I was saddened to learn today of the deaths of two writers who meant a lot to me when I was growing up. I've written before how I was a strange kid who'd hang out in certain sections of the library, reading all the weird books about weird things, like Bigfoot, Nessie, and UFOs.
Not all of those books were the same, though. Even as a kid, I appreciated the ones that were well-written, that knew how to tell a story, and that actually provided some proof of the unbelievable and impossible things they described.
I learned to look for the names of the authors on those books, and I would pick up whatever they would write.
I was a bigger Cohen fan when I was young. I checked out his Encyclopedia of Monsters so often that it was just my name on the card, over and over again. When he wrote about Mothman and Mokele-Mbembe, it made the world seem bigger. I read everything he had in our public library, but I especially loved The Great Airship Mystery and Monsters, Giants and Little Men from Mars. Honestly, what kid would not want a book with titles like those?
I also read Steiger, but I liked him much more as an adult for one main reason: his books were scary. While Cohen had more of a sense of humor, Steiger could create authentic-sounding horror stories. When I read him, I usually had the lights on. His stories of shadowy evils, especially Out of the Dark and Shadow World, informed and added to the villains and dark forces in my books about Nathaniel Cade.
Reading those books led, eventually, to me writing books myself. I even got to correspond with Steiger a bit after I wrote The President's Vampire when I quoted him in my text. He was very kind and courteous and gracious.
But now both men are gone. I learned from Loren Coleman — another one of my great favorites as a kid — that they both passed away on the same day, May 6, both at the age of 82.
Unfortunately, there have been several writers about the paranormal who have died within a few weeks of each other. Even though I'm more of a skeptic now than I ever was, I hope that there are other people who keep diving into the deep weirdness out there. I will never forget how these writers opened doors for me, and widened the boundaries of what I considered possible.
In the end, that's one of the best things that writing can do.
I'm grateful, and I am sorry to see them go.