Peter (Francis) Straub Critical Essays


Peter (Francis) Straub 1943–

American novelist and poet.

Straub's novels of horror and suspense are characterized by the relentless influence of supernatural forces upon unsuspecting human victims. The resulting violence is recounted in unsparing detail. Unreal elements are placed in ordinary settings, thereby enhancing the atmosphere of horror.

Julia (1975) was Straub's first attempt at horror in a career which began with two volumes of poetry and a mainstream novel. It is a ghost story, full of ambiguities, unanswered questions, appearances without realities, and similar Gothic twists. The graphic scenes of evil and violence in this novel have become common throughout his subsequent works: If You Could See Me Now (1977), Ghost Story (1979), Shadowland (1980), and Floating Dragon (1982). Murder and mutilation are standard and evil often triumphs.

Critics acknowledge Straub's narrative skill and credit the appeal of his stories to the popular fascination with the supernatural. Some note, however, his over-detailed, at times repetitive style and his frequently slow pace.

(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 85-88.)