I had sent my list of top five favorite horror books of 2015 to Ginger Nuts of Horror before learning that the site’s owner had kicked me out, so rather than let it languish unpublished, I am presenting this list here.
Well, maybe that metaphor doesn’t work so well. Anyhow, here are my top five horror books of the year:
- 5) My Early Crimes by Paolo Di Orazio: This anthology of stories about children and murder was uniquely horrifying, both for the subject matter and the skill the author displayed at telling each tale. Every story worked on some level, making the reading experience a long, agonizing squirm. As the father of a little boy, I found the author’s ability to put the reader into the minds of disturbed and victimized children particularly disquieting.
- 4) Joe Coffin: Season One by Ken Preston: If you think you’re vampired out after reading the classics, Joe Coffin is a breath of fresh, coppery air. Each character had depth, making you care about even the most worthless ones (Tom in particular): they read as real as you or me. Everything everyone did had an effect on the plot and the other characters, adding complexity to a story about a vampire outbreak in Birmingham, England.
- 3) The Scarlet Gospels by Clive Barker: While I wrote long paragraphs of criticism about this novel, I still very much enjoyed it; a notion that might have gotten lost in the flurry of mediocre reviews it received. Barker took a movie figure we all knew and loved, reclaimed him, and gave him a history and homeland all his own. The Hell of The Scarlet Gospels really wasHell, and not just some nightmarish dimension. I hope and pray we’ll see more stories about Harry D’Amour, the dead, and the vastly changed world Barker created in future works.
- 2) Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet by Adam Howe: Three novellas, three visions of hard-boiled horror. The less said about the title story the better: read it with a fresh eye and you’ll thank me later…once you stop ralphing. Gator Baitreally puts you into the setting, making you dirty and sweaty and hoping against hope everything will turn out all right. Damn Dirty Apes is absolutely hysterical, with lines you’ll repeat to yourself later and laugh about when nobody’s around. Howe knows his pacing, keeping you on the edge of your seat the whole read through.
- 1) Stuck on You and Other Prime Cuts by Jasper Bark: Not since reading Clive Barker’s Books of Blood in the late 1980’s have I found a short story collection that’s as fresh, horrifying, and consistently imaginative as Jasper Bark’s work. They say that the greatest torturers are the most empathetic, and Bark proves this: he knows people inside and out, and is able to describe humanity’s pathos and absurdity with equal expertise. These are stories that will stay with you for a long time…perhaps forever.