Pete’s Picks for 2012 – Part One

I’m carrying on with the tradition started last year, of handing out a few bouquets to those whose literary endeavours impressed me the most in the preceding twelve months, albeit I’m doing it about three weeks later than last year.

I’ll repeat this post on the Case Notes blog at TTA in a couple of days, but for the moment it will appear exclusively here, because Trumpetville needs the traffic more than TTA.

To repeat what I said last year:-

I should emphasise that, given how far behind I am with actually reviewing books and other demands on my time, I haven’t read everything that was published in the horror genre in 2011, in fact only a fraction of it. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive summary, check out the introductions given by Ellen Datlow and Stephen Jones in their respective Year Best anthologies. The works named here are simply those I consider the best of what I personally have read – Pete’s picks are not meant to be definitive.

Okay, same categories as last year, and the three or four people who have been following this blog throughout the year , will have guessed most of the winners already.

Best Novel – The Faceless by Simon Bestwick

The best novel I read in 2012 was Knock Knock by S. P. Miskowski, but as that was published earlier the gold goes to Simon Bestwick. The closest contenders were Motherless Child by Glen Hirshberg and Deadfall Hotel by Steve Rasnic Tem, both of which were better written, but in terms of gripping plot and the predominant themes, Bestwick’s howl of outrage at the futility and cruelty of warfare was more to my taste. I’m actually quite surprised to discover how few novels I read this year, and which ones I haven’t as yet caught up with. This time next year I’ll probably be saying how the best book I read in 2013 was Fifty Shades of Grey, only to then give the laurel for Best Novel to some less deserving title.

Best Novella – Delphine Dodd by S. P. Miskowski & The Architect by Brendan Connell

I’m going to declare a tie in this category, as I can’t choose between the humanity and compassion of the Miskowski and Connell’s relentless invention with its merciless commentary on human nature. Other novellas that I thought particularly notable last year, include The Respectable Face of Tyranny by Gary Fry and The Nine Deaths of Dr. Valentine by John Llewellyn Probert, both from Spectral Press, and Sandy DeLuca’s Reign of Blood.

Best Short Story – ‘Us, After the House Came Back’ by Felicity Dowker

To repeat what I said last year, “this category should be called ‘Best Short Story Not Published in Black Static’ as obviously even our worst is better than anyone else’s best, but it would be reprehensible and self-evidentially biased to take BS stories into consideration”. I loved Felicity Dowker’s story the first time I read it, and the feeling has stayed with me; it’s a heartbreaking and yet ultimately uplifting tale of domestic abuse that put me in mind of the best work of Gary Braunbeck. Other stories that rocked my world in 2012 include ‘The Modern Stone Age’ by Luke Geddes, ‘Pigs’ by Thana Niveau and ‘The Gone-Away Girl’ by Gary McMahon.

Best Collection – I Am a Magical Teenage Princess by Luke Geddes

The best collections I read in 2012 were Onion Songs by Steve Rasnic Tem, but that isn’t officially out until March 2013, and Bluegrass Symphony by Lisa L. Hannett, which appeared in 2011, so that leaves the Geddes as last man standing. Strictly speaking it isn’t horror, but it has moments of horror and is wacky enough to appeal to a broad church, the work characterised by an off the wall sense of humour and ability to show us ourselves in another light. For other notable collections of 2012, I’d tag Bread & Circuses by Felicity Dowker, Tales of The Weak & The Wounded by Gary McMahon, From Hell to Eternity by Thana Niveau and Peel Back the Sky by Stephen Bacon, the last two from Gray Friar Press.

Best Anthology – Dadaoism: An Anthology edited by Justin Isis & Quentin S. Crisp

I didn’t read many anthologies in 2012 that were actually published in 2012, but this was the best of those that I did. Perhaps not as consistent as some of the others, and a few stories that didn’t agree with me at all, but the best – work by Peter Gilbert, Julie Sokolow and Isis himself – were superb. The only other anthology in contention was Where Are We Going? edited by Allen Ashley, but Dadaoism took more risks, and that clinched it as far as I’m concerned.

Best UK Small Press – Chômu Press

Other than TTA, it goes without saying. Chômu take the prize for second year running. Though they couldn’t match the thirteen titles that they released in 2011, Chômu still had a productive year with seven books set loose into the wild, among them their first anthology and their first release from a female author.  Their catalogue remains agreeably quirky, with stuff that won’t appeal to everyone and books that would have had a hard time finding a publisher if not for Chômu, with quality the key ingredient in all their projects. And, as I commented last year, I welcome their open door submission policy (even if they are currently closed to submissions) and willingness to go for an audience with competitively priced PoD and e-formats. Kudos also to Tartarus, Eibonvale, Spectral, Swan River, Egaeus, and especially Gray Friar, who after a slow start rallied strongly in the second half of 2012 with four excellent titles.

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3 Responses to Pete’s Picks for 2012 – Part One

  1. Pingback: Best of 2012: The Architect « Oxygen

  2. Thank you. I’m thrilled to be in such illustrious company.

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