Books·My Life in Books

5 books that inspired horror writer Andrew Pyper

The author shares 5 books that shaped their life and work.
Andrew Pyper is the author of the novel The Only Child. (Heidi Pyper)

Andrew Pyper is known for his bestselling spine-tingling novels like Lost Girls, which won the Arthur Ellis Award for best first novel in 2000, and The Demonologist. He's just released his eighth novel, The Only Child, which tells the story of a psychiatrist in New York City, Dr. Lily Dominick, who is treating a patient who claims that he is 200 years old, he's the inspiration for writers like Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley and he's Lily's father.

Andrew Pyper's literary inspiration comes from many sources. Below, he shares five books that shaped his life and work.

The Progress of Love by Alice Munro

Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2013. (Derek Shapton/Penguin)

"Is it her best collection? I'll leave that to the professional listmakers. I read it when it first came out and, though I'd admired Munro before that as a young man, those stories, at that precise moment of my life, made me see not only her mastery of the short story but something more personal, a wink between author and reader. And what did the wink say? It said that boring southwestern Ontario towns — a town like mine — could be interesting if you peek between the upstairs curtains when the light goes on, if you open yourself to the trembling tension inside the red brick walls of your neighbour's homes, if you fill in the blanks in the strange, gothic tidbits at the back of the local paper. The world could be yours, in the sleepiest of towns, if you imagined."

The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford

Ford Madox Ford was an English novelist, poet and editor whose work helped develop early 20th-century literature. (Penguin )

"A brilliant novel about marriage, deception, self-deception, irony, the soul-mutilating potential of sex and its repression. But the real gift of this favourite novel has come from the author's odd, magnificent name. I called my dog, rest his soul, Madox. And when, years later, our son was born, we were pitching names all over the place. I said, 'Too bad the dog's already called Madox,' and my wife said 'Yeah, but what about Ford?' and we laughed. When we stopped laughing, we realized we had it."

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

Henry James was an American-born British writer. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1911, 1912 and 1916. (Penguin)

"The model ghost story. Disorienting, ambiguous, transgressive. The story of a possibly unstable governess caring for a beautiful pair of possibly corrupted (or corrupting?) children in a possibly haunted manor home has been influential on my work not necessarily in the sense of me attempting to mimic it, but in the general project James lays out: tell a spooky story that works as a spooky story but also leaves the reader in a cloud of questions whose answers are, in Jamesian fashion, unspeakable."

'Salem's Lot by Stephen King

'Salem's Lot won the American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults in 1978. (Shane Leonard/Knopf)

"Stephen King has to be here, as he's not only been an influence on me but, I would argue, he's the most influential storyteller of the last, oh, let's say century or so. But which book? My reflex is to say The Shining (and I have said just that in answer to similar questions in the past) but the novel has gotten mixed up with the movie so thoroughly in my mind — despite their many distinctions — I think I'm being imprecise by throwing the title out there. 'Salem's Lot, on the other hand, I remember distinctly. The large, doomed cast of characters, the small town like mine, the youth of many of the main characters' drawing me into their horror. Put simply, that book freaked me out more than any other King before or since."

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

F. Scott Fitzgerald was an American novelist and short story writer best known for the 1925 classic The Great Gatsby. (HarperCollins)

"You think you know this book, you think you remember it: the gorgeous prose, the seductive glamour, the romance. Then you re-read it, as I recently did, and it's something else altogether. So much funnier, for one thing. And so, so angry. At what? The haves and the have-nots, the privileged and the pretenders. Given how Fitzgerald straddled these lines suggests some of the novel's fury was directed at himself, his own yearnings and pretensions. But Gatsby, while tragic, was also a fake, the bespoke emptiness at the hungover heart of the party. The Great Gatsby is an angry love letter to money, which is to say America itself."


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