Having only started contributing to the Ginger Nuts website for a little over half a year, the general impression you might get is that I haven’t really read that much. Six or so book reviews doesn’t exactly indicate a quick reader now does it? The truth of the matter is that whilst I have read a shed load of books this year not all were horror and more than half were not published this year. If I did a full breakdown on all the great books I’ve read this year then this list would easily be three or four times the size so I think I’ll concentrate on the ones published this year.
It also doesn’t help that whilst being a quick reader this is counteracted by me being abysmally slow when it comes to writing reviews. Writing this “Best of” allows me to redress that, so without further ado, and in absolutely no discernible order whatsoever, here are the ones that really caught my attention and floated my horror boat this year.
Mr. Suicide (Word Horde; Nicole Cushing)
The depiction of madness and mental health instability has always been a tricky proposition for authors but Nicole Cushing’s Mr. Suicide is a startling and jarring portrayal of a young boy’s spiraling descent into psychosis from the inside looking out. The product of an abusive and controlling household, at first he must contend with the voice of Mr. Suicide urging him on to end it all but then things get infinitely worse when he encounters a new voice, The Great Dark Mouth. This is a really quite disturbing horror novel with one of the most interesting representations of how one might perceive reality should you be completely removed from it with “Plastic Vision”. A jarring and discordant style pervades the book which left me at times feeling destabilized, unclean and grimy from reading it. I am most definitely going to be reading more of Cushing’s work.
April Moon Books is one of those small print publishers that consistently produce top quality books that barely raise a murmur in the horror community and for the life of me I cannot understand why. The second collaboration with respected genre editor Brian M. Sammons, this is a riotously good selection of 16 bloody, raw and beautiful stories covering the full spectrum of shape shifters accompanied by evocative sketches from April Moon head honcho, Neil Baker. Look out for April Moon Books tribute to all things Hammer and Amicus in 2016, Spawn of the Ripper.
Savage Beasts (Grey Matter Press, Edited by Anthony Rivera and Sharon Lawson)
Much like my introduction to April Moon Books, Grey Matter Press is a publisher who once you have tasted you’ll start finding yourself going back to again and again. Reflecting the diverse beauty of music and its’ power to inspire and shape thoughts, Savage Beasts is a barnstorming collection of 11 excellent horror and dark fiction short stories with a diverse and stylish array of writing talent. From the atmospheric and moody opener through to tales of revenge, orchestral war and insect revolution and beyond, this is a class act all the way. After reading this, I went out and bought more of Grey Matter Press’ anthologies and to be honest, their previous anthologies are just as good as this.
Rich Hawkins’ follow up to the BFS nominated The Last Plague and the first of two appearances in this year’s list is a lean and mean slice of post apocalyptic horror set in the shattered remnants of human civilization. A tighter and more focused approach than its predecessor, this follows one man’s solitary and desperate existence to find some modicum of respite and peace in a brutal world where humanity has become prey for the Infected. A taut, unremittingly bleak and dark novel with shades of cosmic horror this is a fantastic read. Watch out for the conclusion of the trilogy in 2016, The Last Soldier.
Painted Monsters (Word Horde; Orrin Grey)
The second title from Word Horde is Orrin Grey’s magnificent second collection of short stories, “Painted Monsters & Other Strange Beats”. Whereas its predecessor, Never Bet the Devil and Other Warnings was an eclectic mix of stories and topics, this is a collection reflecting Grey’s obvious passion for all things monstrous and horrific alongside nods to celluloid and literature influences. Worth the admission price for the title story alone, this is a cracking collection of short stories that play around with its interpretations of monster staples to produce a fine selection of creepy and atmospheric stories. So whether you have an interest in zombies, devils, cosmic horrors or just monsters in general, make a beeline for this man’s writing, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
A young man strapped up with explosives walks into a church and holds the congregation to account with a simple demand, “I would like to talk to God.” And so begins Kit Power’s debut novel, GodBomb, a terse and tense novel about religion, thought and choice. I first came across Kit’s writing in The Black Room Manuscripts and, much like that story there this novel crackles with energy and panache. An electrifying debut, the quick cutting between multiple and distinctive personalities and perspectives heightens the tension and leads to some beautifully wrought moments of psychological horror.
Duncan Ralston’s debut collection of short fiction, Gristle & Bone, is a cracking collection of well observed and nuanced character driven stories interspersed with moments of teeth grinding and gut wrenching horror. Covering possession, obsession, cannibalism, urban myths and shape shifting amongst other things, this is just a great collection of short stories brimming with style.
