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Tuesday, October 11, 2011


The late William W. Johnstone wrote horror novels that were quite unlike anything you’ve probably read before. He didn’t need to belabor a point over several pages like some mainstream horror novelists do; no, instead, Bill zapped you with the shock and then went right on to the next one. After a while it became a game for me to see if I could anticipate what the upcoming jolt would be. More often than not, I didn’t see where it would come from or what it would be.

Bill was not afraid to mix genres, either, when he wrote. In his serial killer novel, NIGHT MASK, he had a werewolf thrown in for good measure.

Bill stopped writing in the horror field sometime before his death. His Western novels had really taken off at that point, and all his energies and focus went in that direction. He achieved “USA Today Bestseller” status on a lot of his Westerns and so it was more lucrative for Bill to exclusively write “oaters” (as I’ve heard writers sometimes refer to their Western novels). But, for a time, we were lucky that he wrote some of the most oddball horror books out there.

Many years ago I read THE DEVIL’S LAUGHTER. However, given time and distance, I can’t really recall much about it. In a way, this is good because it will be like reading the book for the first time. This one is on my nightstand, in a small stack, waiting for me to finish one book and reach over and pick it up. The only sad thing is that eventually I will reach the point where I’ve read all of them and will know that Bill’s not here to write any more of them. It’s akin to having your wine cellar run dry.

Bill wrote a handful of books that he called the “Devil” series; they had the word “Devil” in every title and concerned supernatural investigators/fighters Sam and Nydia as the protagonists. I flipped through THE DEVIL’S LAUGHTER tonight looking for Sam and Nydia’s names. As I did not spot either of these characters, THE DEVIL’S LAUGHTER does NOT seem to be part of the Devil series.

If you haven’t tried any of Bill’s horror novels, find one (any one) and read it. Then, please, let me know what you think.

So long, Bill. You are greatly missed, my friend.