Is corn scary? It is a rather bizarre plant. It grows tall and fast and has vaguely human qualities, like corn-silk hair and ears.
But before King conjured the Children of the Corn, author/actor Thomas Tryon‘s built Harvest Home (1973), a rural-gothic horror novel that was a major influence not only on King, but appears to have helped shaped the work of T.E.D Klein’s The Ceremonies, and Ira Levin’s novels of the occult.
Set in the fictional corn-fed farming community of Cornwall Coombe, Connecticut, Harvest Home offers a familiar set-up. Narrator Ned Constantine and his wife Beth are fed up with life in New York City, so they take their teenage daughter and move to the country. The Constantines fall in love with country living (for a while) and embrace Cornwall Coombe’s quirky traditions. But, as Tryon notes, sometimes simple beliefs hide wicked and troubling superstitions.
There’s a groovy ‘70s feel to Harvest Home. Like Happy Days, Harvest Home was created in the early ‘70s but reflects a simpler time in American culture. The novel has a cozy movie-of-the-week feel to it as well, which adds to the ’70s vibe. In fact, Harvest Home was made into an NBC mini-series in 1978 called The Dark Secrets of Harvest Home.
Harvest Home is presented more as a gothic mystery than a straight-up horror novel. Tryon’s tome is dulled a bit by time—and by forty years of rip-offs and imitators —but it still manages to hit all the right notes, especially during the racy climax and grimly satisfying Epilogue. Harvest Home finishes strong, and there are not many novels you can honestly say that about.