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INTERVIEW-Horror writer Campbell has more than scary stories

By Martin Roberts
/ Source: Reuters

By Martin Roberts

GIJON, Spain, July 25 (Reuters Life!) - Simply scaring his readers is not enough for horror fiction writer Ramsey Campbell -- he wants to make them think too.

Described by the Oxford Companion to English Literature as "Britain's most respected living horror writer", Campbell has star billing at the Semana Negra book fair this week in Spain, which draws a million visitors each year.

"I'm trying to make you look again at things you've taken for granted," Campbell said. "I don't think horror fiction requires an abandonment of rationality."

Campbell has won a string of British Fantasy Awards for Best Novel in half a century of writing which began by paying homage to renowned U.S. horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, from whom he still draws inspiration.

"What I think he was trying to convey was a sense of alienness of the universe ... and how, if there are forces which are inhuman out there, they will either be utterly uninterested in us or will do away with us by accident."


Campbell began reading horror fiction at six and writing it when he was 11 to escape from life with a father who refused to speak to or see him, although they lived under the same roof, and an undiagnosed paranoid schizophrenic for a mother.

"My childhood was a place of horror," the Liverpudlian writer said. "The fiction I read was what saved me. My imagination was somewhere I could go."

In addition to penning dozens of novels and short story collections, Campbell has also worked as a film critic for decades and has seen two of his novels adapted to the screen. "Segundo Nombre" was filmed in Spain and won a Silver Medal at the Sitges cinema festival in 2002.

Now 65, Campbell has no plans to retire. A 50th anniversary edition of his short story compilation will be published in September, as will a novel, "Ghosts Know". He is already working on another novel to be called "The Black Pilgrimage".

Mainstream success has eluded Campbell, but he has no qualms about being dubbed a "genre" writer and admits his books are printed almost as soon as he finishes writing them.

"I don't think the way to fight that (labelling) is to pretend you don't do it," he said.

"My definition for what I do is horror fiction, and frankly I'll continue repeating that until the grave and possibly be heard from the coffin still saying it." (Editing by Rosalind Russell)