<b>About the author</b>
<br>"Real life horror doesn't work for me," says John Peel. "It just isn't very entertaining." Perhaps that's why Peel prefers subtlety over gore, suggestion over graphic violence. YA readers who plunge into a Peel book will discover thrilling adventures involving fantastic creatures beyond their wildest dreams.<br>For example, one would never expect to stumble upon a gloomy antique store in the midst of a suburban shopping mall. Yet, in <i>Shattered</i>, Peel imagines exactly that. The store, called Dolman's Antiques, has a wizened proprietor and a collection of seemingly oddball merchandise. But as Stephanie Kirk and her unfortunate schoolmates discover, Dolman's is more than merely eccentric: it's downright evil. In the course of the story, all the objects in the store -- a hand mirror, a comb, a scarab brooch, a candlestick, a dragon statue -- will come to malevolent and murderous life, like depraved versions of the enchanted servants in "Beauty and the Beast." But the real horror lies in an inner room at the back of the store: a mirror that contains an entity hungry for life energy and determined to feed on young victims in order to get it.<br>Peel says he enjoys writing for adolescents because they are more accepting of wild, bizarre ideas such as the demonic antique shop in <i>Shattered</i>. "That's how my mind works," he laughs, "plus I have a terrible sense of humor that only that age group will accept."Peel's books are indeed characterized by irony. Snooty, rich girls like Kimberly Cullum in <i>Shattered</i> and vain, empty-headed beauties like Gina Modean in <i>Dances With Werewolves</i> get their ironic come-uppance. Kimberly is killed, appropriately enough, by an animated comb, while Gina turns into a hairy werewolf. Bad boy bullies like Brandon Murphy, a gang leader who is ripped apart by a vengeful Valkyrie in <i>Talons</i>, also learn their lessons the hard way.<br>Peel's sense of humor shines through his breezy style and quirky dialogue. In <i>Dances With Werewolves</i>, Gina, who can't stand having a pimple, is terrified by her werewolf transformation because it makes her look "so gross." In <i>Shattered</i>, at the end of a harrowing scene in which several high school students watch a girl go seemingly mad and murder her boyfriend, one of the students comments, "Bummer of a start to the day, isn't it?" A generalist with a broad knowledge of history, mythology and science, Peel also peppers his tales with what he calls a "little authentic knowledge." In <i>Dances With Werewolves</i> young readers will find lots of werewolf lore gathered from various cultures. Among the arcane facts, there's a discussion of "skinwalking," the belief that wearing the skin of an animal will transform the wearer into the animal itself.<br>In <i>Talons</i>, a thousand-year-old Viking grave is found in the cellar of a general store in Maine. In the grave, there are Rune markings, small, silver figures that look like chess men, and a decaying human skeleton bound by a silver chain. Along with the protagonist, Kari Temple, readers learn interesting bits of history and Norse mythology.<br>Yet, for all their imagination and humor, modern teen attitudes and old-fashioned high adventure, Peel's stories are also concerned with human relationships. For example, Dr. Laura Grant, the brilliant archaeologist summoned to Rafford, Maine, to investigate the Viking grave in <i>Talons</i>, may be able to interpret ancient Norse Runes, but she can't understand her own troubled daughter, Chelsea. As Kari Temple discovers, Chelsea's punk clothes and hair are not gestures of rebellion but cries for attention and love, cries that Chelsea's mother, the workaholic Dr. Grant, can't or won't recognize.<br>With more than forty titles to his credit, Peel has also written a number of science fiction and mystery novels for young people, most notably, for the <i>Star Trek: Deep Space Nine</i>; and Nickelodeon's <i>Are You Afraid of the Dark?</i> series. He prefers to consider himself a storyteller rather than a writer. "My mind works out plots very quickly and then I just pull it all together. I'll do anything that might be fun. If I haven't had fun writing it, no one will have fun reading it."
<br>1. Assign your students to research the Viking and Norse mythological references in <i>Talons</i>. What other historical myths (i.e. witches, ghosts) have provided good material for horror stories? Compare the times when the myths were believed to be real to a time when they were commonly believed to be fiction? Which do you think is more scary?<br>2. Have your students imagine a haunted mall filled with mysterious shops similar to Doman's Antiques. From what period of time would the antiques be the most scary props to use? Research commonly used items of a certain time period that might appear frightening to us today. Can you show the evolution of such devices through time which makes them look more user-friendly? (For example: electric hair dryers, electric curlers or surgical instruments)
<br>Mystery/Horror books:<br>Christopher Pike:<br>The Ancient Evil (Chain Letter 2); Die Softly; The Eternal Enemy; The Immortal; The Last Vampire; The Last Vampire 2: Black Blood; The Last Vampire 3: Red Dice; Master of Murder; Monste; Remember Me; Remember Me 2: The Return; Remember Me 3: The Last Story; The Starlight Crystal; The Wicked Heart<br>Richard Posner:<br>Can You Hear Me Scream?; Someone to Die For; Sweet Sixteen and Never Been Killed; Terror Runs Deep<br>L.J. Smith:<br> Dark Visions Trilogy: The Strange Power: Volume 1; The Possessed: Volume 2; The Passion: Volume 3. The Forbidden Game: The Hunter: Volume 1; The Chase: Volume 2; The Kill: Volume 3. Night World: Secret Vampire; Daughters of Darkness; Spellbinder; Dark Angel<br>R.L. Stine:<br>Fear Street series: Truth or Dare; Final Grade; Dead End; Secret Admirer; The Overnight; Wrong Number; Wrong Number 2. 99 Fear Street: House of Evil: The First Horror #1; The Second Horror #2; The Third Horror #3. Fear Street Super Chillers: Goodnight Kiss; Goodnight Kiss #2. Fear Street Saga: The Betrayal #1; The Secret #2; The Burning #3. Fear Street Sagas: A New Fear #1; House of Whispers #2; Forbidden Secrets #3. Fear Street Cheerleaders: The First Evil #1; The Second Evil #2; The Third Evil #3. Fear Park: The First Scream #1; The Loudest Scream #2; The Last Scream #3. The Beast.<br>Nickelodeon Tie-in:<br> Are You Afraid of the Dark series:<br>The Tale of the Sinister Statues; The Tale of the Cutter's Treasure; The Tale of the Restless House; The Tale of the Nightly Neighbors; The Tale of the Secret Mirror.<br>John Peel:<br> Maniac; Talons; Poison; Shattered; Tombstone: Dances With Werewolves <br> Louis Duncan:<br> I Know What You Did Last Summer <br> Richard Tankersly Cusick:<br> The Drifter; Help Wanted; Overdue; The Mall; The Locker; Someone at the Door.<br></b></b>