You may not know American horror writer Bentley Little by name but his work is on par, if not even better, than many of his contemporaries in the genre. He has written 27 novels, most recently The Handyman, published in October 2017, and unlike some gothic, suspense or thriller writers, he is best categorized as the "Best Outright Horror Novelist" (according to Stephen King on EW.com). This is a pretty bold declaration in the literary world that perhaps doesn't give true horror its due.
Without any movie or tv show adaptations, or really any hoopla surrounding Little, his works were completely unknown to me until Audible recommended The Haunted. The haunted house story is riveting with terrifying visuals and the tormented family in the middle react reasonably and smartly and unlike their movie counterparts (sure lets follow that weird moan into the dark attic where the one hanging light bulb is not working).
Next, I devoured The Influence which is a deep dive into a surreal nightmare where reversals of fortune and nature is remixed by some giant unseen force. It's lurid and horrifying in that Clive Barker way, but more epic in tone like King's work.
In The Handyman, a man must come to face the truth about that friendly man down the street. It's emotionally resonant work about loss and revenge intermixed with an unexpected supernatural angle. This is one of his most cinematic works with broad visuals – you can almost see the sweeping camera work!
Little gets right to the point in his books and there is little flowery prose or excessive exposition to prolong what horror readers want: terror, mayhem and monsters! They are not plot heavy and usually written in a straight-forward fashion without much use of gimmicky plot devices (flash backs, flash forwards, red herrings, holdbacks). He tells his stories with confidence and allows his fully realized characters to stand on two feet. The settings are so common that you hardly notice that the horror has creeped in and the atmosphere of dread permeates every page. It's the kind of tense horror that is unpredictable, wildly surreal, and often really dark. It's like those quiet nightmares you dare not even acknowledge in the light of day. This all makes for a terrifying, fun and entertaining read.
The next time you need a palate cleanser after reading one of King's mercilessly long tomes, consider Bentley Little. He is definitely a hidden gem that will please horror readers and deserves a wider audience.