Well, it’s this time of the year, a time when we all look back at the year that has just gone, and wonder, what the hell have I done with my life this last year. It’s been a funny year, made some great friends, met some great authors, got a lot of great books, and got a signed photo from the beautiful Barbie Wilde. And yet it’s also been a year of let downs, and disappointments. I have learned the hard way that not all is what it seems in the world of horror. From getting sent threatening emails because I refuse to review your book (you really don’t know me if you think that’s going to work), to dealing with so called professionals who flip the lid when you don’t publish their blog tour post, because they never sent you it in the first place. To my ever diminishing bank balance, for which I place the blame directly at the feet of Simon Marshall Jones of Spectral Press, and Ellie Wixon at Blackwells Edinburgh. STOP publishing so many great books, and stop stocking so many great books, seriously folks I can’t go into her book shop and not spend a vast sum of money, she is temptress of the first order.
As with last year, I’m going to list my favourite books of the year, not all of which I have reviewed. The books are IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER. Sadly I won’t be doing my blogs of the year as far too many of my favourite sites are now defunct. I will however be naming my Writer of The Year. this is going to be the author who in my opinion has entertained me the most this year, it’s not just about writing skill, so please don’t say that X, Y or Z have written better books. This is for the writer who has given me that special sense of joy, excitement, cheesy grin that makes you reminisces about that time when you first discovered the joys of horror fiction. Can you guess who it is yet?
Stay tuned for the first instalment proper.
LAST DAYS by Adam Nevill
This is an easy one. Out of all the horror books I read each year, very few of them actually invoke any sense of fear. To be honest that’s not why I read horror. If there is one author who never fails to induce a feeling of fear, and at times downright terror it is Adam Nevill. Last Days, is a novel that will have jumping at shadows, brilliantly written, and terrifying to boot.
WHAT GETS LEFT BEHIND by Mark West
As a counterpoint to Adam Nevill’s ability to scare me, Mark West has an amazing ability to induce a feeling of sadness, and on a couple of occasions actual tears. Mark’s subtle tales of the supernatural always have a strong emotional core to them. I like to think of Mark as the heart of horror, and this story in particular set partially in the present and in the 1980’s manages to evoke a huge feeling of loss and nostalgia. Emotionally written this story shows that horror has a range of styles that most people don’t give the genre credit for.
The Concrete Grove by Gary McMahon
I’m going to cheat slightly here and combine the final two Concrete Grove novels into one entry. The Concrete Grove novels is a trilogy of seperate but but connected novels, all based around the haunted Concrete Grove housing estate. These books are amazing, the way in which Gary elicits feelings of shock and awe in the reader is joy to behold. The horror in these novels come as much from the horrors of living in a run down and squalid housing estate as it it does from the supernatural terrors. The Grove is inhabited by some truly horrendous people, to be honest there very few “heroes” to be found here. The residents of the Grove are in the main self centred, desperate, and in certain instances the vilest examples of human life imaginable. And yet you cannot help getting drawn into their lives. These books are hard hitting emotional journeys, that clearly come from a writer who pours his heart and soul into each novel.
The Croning by Laird Barron
For quite some time I had seen Laird’s name being bandied about by a lot of authors, that I respect, as a major talent. And going by this effort they are not far wrong. This is a beautifully written novel, with elements of Lovecraft, fairy tales and moments of pure terror.
From the brilliant opening reworking of Rumpelstiltskin you know as a reader you are in for a treat. One of the ways in which this books works so well is the way in which it changes pace, in the hands of a lesser author, the “quite character building” sections would seem tiresome, but Laird’s excellent use of characterisation in these passages, just adds to the overall experience of the novel. This is a novel that aims high, and hits bullseye dead centre
Wolfsangel by M.D. LACHLAN
I have to admit that I am very limited when it comes to my genre of choice. I’m a horror man through and through, and yet every now and then I do get bored of the genre, and when this happens I put on my goatskin boots and trundle on over to the fantasy genre. The last time this happened I was more than pleasantly surprised to discover the joys of Wolfsangel. To call this a fantasy novel would do it a great disservice, as it crosses most imagined genre boundaries, this is as much a horror story as it is a fantasy, with a great sid salad of real historical settings. The way in wich Lachlan combines all of these elements into one blockbuster of a novel is a sheer joy to read.
The Hoard By Allan Ryker
In a genre full of carbon copy books and cookie cutter plots, it is always rewarding to discover a book that tries to bring something else to the table. Alan Ryker achieves this by bringing a rather unusual monster to the table, in this desolate and bleak story.
The Venus Complex by Barbie Wilde
They say you should never judge a book by it’s cover. I saw you should never judge a book by its author. Take a look at Barbie Wilde, go on Google her if you don’t know what she looks like. Now there is no way in hell you would think she would be capable of committing to paper a novel so full of rage, and anger, but she has done. This brilliant look into the mind of a serial killer, is full of poetic anger, and beautiful vitriolic ranting, that it makes you wonder from which pit of hell the lovely Barbie came from. In a genre saturated with bland serial killers, and even blander plots, this book shines out like a beacon.
The Faceless by Simon Bestwick
This was the first book that I started in 2012, it it set the bar extremely high for the rest of year. Simon’s story is another brilliant example of gritty and grimy British horror, don’t go looking for a handsome hero in this book, you won’t get it. What you will get is a cast of characters that feel as though they live on your street, some of them you’ll like and others you will loathe, and therein lies one of Simon’s great strengths as a writer. And when you combine that with a suspensful, and at times nerve shattering narrative you have a winning novel.
Thy Fearful Symmetry by Richard Wright
This is perhaps not the best book to be raving about in the run up to Friday, what with the world coming to end. I love apocalyptic fiction, and I love apocalyptic fiction that has religious undertones. In this novel the end of the world is brought about when two angels fall in love. This forbidden love brings about the End of Days.
With Thy Fearful Symmetry, Richard Wright has crafted a novel that can stand proud against the best of what this genre has produced. This is an evocative, detailed boo full of nice concepts and a well thought out mythos. This is a novel that aims high and hits the mark dead on.
If you can’t wait until Friday, to get your fix of Armageddon then this book is perfect for you.
Continuum by Tim Dry
I don’t read many biographies don’t ask me why this is, as I couldn’t tell you why this is. And as to why I decided to read this one I just don’t know. All I can say is I am glad I did. To many of you out there Star Wars, and too a lesser extent, Xtro, will have a warm place in your heart. These films both invoke memories of a time that was so much simpler, a time where the world still felt as though it was full of wonder.
Tim Dry’s excellent biography which details his time as one of the aliens in Star Wars, is one of the warmest, and funny biographies I have ever read. Tim’s book will transport you right back to your childhood, full of witty recollections, this book can’t help but bring a smile to your face.