Posts Tagged ‘Random House Alibi’

I am a bit late with my 2015 as the first month of 2016 is rapidly coming to a close, but I still wanted to take a minute and share some of my favorite reads from this year. 2015 was a great year here at The Horror Bookshelf. The blog celebrated its one year anniversary back in April, I made some great friends, I got to take part in SFSignal’s Mind Meld feature and I had the honor of premiering a brand new story from Glenn Rolfe.

I never really made a post for The Horror Bookshelf’s first anniversary, so I wanted to just take a minute and touch on a few things before getting to my list of favorite reads for the year. I started this blog as my way of giving back to the extremely talented writers who have created the books I enjoy reading and connecting with other horror fans. In that respect, I think the first year of The Horror Bookshelf was a huge success. I am so thankful for all of the writers and publishers who reached out to me and offered me review copies and words of encouragement along the way. Without you and the books you spend so much time crafting, The Horror Bookshelf would not exist. I also want to thank anyone who has ever taken the time to read any of my reviews, interviews or guest posts. There is no greater feeling as a reviewer than introducing someone to a potentially new favorite author or a great book and I hope that by visiting this site, you have found a few.

There are so many people to thank for helping this blog become what it is today, but I wanted to take a moment to thank a few special people who have shown me a humbling amount of support since the very beginning. A huge thank you to my friends and family, Tony and Sharon at Grey Matter Press, John F.D. Taff, David Spell, Mark Matthews, Dale Elster and Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi. You have all offered me so much support and tons of encouragement when The Horror Bookshelf was getting off the ground and I will always be grateful for that. I also want to thank my beautiful wife for encouraging me to follow my dreams and for giving me that boost of confidence I need when I feel like I can’t possibly keep everything going.

I am not usually big on New Year’s Resolutions, but what the hell, I came up with some for The Horror Bookshelf anyway.

1. Read more in 2016 – This one is fairly vague and for anyone that runs a review site, it sounds borderline crazy. I read a ton of great novels in 2016, but one of my biggest regrets was that I didn’t read that many novellas, short stories or anthologies this year. I hope to change that in 2016 and also to increase the amount of novels I read in a year.

2. Get more organized – I am notorious for my poor organizational habits, but I have already made some progress by using a planner (that my wife made me buy) to help me keep track of all my upcoming reviews, interviews and features. This may be the most mundane and boring resolution of the list, but it is an underrated part of keeping a review site going in my opinion.

3. Keeping the site updated more frequently – This may be the biggest challenge of them all. I am the only writer on The Horror Bookshelf and the amount of reviews I have going at any given time can be overwhelming, but I want to set a modest goal – starting in February – of posting at least once a week. Sort of on the same topic, if I owe you a review and have not posted it yet, I promise I haven’t forgotten! I appreciate every author that sends me a book for review and sometimes time gets away from me, but I promise I will get to them soon.

Here is a list of my favorite reads from 2015. I decided to go with a Top 10 for novels, a Top 5 for novellas and a Top 3 for Anthologies and Collections. Thanks for sticking with me this far and I hope you find some great new reads on this list!

1 . Brian Kirk We Are Monsters (Samhain Horror)

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2. Richard Thomas Disintegration (Random House Alibi)

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3. Ronald Malfi Little Girls (Kensington)

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4. Ania Ahlborn Behind These Walls (Gallery Books)

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5. Hunter Shea Tortures of the Damned (Kensington/Pinnacle)

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6. Jonathan Janz Wolf Land (Samhain Horror)

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7. D. Alexander Ward Blood Savages (Necro Publications)

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8. Russell James Q Island (Samhain Horror)

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9. Glenn Rolfe Blood and Rain (Samhain Horror)

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10. Kristopher Rufty Jagger (Sinister Grin Press)

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Novellas

1. John F.D. Taff The Sunken Cathedral (Grey Matter Press)

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2. Kealan Patrick Burke Sour Candy (Self-published)

