Following on the heels of my list of the best horror anthologies of all time, here are the thirteen best single-author collections. Putting this together proved to be a pleasant surprise, as there were far more good ones than I had imagined. In the method I use, I first make a list of all the eligible books that I would feel justified in putting on such a list. My first pass at doing this for The Ten Best Vampire Novels only yielded five. The first pass here gave me more than 60, a good problem to have. My first step in winnowing down the herd was to arbitrarily decree each author could place only once on the list. The final concession was to expand the number from the usual 10 to 13, because I’m too gutless to make any more cuts. There are a number of others that I already feel bad about omitting. The usual disclaimers: these reflect my own opinion, and if I haven’t read it, it’s not on the list. You could also jumble the order of these randomly, and I would be satisfied.
1. Night Shift, by Stephen King – This barely edged Skeleton Crew. A very powerful representation of the early King, when the ideas seemed to flow at the speed of light. Most of these stories have been adapted for the screen
2. By Bizarre Hands, by Joe R. Lansdale – Any of Lansdale’s collections would fit here, as he never seems to write anything that isn’t outstanding. I chose this one because it was the first of his collections.
3. Blue World, by Robert R. McCammon – McCammon didn’t write a lot of short stories, but what he did write was amazing. Check out “Nightcrawlers” and “Something Passed By” from this collection.
4. Dark Gods, by T.E.D. Klein – Another less-than-prolific writer. The four novellas included here can hold their own against anyone.
5. The Book of Blood, by Clive Barker – The first of the six volume Books of Blood (any one of them would do) shows an unprecedented depth of imagination.
6. The Dunwich Horror and Others, by H. P. Lovecraft – Lovecraft was almost exclusively a short fiction writer, and I think this Arkham House collection is the best summation of his work.
7. The Jaguar Hunter, by Lucius Shepard – The short story writer of the eighties. Most of these are not specifically horror, but they are well worth reading.
8. Scared Stiff, by Ramsey Campbell – The English grandmaster produced the first great collection mixing sex and horror.
9. Why Not You and I?, by Karl Edward Wagner – Another horror writer who died far too soon, the psychiatrist-turned-author wrote some of the great Southern horror fiction.
10. Songs of a Dead Dreamer, by Thomas Ligotti – The best collection from one of the foremost of the “quiet horror” group of writers. A classic.
11. 20th Century Ghosts, by Joe Hill – The most recently published work on the list, this collection heralded the arrival of a great new talent.
12. Black Butterflies, by John Shirley – One of the founding members of the splatterpunks, this is an outstanding and widely varied collection.
13. The Howling Man, by Charles Beaumont – A good collection of work by the prolific, short-lived author who wrote a lot of the best Twilight Zone TV episodes.
I’m sure there are plenty I’ve left off.