Peter Straub, Master Of Literary Horror And Stephen King Collaborator, Dies At 79

King said working with Straub "was one of the great joys of my creative life."
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Stephen King said working with Peter Straub "was one of the great joys of my creative life."
Stephen King said working with Peter Straub "was one of the great joys of my creative life."
Reg Innell via Getty Images

Peter Straub, a bestselling horror novelist whose work was lauded and admired by fellow writers and collaborators, died Sunday in Manhattan.

Straub was 79. He died at the Irving Medical Center at Columbia University from complications after breaking a hip, his wife, Susan, told the The New York Times.

His work during the literary boom of horror fiction throughout the 1970s and ’80s had long immortalized him as a master of his craft.

He established himself as a horror writer with “Julia” in 1975 and “Ghost Story” in 1979. He collaborated with Stephen King on “The Talisman” in 1984 and then again in 2001 for its sequel, “Black House.” King told the Times that Straub “was a unique writer in many ways.”

“It’s a sad day because my good friend and amazingly talented colleague and collaborator, Peter Straub, has passed away,” King tweeted Tuesday. “Working with him was one of the great joys of my creative life.”

Straub’s daughter, author Emma Straub, shared memories of her own in a lengthy Twitter thread recounting his sweet tooth, love of music and kindhearted nature. She also said he supported her during the precarious early stages of her own literary career — and had inspired her at an early age.

“He was a fucking hilarious pen pal,” she tweeted Tuesday. “Sometimes he sent emails as fictional characters. When I was at summer camp, he would send me letters telling me everything that happened on All My Children. He added a lot of murders.”

From left to right: authors Stephen King, John Grisham, Peter Straub and Pat Conroy.
From left to right: authors Stephen King, John Grisham, Peter Straub and Pat Conroy.
Evan Agostini via Getty Images

Straub ironically never intended to become a luminary of the genre and began his career with two books of poetry in 1972 instead, according to Locus Mag. It was his agent who urged Straub get into “gothic fiction,” which the fledgling novelist fell into at the height of the literary horror boom.

By the time Straub published “Julia” in 1975, Ira Levin’s “Rosemary’s Baby,” William Peter Blatty’s “The Exorcist” and King’s “Carrie” had already been adapted into cinematic box-office behemoths. Straub’s first two forays into the genre ― “Julia” and “Ghost Story” ― were turned into films starring Mia Farrow and Fred Astaire, respectively.

“‘Julia’ was a novel that involved what turned out to be a ghost, so it was a horror novel,” Straub told The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in 1996. “I didn’t know much about the field at the time. I just want very much to write a novel that would make money so I wouldn’t have to get a job.”

Straub and King became friends when the latter agreed to write the blurb for “Ghost Story” and became a fan. Their first collaboration became a huge success, while its sequel sold admirably. Straub is survived by his wife, son Benjamin, brother John and his daughter.

“When I was in preschool, he would stay and hang out drawing mermaids and making up stories until my teachers kicked him out,” Emma Straub tweeted. “He was, of course, an incredible story-teller … every kid who ever came across his path got the same attention, respect, and imaginative fun.”

Over the course of his career, Straub’s books and stories won four World Fantasy Awards and nearly a dozen Bram Stoker awards, including one for life achievement. He was named a World Horror Grandmaster and an International Horror Guild living legend.

Fans and colleagues of his took to social media to share tributes of Straub and his work:

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