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“We had monsters in our hearts forever”: Coffinmaker’s Blues: Selected Writings on Terror by Stephen Volk

Stephen Volk is a familiar name among film lovers and horror fans. He’s written iconic scripts for film and television (Gothic, Ghostwatch, The Awakening, to name a few), great novels (The Dark Masters Trilogy), and countless essays on film industry and the horror genre. It’s the latter that has now been combined into one big collection of Volk’s writing. Published by PS Publishing’s imprint Electric Dreamhouse, Coffinmaker’s Blues is a compendium of knowledge and anecdotes on topics such as film and filmmakers, scriptwriting, religion, politics, actors, horror – of course – and many more. The 55 collected pieces were written by Volk and issued in the Black Static magazine between 2004 and 2016. Now bound-up in a sturdy, haunting hardback, this is a book you need. 

“So why do those of us who love Horror, love it? Why do we put ourselves through such experiences of unpleasantness, disgust and fear when we could just as easily sit in front of a nice, idiotic Adam Sandler Comedy?” – Chapter 2 – “The Peekaboo Principle”

Across nearly 300 pages, Volk makes numerous great points and observations the reader can agree with, argue about, or use as a point of further discussion. He shares funny stories about certain films, horror and clichés (“Why do you write such horrible things?”) as well as snippets of his personal life and experiences. His words are full of passion, humour, sometimes annoyance, but always genuine love for the genre. Volk’s essays are on a variety of subjects from script development hell (or purgatory, I should say), jump scares, writer’s block, to his own show that spooked the nation – Ghostwatch (1992), and a truly wonderful tribute to the man “who had kept his cool in the face of the forces of darkness” – Peter Cushing – in “What Haunts You” (chapter 36).

Coffinmaker’s Blues is a treasure chest of horror – with views, anecdotes and wisdom; hundreds of horror titles, names of iconic actors and directors, and nods to beloved and terrifying characters. 

“I want to return to the fictional places and people I love, that make me feel secure. The world I feel I understand. And, for some as-yet-inexplicable reason, that world is Horror.” Chapter 27 – “Monsters in the Heart”

Coffinmaker’s Blues can be read back to back or picked up every so often, with chapters explored in order or at random. It’s a fantastic and essential read for readers and writers, book lovers, cinema fanatics and horror fans out there.

As the saying goes, we apparently shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but this one gives me shivers. It’s a variation on Henry Fuseli’s famous painting The Nightmare from 1781 where the incubus, instead of a women’s chest, is sitting on a typewriter and his sinister look is directed at the reader. This painting is as terrifying as it’s fascinating and will make you want to discover the horrors hiding inside Volk’s latest book…

Sit back, relax, light the candle, and indulge yourself in this collection of writings on terror.

Coffinmaker’s Blues: Collected Writings on Terror is available now from PS Publishing

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About Magdalena Salata

Magdalena Salata has an MA degree in Contemporary Literature and Culture, and is Diabolique's Web Editor. She is especially interested in Gothic, Neo-Victorianism, haunted houses and vampires. Magda previously completed her BA in English and wrote about Edgar Allan Poe, women, and death. She reads a lot and lives in London.

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