Hal Leonard has been one of the highest-profile publishers of music instruction books for almost seventy years, but it only recently expanded into the pop culture side of entertainment when it acquired Backbeat Books in 2006 (the imprint put out my own The Who FAQ last year). Hal Leonard has also dipped into non-musical forms of entertainment with its Applause Theatre & Cinema Books imprint. This doesn’t just include the kinds of historical/analytical titles in the FAQ series (a couple of which I’m reading right now… more on those later this month), but also lush coffee table books.
Edited by Stephen Jones, The Art of Horror is one such recent volume. Even if Hal Leonard had told me to go screw myself when I submitted my proposal for The Who FAQ, I’d still feel remiss for not trumpeting this book to the readers who prefer the creepier side of Psychobabble. This is a really fabulous collection of pieces that show just how far horror has stretched it tentacles through the art world. As you might expect, there are plenty of full-color movie posters, one sheets, and other motionless visuals associated with moving pictures, horror’s main medium. However, Jones also invites a diverse array of classical and modern artworks, comic and pulp novel covers, Halloween cards, engravings, and more to the mad monster party. There are full-page displays of works by creatures like Basil Gogos, Giger, John O.Winsch, and other artists who do not require introductions to hardcore horror fans, as well as a massive host of less familiar artists you’ll be glad you’ve discovered on these pages (well, at least until the nightmares start kicking in). The most delightful surprise was a couple of watercolors depicting Karloff in Bride and Son of Frankenstein by none other than Peter Cushing! Impressively, Jones also corralled such major horror writers as David Skal, Lisa Morton, Greg Mank, and Kim Newman to provide commentary. These writers tend to stick to the basic history of the particular monsters they’ve been assigned to profile, so you probably won’t learn anything new, but as the title tells, art is the point behind The Art of Horror, and there is a truly grotesque and gorgeous assortment here.