The third story in the ‘Seven Deadly Pleasures’ collection is surely the creepiest, titled “Quest for Sadness.’ Though the tale went through multiple drafts, it was pretty much completed after the first run, written over the span of one snow day where we had record totals in Philadelphia in March of 1993.
It is the tale of a rich, quiet man accused of being Satan, then going on a quest to prove he is not. The more he enters the spiral, the more he sees his own darkness.
I have a cousin who gave a copy of this back to my mother and told her he couldn’t have it in his house. Students in the writing class I presented it to were baffled, stunned, and shaken. I didn’t realize the tale had this kind of impact, but I am not sorry. In the horror biz, there are things in the lexicon that will be uncomfortable to write. I didn’t see this as such. I do not believe in a myth with red skin, cloven hooves, and curved forehead horns. I believe darkness shares the light in the human heart and is human-born. I have more trouble with cop scenes (I am not one, so I don’t know the various hierarchies) and scenes of erotica (I certainly know how the moving parts work and dig working them, but scenes of the horrific come more naturally).
In all, my plea is that if one has an issue with a certain corner of horror, please try to be open-minded. Certainly do not criticize it on the grounds of its subject-matter alone, but more whether or not the author painted that particular scenario well. In horror there will be cop scenes, love scenes, death scenes, car accidents, devils, witches, warlocks, demons, ghouls, water-beasts, zombies, vampires, werewolves, and monsters. There will be killers and gore and at times, dead animals. If it shows us something about ourselves and engages thinking, the genre has won the battle the story might have lost to some readers.