Wasteland. The Great War and the Origins of Modern Horror

Author: Poole, W. Scott

Publication Date:

October 2018



Territories Handled

World excl. English North America

Territories Sold

Audio (Blackstone)
Russia (AST)


History, Popular Culture

Wasteland. The Great War and the Origins of Modern Horror

Author: Poole, W. Scott


“[T]horoughly engrossing cultural study . . . Poole persuasively argues that the birth of horror as a genre is rooted in the unprecedented destruction and carnage of WWI . . . will make it hard for readers who haven’t considered the wartime context for horror’s emergence to forget it.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review

“The period between WWI and WWII was full of fear, submission, and gratuitous excess. Unlike Poe’s brooding supernatural horror, a new horror was born from the atrocities witnessed by French, British and German soldiers. Those who had a creative outlet, and means to exorcise what they’d witnessed began creating works of art and horror unlike anything before. Wasteland tells us how artist Otto Dix, poet T.S. Eliot, short story writer HP Lovecraft, filmmakers Fritz Lang, F.W. Murnau, Robert Weine, and James Whale created a new kind of horror from the massive death and destruction of the Great War. From Caligari to the Wolfman, Poole lays out the foundations of modern horror cinema in this wonderfully informative book. I could not get enough!” —Nicole Brinkley, Oblong Books & Music, Rhinebeck, NY

“Traversing Surrealism; German Expressionism; the writings of people such as T. S. Eliot & H. P. Lovecraft, and finally culminating in the Universal Horror films of the 1930s; W. Scott Poole’s book WASTELAND is fantastic study of how “The War To End All Wars” became the foundational event in creation of modern Horror. More than just a book for fans of Stephen King, this is a must read for everyone who wonders how and why a generation’s fear created the 21st century.” —Staff Pick, Book People, Austin, TX

“Poole’s book was as breathtaking as it was sensitive. The backdrop of bloodshed that is the Great War is almost its own character in Poole’s writing. The format with the early lives and war experiences of each man lends itself so well to the dissection of the works produced by those who returned but never really came back. The hunger for horror, the almost compulsive need to relive and re-experience the trauma, and the irrevocable mark on the landscape of our psychology and pop culture, Poole is dead on with sharp analysis and drinkable prose.” —Bethany Kibblesmith, Book Table, Oak Park, IL

“Seeking the roots of society’s fascination and obsession with horror, Poole lands on World War I. The unimaginable carnage and obliteration of life wrought by that war, according to Poole, impacted artists in their creation of horror novels and films, and, more dangerously, infected cultures, breeding Nazism, totalitarianism, and fascism.” —Mike Hare, Northshire Books, Manchester, VT

“W. Scott Poole’s Wasteland makes a simple, yet darkly powerful point: World War I created Horror as we know it today. It’s a point easily made in his depictions of the trauma suffered by shell-shocked veterans and their experience of human suffering and ruined landscapes in the war, and in his analysis of figures such as F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu and Cesare the Somnambulist from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. All told, this is an intelligent and wide-ranging profile of the long, traumatic, and ultimately formative relationship between war and horror — and if current events are any indication, it’s a timely profile too.” —Adam Mills, Raven Bookstore, Lawrence, KS

“This is a book that might appear to be geared toward fans of horror, but anyone interested in history or cultural studies will find Poole’s thorough analysis fascinating. ” —Dave Lucey, Page 158 Books, Wake Forest, NC

“Elegantly written and cogently argued, Wasteland convincingly demonstrates the modern horror genre’s origins in the great Dance of Death that was the First World War.” —David J. Skal, author of The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror

“W. Scott Poole combines smart readings of the horror classics with detailed knowledge of 20th century history, art, and literature to dig deep into the serious side of these popular entertainments. I thought I already knew the subject inside out, but Wasteland introduced me to fresh facts, new ideas, and surprising connections. This is cultural history of a very high order: intelligent, lively, and wonderfully readable.” — Christopher Bram, author of Gods and Monsters

Historian W. Scott Poole traces the confluence of history, technology, and art that gave us modern horror films and literature.

For fans of Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City or Margaret MacMillan’s Paris 1919, Scott Poole’s newest work brilliantly traces the confluence of the history, technology, and art that gave us modern horror films and literature.

The roots of modern horror are found in the First World War. It was the most devastating event to occur in the early 1900s, with 38 million dead and 17 million wounded in the most grotesque of ways, owing to the new machines brought to war. If Downton Abbey showed the ripple effect of this catastrophe above stairs, Wasteland reveals how how bloody battlefields, screaming asylums, and desolated cities and villages made their ways into the darker corners of our psyche.

Historian W. Scott Poole chronicles the era’s major figures―Freud, T.S. Eliot, H.P. Lovecraft, Wilfred Owen, Peter Lorre, David Cronenberg, and Freddy Krueger―as well as their influences. Wasteland is a surprising―but wholly convincing―perspective on horror that also speaks to the audience for history, film, and popular culture.

November 11th, 2018 is the one-hundredth anniversary of the signing of the armistice that brought World War I to a close, and a number of smart and well-received recent histories have helped us reevaluate this conflict. Now W. Scott Poole takes us behind the frontlines of battle to the dark places of the imagination where the legacy of the War to End All Wars lives on.