Peter Straub (1943-2022)


Author Peter Straub, 79, died September 4, 2022 after a long illness. Straub was a celebrated, influential, and bestselling author of literary horror, dark fantasy, and psychological thrillers.

Peter Francis Straub was born March 2, 1943 in Milwaukee WI. He earned a BA in English from the University of Wisconsin in 1965, an MA from Columbia University in 1966, then returned to Wisconsin to teach English at his former prep school for three years. In 1969 he moved to Ireland and began work on a PhD at University College in Dublin, but did not finish. He published two books of poetry in 1972, Ishmael and Open Air, and his first mainstream novel, Marriages, in 1973.

At the suggestion of his agent, Straub decided to give “gothic fiction” a try: first horror novel Julia appeared in 1975 and was later filmed as The Haunting of Julia. If You Could See Me Now (1977) followed, but his breakout novel was the bestselling Ghost Story (1979), later a film. His next supernatural novels were Shadowland (1980) and British Fantasy Award winner Floating Dragon (1983), followed by a few linked works that were mostly non-supernatural: novella Blue Rose (1985), World Fantasy Award winner Koko (1988), Mystery (1990), and Stoker winner The Throat (1993). The Hellfire Club (1997) was a thriller, and Stoker winner Mr. X (1999) was a return to the supernatural. lost boy lost girl (2003) won a Stoker and a World Fantasy Award, and sequel In the Night Room (2004) won a Stoker.

A Dark Matter (2010) won a Stoker, and The Skylark (2010) is “an earlier state” of that novel, described by Straub as “a much looser, sloppier, more wild-eyed version of the book.” Novellas A Special Place (2010) and The Process (Is a Process All Its Own) (2017) concern some of the same characters.

Straub’s collaboration with fellow author Stephen King on The Talisman (1984) landed on the bestseller list and was followed up 17 years later with sequel Black House (2001).

Notable stories include World Fantasy Award-winning novella “The Ghost Village” (1992), Stoker and International Horror Guild Award winner “Mr. Clubb and Mr. Cuff” (1998), and Stoker winner “The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine” (2011). His short fiction has been collected in Houses Without Doors (1990), Stoker winner Magic Terror (1997), 5 Stories (2007), The Juniper Tree and Other Stories (2010), and retrospective collections Interior Darkness (2016) and The Complete Short Fiction of Peter Straub volumes one and two (2021). Some of his non-fiction was collected in Sides (2006).

He edited HWA anthology Peter Straub’s Ghosts (1995), Conjunctions 39: The New Wave Fabulists (2002), the Library of America volume H.P. Lovecraft: Tales (2005), Poe’s Children (2008), and two volumes of American Fantastic Tales for the Library of America; the latter won a World Fantasy Award. His work is discussed in At the Foot of the Story Tree by Bill Sheehan (2000). An occasional actor, he appeared on episodes of soap opera One Life to Live from 2006-2009.

photo by Beth Gwinn

In all, Straub’s books and stories were nominated for a dozen World Fantasy Awards, winning four, and 14 Bram Stoker Awards, with ten wins, among many other award nominations. He was named a World Horror Grandmaster in 1997, won a Stoker award for life achievement in 2006, was named an International Horror Guild living legend in 2008, and received a life achievement World Fantasy Award in 2010. Straub had been on the Locus Science Fiction Foundation board of directors for several decades.

Straub married Susan Bitker in 1966. He is survived by Susan and their two children, Ben and bestselling author Emma Straub. For more, see his entry in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and our 2016 interview. A full obituary along with appreciations will appear in the October 2022 issue of Locus.


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