Michael McDowell

When Things Go Bad

It’s an entertainment genre barely recognised, but once you look around you’ll see it everywhere; stories of an object that, once owned, brings bad luck and often death in its wake. The things of desire make for great morality tales. Stephen King has produced his fair share of cursed objects, especially in ‘Needful Things’, which […]

Writers of the New Disillusionment

I was just having a book purge, getting ready to move back into my flat later this month, when I discovered a stash of dark novels. Often with supernatural overtones, this genre experienced a mad final fling beginning in the late 1970s before being watered down into new genres, mostly involving adolescent fables of sexual […]

Gilded Needles

  I’ve talked in the past about rediscovering the writer Michael McDowell, who died too young. For decades his best work lay unnoticed on dusty bookshelves, but now smart new reprints have returned them to both print and online formats, and they deserve fresh success. Recently I wrote the foreword to one of his most […]

‘Gilded Needles’ Is Back

Michael McDowell frequently returned to the idea of matriarchal, dynastic revenge in his books, and his wonderfully chatty style made it feel as if he was imparting a terrible piece of gossip while describing all manner of disturbing events. ‘Gilded Needles’ is a vivid historical tintype of old New York that forms the backdrop to a nightmarish […]

Whimsy Is The New Reality

There are certain literary traits I don’t much care for; over-earnestness, sentiment, nostalgia and manufactured ‘edge’ being among the worst – TV crime dramas seem to believe that everything should be grim and shouty – Tony Hancock once said ‘You can get away with anything if you keep a straight face’ – but I’ve never […]

Another Rare Author Returns

Never say this blog is not ahead of the curve, me hearties. First it points you to Hans Fallada’s astonishing ‘Alone in Berlin’, only for the book to be announced as an upcoming Emma Thompson film, and now, after years of nagging people about the wonderful, obscure writer Michael McDowell, I’ve discovered that all of […]

The Openings Of 5 Great Suspense Novels No.1

I have to review a lot of thrillers. Many start out with a paragraph describing the weather. They go in the bin. Others starts with a cop pulling on a cigarette and staring at a dead body. Just as predictable as the weather – bin. But it shouldn’t be like this, particularly in a thriller. […]

The Forgotten Stephen King

At a time when Stephen King was jump-starting a phenomenal publishing wave of horror novels, Michael McDowell was one of the few writers who deserved the same attention. While he never had King’s way with a killer hook, he was the better stylist. ‘I am a commercial writer and I’m proud of that,’ said the […]

Favourite Thriller Writers: Michael McDowell

Like Tom Tryon, Michael McDowell was always careful to consider his readers. ‘I am a commercial writer and I’m proud of that,’ said the Alabama-born author, ‘I think it is a mistake to try to write for the ages.’ His gothic deep-South novels appeared mainly as paperbacks in the golden age of the throwaway read, […]