Grau’s debut collection of fourteen new and republished pieces of fiction ably demonstrated why you lucky readers should be excited about the wonderful world of horror and weird fiction. I have said it before and I will say it again that I truly believe that the genre is currently experiencing a bit of a renaissance in terms of the breadth and quality of writing. The Nameless Dark is a prime example of this. Over the course of his collection, Grau presents an assured, confident and intelligent approach to traditional horror tenets such as cosmic horror, serial killers, werewolves and myths and weaves them into new forms that feel fresh and inventive. If you like stories with style, panache, solid characterization and damn it, just great storytelling, this is as good a place to start as any.
The debut collection from Damien Angelica Walters, Sing Me Your Scars, was one of the rare moments this year where I found words failed me in trying to describe how amazing someone’s writing and storytelling ability actually is. From the opening title story through to “Like Origami in Water”, this collection of nineteen intensely dark and emotionally raw stories is a demonstration of how good horror writing can be. I could sit here and write words such as mesmerizing, magical, terrifying, haunting, painful, traumatic and beautiful and they still wouldn’t be able to convey an iota of its excellence. If ever there were a clearer demonstration of horror fiction being in a creative renaissance, Sing Me Your Scars is it.
The second April Moon Book and Rich Hawkins appearance on the list, Black Star Black Sun, is an excellent cosmic horror themed novella that deals with loss and despair to great effect and my initial introduction to his writing. Just sublime in its execution and with an ending that really kicks you in the gut this is top notch horror writing.
As an introduction to the delights of the independent horror scene and the vast array of writing talent out there in the world, this anthology from the Sinister Horror Company was a real delight. A balanced approach with a wide array of different interpretations and styles as to what represents horror in 2015; the book was an absolute blast from beginning to end and served as a doorway to explore more of what horror writers lurk out there in the darkness.
I initially started this look back at 2015 with a huge list of books that I wanted to wax lyrical about but to be honest time, health and a complete lack of discipline on my own behalf prevented me from writing about them here. Some were not released this year, some were and quite a few are definitely earmarked for a write up. So think of this as an addendum to the above, only with less detail.
With a Voice that is Often Confused But is Becoming Ever Louder (Createspace; J.R. Hamantaschen); Reinheit (Forsaken; Thomas S. Flowers); The Dwelling ( Limitless Publishing LLC; Thomas S. Flowers); The Art of Horrible People (Lazy Fascist Press, John Skipp); Animals (Crossroad Press; John Skipp & Craig Spector); Class Three & Class Four (The Sinister Horror Company; Duncan Bradshaw); The Darkly Splendid Realm (Dark Regions Press; Richard Gavin); Dead Leaves (Boo Boo Books; Andrew David Barker); Dystopia & Scars and Other Distinguishing Features (Crossroad Press; Richard Christian Matheson); Gateways to Abomination ( Createspace; Matthew M Bartlett); The Immortal Body (Horrific Tales Publishing; William Holloway); Never Bet the Devil & Other Warnings (Evileye Books; Orrin Grey); Ominous Realities: The Anthology of Dark Speculative Horrors (Grey Matter Press; edited by Anthony Rivera and Sharon Lawson); Sweat & Blood: Sharp Short Stories (Shadow Work Publishing; Duncan Ralston); Within the Wind, Beneath the Snow (Spectral Press; Ray Cluely); The Children of Old Leech: A Tribute to the Carnivorous Cosmos of Laird Barron (Word Horde; edited by Ross Lockhart); Burnt Black Suns: A collection of Weird Stories (Hippocampus Press; Simon Strantzas); The Wide Carnivorous Sky and Other Monstrous Geographies (Hippocampus Press; John Langan)
Yeah that about covers it apart from saying that the much trumpeted return of the Hell Priest deserves a category all of its own but seeing as New Year is just around the corner let me just refer to it as Clive Barker’s Marmite. And so my first year contributing to the Ginger Nuts of Horror draws to a close and I have to say it has been a total blast. What will next year bring? More books, definitely more reviews, maybe some articles and interviews, maybe even some of that writing stuff that seems to be part of a Ginger Nuts contributors’ DNA. So, to all of you lovely horror writers, authors, publishers, contributors, filmmakers and fans I will raise a glass and bid you better days! Cheers!