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3. Glenn Rolfe Abram’s Bridge (Samhain Horror)

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4. Adam Howe Gator Bait (Comet Press)

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5. Matt Manochio Twelfth Krampus Night (Samhain Horror)

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Anthologies and Collections

1. Savage Beasts (Grey Matter Press)

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2. Todd Keisling Ugly Little Things – Volume One (Precipice Books)

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3. Tony Knighton Happy Hour and Other Philadelphia Cruelties (Crime Wave Press) 

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disintegration

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Random House Alibi

Length: 223 Pages

Release Date: May 26, 2015

eARC provided by Random House Alibi and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

While straight up horror will probably always be my first love, I have come to enjoy neo-noir in large part thanks to the stellar anthology Richard Thomas put together for Dark House Press, The New Black. So, when I was offered a chance to review Thomas’ latest novel Disintegration, I jumped at the opportunity.

Disintegration tells the story of an unnamed narrator whose life is in shambles. He lives in a spartan apartment, unsure of what day it is and dependent on a steady diet of pills and booze to help try to erase the despair that consumes him. His sole mission in life, the only thing that gets him outside of his apartment, is the jobs he receives from a mysterious Russian gangster known only as Vlad. He gives him jobs by simply sliding an envelope under his door. Before meeting Vlad, the narrator was living on the streets or in shelters like a nomad, stealing when he has to and left with barely 20 bucks in his pocket. This desperation is what makes him the perfect employee for Vlad, someone who is hardened by the crummy hand life has dealt them and willing to do things that no sane person would ever dream of.

For the purpose of this review, I will give the narrator the name of “Everyman”, a name he himself uses when describing his occupation. Everyman is a hit-man of sorts, though not all of his targets end up dead necessarily. He dresses in an inconspicuous way, blending into any social situation, the sort of person you wouldn’t be able to notice if you tried. And yet, he bears markings that instantly tell his life story and seem to serve as a total disregard to his own rule. He is covered in tattoos – black letters on his knuckles, wings on his back and a variety of other seemingly random pictures. The tattoos aren’t means of self-expression or individuality, they serve as a reminder of the things he has done and the lives he has taken.

As we follow Everyman, we witness him taking on a slew of “clients” – a pedophile, a man beating his dog in public, a drunk driver responsible for killing kids. These jobs offer him an escape from the trauma that haunts his life and the chance to deal out a form of justice that was denied to him. He is content living out this life, simply getting from one day to the next until a series of unsettling events occur that make him question everything. What is real and what isn’t? Is he being double crossed? As he begins to piece together the truth about his former life and his employer, he finds himself racing against time for answers before he ends up dead.

The one thing I loved most about this novel is the complex characterization of the narrator. At first glance, he seems like a nihilistic robot, hellbent on carrying out retribution and justice. But he is more complex than that. Thomas uses brief scenes to show that Everyman was not always a hardened badass who cracks skulls for a living; he was an average Joe, someone who could have been your neighbor or relative or friend. Flashes of a suburban life, memories of tender moments with his children that he barely remembers or is actively trying to forget show he is something more than a mindless lackey taking jobs for a man he hardly knows. It is these brief snapshots of his past that get the reader to care about Everyman and his journey for the truth despite the mistakes he has made in his past.

Disintegration falls a little outside of my typical reading habits, but Thomas’ action-packed journey through the seedy underbelly of Chicago held me captivated from the first page. Thomas’ writing is lean and possesses a gritty yet poetic quality and while the novel is full of darkness, despair and violence, you can’t help but be entranced by the dark beauty of it. Disintegration’s combination of interesting characters, a mind-bending mystery and breakneck pacing make this an essential read for mystery fans. This novel will definitely stick with me for a long time and I am eagerly awaiting The Breaker, the second installment in the Windy City Dark Mystery series!

Rating: 5/5

LINKS

Richard Thomas’ Official Website

Random House Alibi’s Official Website

Purchase Disintegration on Amazon