"I had a connoisseur's... appreciation of fear." -- Peter Straub
This article is about the novelist. For the German statesman, see Peter Straub .
Peter Francis Straub (born March 2, 1943) is an American author and poet, most famous for his work in the horror genre. His horror fiction has received numerous literary honors such as the Bram Stoker Award, World Fantasy Award, and International Horror Guild Award, placing him among the most-honored horror authors in recent history.
"An average working day begins at 8 or 9 am, includes an hour for lunch, and ends at 5 or 6 pm.""As soon as I started writing Julia, by which I mean while writing its first sentence, I felt a sudden, reassuring charge of excitement. I knew it was going to work.""Dick Dart emerged from the ether during a flight from New York with my wife and children to Puerto Rico.""Each new book is a tremendous challenge.""Everyone wants to get better as they go along, but sometimes it's all you can do to stay consistent.""Fear and I were old buddies, despite my best efforts to the contrary.""However, I think I managed to reach a new level with Koko, and I will always be grateful for the experience.""I believe I encountered death, which was a bit too much for a seven-year-old.""I generally wade in blind and trust to fate and instinct to see me through.""I instantly chucked my academic ambitions and began writing fiction full-time.""I write longer sentences than most of the others, maybe because I probably like Henry James more than they do.""If I planned everything out in advance, I'd expire of boredom.""Instead, I was interested in what I guess I could call narrative indeterminacy, in questioning the apparent, taken-for-granted authority of any particular representation of the events in question.""Many fiction writers eventually want to feel that their work forms a single, unified entity.""My first real breakthrough collided with the last months of Callaghan's Labour government, which had every intention of enjoying my success as much as I did.""Nobody is surprised that women writers accurately represent male characters over and over again, no doubt because everybody knows that women understand men much better than vice-versa.""On gym days, I don't get to my desk until 4 in the afternoon, and everything except bedtime and the appointment with the liquid narcotic is pushed back a bit.""The actual Blue Rose murders, which lie at the core of the three novels, yield various incorrect solutions which assume the status of truth.""There have been times when I reread - or at least leafed through - something because I'd sent a copy to a friend, and what usually happened was that I noticed dozens and dozens of clumsy phrases I wished I could rewrite.""There were a lot of adventure books for boys, historical novels by Kenneth Roberts, and whatever mystery novels the alarmed librarian imagined might not corrupt an eager but innocent youth.""These days, there are a great many books about childhood trauma and its effects, but at the time all the experts agreed that one should forget about it as quickly as possible and pick up where you left off.""When, in the third book, we do learn the identity of the Blue Rose murderer, the information comes in a muted, nearly off-hand manner, and the man has died long before."
Straub was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. At the age of seven, Straub was struck by a car, sustaining serious injuries. He was hospitalized for several months, and temporarily used a wheelchair after being released until he had re-learned how to walk. Straub has said that the accident made him prematurely aware of his own mortality.
Straub read voraciously from an early age, but his literary interests did not please his parents; his father hoped that he would grow up to be a professional athlete, while his mother wanted him to be a Lutheran minister. He attended Milwaukee Country Day School on a scholarship, and, during his time there, began writing.
Straub earned an honors B.A. in English at the University of Wisconsin—Madison in 1965, and an MA at Columbia University a year later. He briefly taught English at his alma mater, now known as the University School of Milwaukee, then moved to Dublin, Ireland, in 1969 to work on a Ph.D., and to start writing professionally.
After mixed success with two attempts at literary mainstream novels in the mid-1970s (Marriages and Under Venus - the latter not even published until he had gained fame as a horror writer), Straub dabbled in the supernatural for the first time with Julia (1975). He then wrote If You Could See Me Now (1977), and came to widespread public attention with his fifth novel, Ghost Story (1979), which was a critical success and was later loosely adapted into a 1981 film starring Fred Astaire. Several horror novels followed, with growing success, including The Talisman and Black House, two fantasy-horror collaborations with Straub's long-time friend and fellow author Stephen King.
a fallow period, Straub re-emerged in 1988 with Koko, a nonsupernatural (though horrific) Vietnam novel. Koko was followed in the early '90s by the related novels Mystery and The Throat, which together with Koko make up the "Blue Rose Trilogy". These complex and intertwined novels extended Straub's explorations into metafiction and unreliable narrators.
The ambitious mainstream thriller The Hellfire Club was published in 1996; the novel applied the lessons learned in the Blue Rose period to a more overtly gothic plot. Mr. X followed in 1999 with a doppelgänger theme. In 2001, Straub and King reteamed for Black House, a loose sequel to The Talisman tying that book in with King's Dark Tower Series. 2003 saw the publication of a new Straub novel Lost Boy, Lost Girl followed by the related In the Night Room (2004). Both of these novels won Stoker awards.
Straub also edited the Library of America volume H. P. Lovecraft: Tales (2005). His novel Mr. X had paid tribute to Lovecraft, as the eponymous Mr. X wrote in a similar style.
Straub has also published several books of poetry. My Life in Pictures appeared in 1971 as part of a series of six poetry pamphlets Straub published with his friend Thomas Tessier under the Seafront Press imprint while living in Dublin. In 1972 the more substantial chapbook Ishmael was published by Turret Books in London. Straub's third book of poetry, Open Air, appeared later that same year from Irish University Press. The collection Leeson Park and Belsize Square: Poems 1970 - 1975 was published by Underwood-Miller in October 1983. This collection reprints much of Ishmael along with previously uncollected poems, but none of the poems from Open Air.
A critical essay on Straub's horror work can be found in S. T. Joshi's book The Modern Weird Tale (2001). At the Foot of the Story Tree by Bill Sheehan discusses Straub's work before 2000.
Rumors continue to circulate that King and Straub may collaborate on a final novel, finishing the tale of Jack Sawyer and the Talisman. King himself has stated in an interview that there will be such a novel sometime in the future, and Straub confirmed that the two authors are to begin work in late 2010.
Straub also sits on the contributing editorial board of the literary journal Conjunctions, and he guest-edited Conjunctions: 39, an issue on New Wave Fabulism.
In 2007, Straub's personal papers were acquired by the Fales Library at New York University.
February 2010 saw the release of his latest thriller, A Dark Matter.