I have loved and read horror since I cracked open my first (age appropriate) horror anthology in 3rd or 4th grade. Librarians in Michigan, Idaho, Ohio and Washington shuddered every time I walked in to their libraries, because they knew that if it had the most lurid, awful cover in the library, it would wind up in my stack. But pretty much the pinnacle of my horror reading as an adolescent was the Zebra Publishing horror imprint. I’ve done some googling, and I think they’re an imprint or subsidiary of Kensington Books, they still have a romance imprint under the Zebra name, and they quit publishing horror in 1996, but in the 80s? Oh yeah…
I knew if I saw one of those impressed, hologram graced covers, that I was in for some of the best (to my teenaged brain), sexiest horror EVAR!! That’s right, these books had some of the most explicit sex scenes I’d ever read, some of the first explicit sex scenes I’d ever read, and I’d been sneaking my mom’s romance novels for years. William W. Johnstone’s Sweet Dreams, was I think one of the first fictional accounts of anal sex I ever read. Followed up shortly by the pseudo S&M/torture scene in The Nursery.
Pretty much, if you could find a horror novel with the Zebra insignia on the spine, you could be assured that something supernatural was going to messily kill a LOT of people, and there was going to the sexins… dirty, dirty sexins. And for some reason, my mom never figured that out. I guess I can see that in part. There was never anything sexy on the covers. Usually there was a child, or a evil toy, or an evil animal.
Every so often I find these in used bookstores, and I think really hard about picking them up again. But I’m afraid they won’t stand up to a re-reading, after years of reading real porn, and more intellectual horror. You can find them pretty easily in used bookstores. Johnstone was a prolific author. Ruby Jean Jensen was another perennial Zebra horror author, as was Stephen George. Amazon, through their Z-stores, has a fair number of these books available, if you feel like revisiting the heyday of 1980s horror.
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