When I want a good, escapist read in the fantasy/horror genre, I tend to go to Dean Koontz before Stephen King. King gets awfully wordy -- he's so successful he can tell his editors "no thanks; hands off" -- and Koontz still knows how to keep a story moving. Besides, he's a wry observer of the human condition and at at times a gloomy moralist. In a Koontz book, you're likely occasionally to stumble across a passage that says what you always knew but couldn't articulate. That's the way I felt on reading this paragraph in his "The Darkest Evening of the Year" from 2007:
Dogs' lives are short, too short, but you know that going in. You know the pain is coming, you're going to lose a dog, and there's going to be great anguish, so you live fully in the moment with her, never fail to share her joy or delight in her innocence, because you can't support the illusion that a dog can be your lifelong companion. There's such beauty in the hard honesty of that, in accepting and giving love while always aware that it comes with an unbearable price. Maybe loving dogs is a way we do penance for all the other illusions we allow ourselves and for the mistakes we make because of those illusions."
If you think that's romantic tripe, just be aware that Koontz is often as cynical about humans as he is sentimental about dogs. "The Darkest Evening of the Year" includes some of the most cold-blooded killers you will ever meet, including a depraved woman who calls herself Moongirl and commits an act so monstrous that it epitomizes the real horror that can be found in life.