Posts Tagged ‘RIchard Thomas’

I am a bit late with my 2016 list as the first month of 2017 is just about over, but I still wanted to take a minute and share some of my favorite reads from this year. 2016 was a slow year for The Horror Bookshelf and I didn’t hit any of my goals that I made this time last year, but it was for a happy reason! The last few months of 2016 were some of the happiest in my life as my wife and I had our first child. The blog has slowed down considerably, but I do not plan on closing The Horror Bookshelf. I fell a bit behind, but I plan on starting 2017 off catching up on some reviews I owe and then hopefully getting back into a normal routine. I have met so many great people through this blog and it would take forever to name everyone, but I want to thank all of my friends, authors, and readers for sticking with me and offering me encouragement and support. My main goal for this site has always been to have fun, interact with other horror fans, and give back to the authors whose art has inspired me and helped me through some rough patches. That goal remains the same and I hope I can continue the blog for many more years.

Being that I fell a bit behind, some of the books featured here haven’t had their full reviews run yet, but they are on the way. I still want to recognize the authors and their works for helping make 2016 an incredible year for this horror fan. Here is a list of my favorite reads from 2016. I decided to go with a Top 15 for novels, a Top 10 for novellas and a Top 5 for Anthologies and Collections. Thanks for sticking with me this far and I hope you find some great new reads on this list!

Novels

1. Ronald Malfi The Night Parade 

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2. John C. Foster Mister White 

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3. Kristopher Rufty Desolation 

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4. Jonathan Janz Children of the Dark

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5. Justin Cronin The City of Mirrors

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6. Damien Angelica Walters Paper Tigers

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7. Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason Mayan Blue

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8. D. Alexander Ward Beneath Ash & Bone

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9. Hunter Shea The Jersey Devil

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10. Joe Hill The Fireman

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11. Kristin Dearborn Stolen Away

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12. Robert E. Dunn A Living Grave

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13. Stephen Kozeniewski Hunter of the Dead

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14. Joe Schwartz Stabco

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15. John Quick Consequences

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Novellas

1. Adam Howe Tijuana Donkey Showdown

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2. Glenn Rolfe Chasing Ghosts

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3. Josh Malerman A House At The Bottom of a Lake

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4. Mark Matthews All Smoke Rises

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5. Robert E. Dunn Motorman

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6. John F.D. Taff The Desolated Orchard

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7. Kristin Dearborn Woman in White

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9. David Bernstein Blue Demon

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10. Lucas Mangum Mania

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Anthologies and Collections

1. I Can Taste The Blood

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2. Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories

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3. Richard Thomas Tribulations

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4. Brian Moreland Blood Sacrifices

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5. Glenn Rolfe Out of Range

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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

The New Black

BOOK INFO

Publisher: Dark House Press

Length: 344 Pages

Review copy provided by editor in exchange for an honest review

The New Black is an anthology of 20 neo-noir stories edited by author Richard Thomas, who is the editor for Dark House Press and a columnist for Litreactor. I will be totally honest and admit that prior to reading Laird Barron’s stellar foreword “Eye of The Raven”, I had no idea what the neo-noir genre was all about. I had a general idea, but I didn’t have any prior experience with this genre of literature. After reading Barron’s forward and Richard Thomas’ introduction, I was eager to explore the darkness contained within the pages of The New Black.

The anthology kicks off with a bang with Stephen Graham Jones’ haunting “Father, Son, Holy Rabbit”. The story focuses on a young boy and his father as they struggle for survival in the wild during a harsh winter. The boy keeps telling him about a rabbit named Slaney, a seemingly immortal rabbit that has been feeding the boy and his father throughout their stay in the woods. It is a bleak story with an ending that will stick with you long after you finish reading.

“It’s Against The Law To Feed The Ducks” by Paul Tremblay is a portrait of a family as they spend a summer vacation together when an apocalyptic event breaks out. Everyone in the town surrounding Lake Winnipesauke seems to have disappeared without explanation. However, that is what made this story so enjoyable. Tremblay’s story is less about discovering the truth behind the apocalypse, but rather the strain the events puts on the family in what used to be an idyllic setting. As the events begin to unfold and the family shifts into survival mode, you begin to see a subtle change in the parents’ personalities. However, despite the bleak situation they find themselves in, they still manage to cling to their humanity and provide for their children and protect them from the harsh realities of their new world.

The stories in The New Black span many genres, but some of the stories do share a lot of DNA with traditional horror. There is Micaela Morrissette’s “The Familiars”, a story about a little boy and his imaginary friend. However, this imaginary friend is not like the ones you may remember from your childhood. He lives under the boy’s bed and he seems to grow from the shadows that lurk there. The boy and his friend create shadow puppets and play make-believe in the boy’s treehouse, which makes their relationship seem like a harmless childhood friendship. However, the imaginary friend seems to harbor an edge of darkness and possibly even evil.

“Dollhouse” by Craig Wallwork is a creepy tale of a girl named Darcy, who feels little fear due to her father telling her everything can be explained. Which is why none of the noises that reverberate through the family’s cottage bother her, particularly the loud bang that led her to discover the replica of her home in the attic. Despite the additions to the dollhouse every time she sneaks up to the attic to look at it and the shadow she sees moving in the attic, Darcy still clings to the idea that there is a rational explanation for everything. However, it quickly becomes clear that not everything can be explained and something sinister is lurking in Darcy’s attic.

Brian Evenson’s “Windeye” closes out The New Black and is one of my favorite stories of the collection. It focuses on a brother and sister and the closeness they shared as kids which began fading away when the brother discovers a mysterious window on the outside of their home. His sister was more detail oriented and never really notices that there is something off about the house as a whole until he leads her towards the discovery. There is one more window visible on the outside of their home than there is from the inside. This seemingly mundane discovery leads to an earth shattering revelation that impacts the pair forever. This story sort of reminded me of Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, particularly the sections that focused on The Navidson Record. There is something deeply unsettling about the discovery of a mysterious addition to your home that you can’t explain. A home is supposed to be a place that is safe and familiar and Evenson’s decision to warp that sense of security makes for a creepy read.

There is a lot of diversity to be found in The New Black, which mixes in neo-noir elements with many other genres. While I obviously enjoyed the stories that had a horror bent, a few of my favorite stories would fall into other genres. Craig Davidson’s “Rust and Bone” is a powerful story about a boxer who brawls in underground boxing matches with no rules while recounting his life story and the role boxing has played in it. The story jumps around from his current match against a hulking man named Nicodemus and his past as an up-and-coming boxer whose dreams shatter in an instant. Roy Kesey’s “Instituto” follows a man who enters a program developed for him by a mysterious group of people known only as “perfeccionadores”, who slowly begin to improve his physical appearance and possessions. However, even with all the improvements in his life, the man quickly learns that some things are more important than having flawless skin and a perfect house.

The New Black is an excellent collection and features stories from authors I am familiar with – Stephen Graham Jones, Craig Clevenger and Craig Davidson to name a few – as well as a slew of new voices I eagerly look forward to reading in the future. Some of the stories may not appeal to everyone, but the talent and diversity displayed in this collection make it a worthy addition to any dark fiction fan’s bookshelf.

Rating: 4/5

LINKS

Dark House Press Official Website 

Purchase The New Black on Amazon