Peter Straub, Literary Giant, Passes Away at 79

Writers mourn novelist, whose output went beyond the horror genre

Peter Straub (1943-2022) was one of the greatest writers of our generation.

Known primarily as a horror writer due to his collaborations with Stephen King (“The Talisman” and “Black House”) and his bestselling books “Koko” and “Ghost Story”,  he was also well known to those who read his work more deeply as a literary writer with a prose-rich style on par with contemporary greats such as John Irving, Margaret Atwood, Joyce Carol Oates, Philip Roth, and John Updike. And while his books and stories had dark elements (his Blue Rose trilogy – “Koko”, “Mystery” and “The Throat” revolved around a serial killer, but are not supernatural) he was a poet at heart who strove to create literature versus fly-off-the-shelves genre fiction. In his best and most popular works, he was able to achieve both.

Peter Straub
The late Peter Straub (Photo credit: Ben Kulo).

Most remember him as a genre giant of the 70s and 80s, when a horror renaissance was emerging thanks to King, Clive Barker, V.C. Andrews, Robert McCammon, Anne Rice, and others, he also wrote—and strove to write—work that could be classified more widely. His early novels were neither genre nor horror (“Marriages” and “Under Venus”), and he was a fan of such literary greats as John Ashbery and Henry James.

In his lifetime, Straub wrote seventeen novels, multiple short story collections, and nearly a dozen novellas. He collected a book of non-fiction (“Sides”) and served as the editor on two major anthologies (“Poe’s Children” and “American Fantastic Tales”). He won multiple Bram Stoker Awards, World Fantasy Awards, was a New York Times bestseller, and had multiple books and stories adapted for film.

Outside the bestselling “Ghost Story”, “Koko” and his collaborations with King, Straub’s arguably most popular novels include “Shadowland”, “Floating Dragon”, and “A Dark Matter”. In addition to his own work, his daughter, the novelist Emma Straub, wrote a book about her father’s declining health called “This Time Tomorrow”. It premiered at number three on the New York Times best seller list.

But more than a writer (under any classification or category),  Straub was generous, kind, funny, supportive, gentle, genuine. He was a mentor to many, an inspiration to countless others, and embodied a greatness and warmth that will not be easily, if ever, replaced.

Today, the writing community mourns the passing of a legend in the field:

“Peter saved my life, more than once, in more ways than once, and I was never able to pay him back. A great author, a gentle, brilliant man.” – Caitlin R. Kiernan

“A huge influence on me as a writer, and a kind and generous mentor.” – Dan Chaon

“Working with him was one of the great joys of my creative life.” – Stephen King

“I wish I’d written more about Peter Straub’s work & how much I loved and was influenced by reading Shadowland as a 19 year old.” – Neil Gaiman

“I remember Ghost story scaring the hell out of me.” – Joe Lansdale

“Peter Straub was a hero and I was fortunate to get to know him over the last decade plus. The news of his passing is gutting.” – Paul Tremblay

“One of the sweetest and most gentlemanly people I’ve ever met.” – Benjamin Percy

“I owe much to Peter. This is a dark day.” – Laird Barron

“A tremendous writer. I met him decades ago and was awed by his graciousness.” – Alma Katsu

“It was Peter Straub, some years after I began reading King, who taught me the finer details of the craft.” – Ronald Malfi

“One of the finest authors ever to work in the field of horror, one of the most admired, and by far one of the kindest.” – Christopher Golden

“A genius writer who inspired me in my teen years, a terrific storyteller, and a witty man that could make you laugh in an instant.” – Thomas Olde Heuvelt

“A wonderful writer and a generous human being.” – Brian Evenson

“Oh lord, Peter Straub. Another great chap and great friend gone.” – Ramsey Campbell

“His delight in my career, and his total belief in me, is a buoy that I will hold onto for the rest of my life.” – Emma Straub

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Philip Fracassi

Philip Fracassi, an author and screenwriter, lives in Los Angeles, California. His short stories have been published in numerous magazines and anthologies, including Best Horror of the Year, Dark Discoveries, Cemetery Dance, Lovecraft eZine, and Strange Aeons among others. He is the author of the award-winning story collection, Behold the Void.

One thought on “Peter Straub, Literary Giant, Passes Away at 79

  • September 7, 2022 at 2:01 pm

    Straub wrote in Ghost Story, in a passage about cross-country travel, that travel itself is like a separate country. So too with the experience of reading the work of a talented author.


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