausman.

Like James and Edgar Allan Poe (another of his influencers), Mr. Straub remains supernaturally soft, implicit but not always recognized, if so, only towards the end of the story, When creepy uncertainty pushes suspense to the boil.

“I would like to take this type of thing upstairs a little bit,” he told The Times in 1979 about writing Ghost Stories. “Not exactly beyond genre, but producing more material than more recent ones. more.”

He was friends with Mr. Kim at the time, who agreed to write a pitch for “Ghost Story” after reading the unbound advance copy.

“We got it at the post office,” recalls Mr. King. “It was all divisive. So I was driving and my wife opened it and she started reading to me. When we got home, we were all very excited because we knew this was truly a masterpiece.”

It was Mr. Straub who suggested in the early 1980s that he and Mr. King collaborate on a novel—about modem-connected computers and dot-matrix printers, the state-of-the-art at the time. Mr. Kim, a super-best-selling author at the time, agreed immediately, mostly out of admiration for his friend’s writing prowess.

“He’s a better, more literary writer than I am,” he said.

Their collaboration, “Amulet” (1984), was a huge hit. It tells the story of 12-year-old Jack Sawyer as he ventures into another universe to save his cancer-stricken mother. Reviews were mixed, but sales were anything but: the book spent 12 weeks at the top of the New York Times bestseller list.

Mr. King and Mr. Straub reunited in 2001 to write a sequel, “Dark Room,” which tells the story of Jack Sawyer as he comes of age. It also sells well. They were discussing a third book, but it was still in its early stages at the time of Mr Straub’s death.

Peter Francis Straub was born in Milwaukee on March 2, 1943, to traveling salesman Gordon Straub and registered nurse Elvina (Nilsestuen) Elvina (Nilsestuen) Straub.

When he was 7 years old, he was hit by a car and nearly died. He had to relearn to walk, and the experience left him with a noticeable stutter, which he overcame, but not completely, so even in late adulthood, as soon as he got excited, the stutter would slowly return.

Mr. Straub studied English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he lived across the street from future rock star Steve Miller. He graduated in 1965. He went on to earn a master’s degree in English at Columbia University and returned to Milwaukee a year later, where he taught English at a private school. He married Susan Bitek in 1966.

Along with his wife, he is survived by his daughter, novelist Emma Straub. His son Benjamin works for a production company that represents his father’s film interests; his brother John; and three grandchildren.

In 1969, the Straub family moved to Ireland so that Mr. Straub could pursue a PhD in English at University College Dublin, but he did not complete his dissertation (initially on D.H. The Special Sisters), but wrote his thesis. first novel.

He enthusiastically submitted the novel “Marriage” to a publisher in London, who accepted it immediately. Not satisfied with the quality, he was more satisfied with the short editions of poetry he published in a small British publishing house. However, neither prose nor poetry made him much money, and in desperation he turned to writing about the paranormal.

He and his wife moved to London in 1972 and then to the New York area in 1979. They lived in Brooklyn when he died.

Although Straub wasn’t as prolific as Mr. King, he went on to write bestsellers, not all of which involved horror. His “Blue Rose” trilogy – “Koko” (1988), “Mystery” (1990) and “The Throat” (1993) – revolves around hunting down a serial killer. Although they don’t have anything supernatural about them, each book has won a Bram Stoker Award from the Horror Writers Guild, three of the seven Stoker Awards Mr Straub has amassed.

If he’s not willing to embrace the horror label wholeheartedly, he’ll hold it in high esteem for its ability to bring to the surface often unspoken fears and unrecognizable tragedies in real life.

“I love that it acknowledges that life is a tricky and uncertain thing, and that a monster with a smiley face might live or work next door to you,” Mr Straub told Publishers Weekly in 2016. He added, “The certainty of adulthood and grief, it deepens us and opens our doors to others who are going through the same.”

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