I’m carrying on with the ‘tradition’ started in 2011, but forgotten entirely last year, of handing out a few bouquets to those whose literary endeavours impressed me the most in the preceding twelve months.
To repeat what I said before:-
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 2014, 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 in the past, 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 Three by Sarah Lotz
The best novel I read in 2014 was The Anthologist by the wonderful Nicholson Baker, closely followed by Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, but as both of those were published well before 2014 the gold goes to Sarah Lotz. The list of close contenders would include Dark Father by James Cooper, The Race by Nina Allan, The Unquiet House by Alison Littlewood, Nyctophobia by Christopher Fowler, and Murder by Sarah Pinborough.
Best Novella – The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley & Prisoner 489 by Joe R. Lansdale
As when I last did this exercise, I’m declaring a tie in the novella category as I can’t decide between Whiteley’s insightful tale of sexual politics and the gonzo storytelling of Lansdale. Other novellas that I thought particularly notable last year, include Autumn in the Abyss by John Claude Smith (from the collection of the same name), The Last Mile by Tim Waggoner, Drive by Mark West, In the Light by S. P. Miskowski, and Strange Fruit by James Cooper. And a special shout out to my two absolute favourite novellas, both of which were published prior to 2014, The Ritual of Illusion by Richard Christian Matheson and Differently There by John Llewellyn Probert. It was a good year for novellas.
Best Short Story – ‘Skullpocket’ by Nathan Ballingrud
Nathan Ballingrud’s story of the ghoul next door blew me away when I read it in the Datlow edited anthology Nightmare Carnival. It’s beautifully written, blackly comedic and enormous fun, from first word to last, and I simply didn’t want it to end. Other stories that rocked my world in 2014 include Priya Sharma’s ‘The Firebrand’ (also from Nightmare Carnival), ‘The Night Just Got Darker’ by Gary McMahon, ‘Water for Drowning’ by Ray Cluley, ‘This Many’ by S. P. Miskowski, ‘And the Children Followed’ by Richard Hirst, and ‘Little Devils’ by Thana Niveau. There may be others I should mention, but off the top of my head and at this moment right now, those are the ones that come to mind.
Best Collection – The Lord Came At Twilight by Daniel Mills
I read twenty nine short story collections in 2014, but the great majority were published before the year began. Out of those that remain, Mills’ debut collection was the one that pleased me most. Also in contention, Mercy and Other Stories by Rebecca Lloyd, Here With the Shadows by Steve Rasnic Tem, and The Bright Day Is Done by Carole Johnstone
Best Anthology – Nightmare Carnival edited by Ellen Datlow
This one was a no-brainer. Ellen Datlow’s carnival themed anthology was streets ahead of any other anthology I read in 2014, with another offering from her, The Cutting Room, the only volume that came close.
Best UK & Ireland Small Press – Swan River Press
Other than TTA, it goes without saying. Swan River publish distinctive and beautiful books, and with seven titles released in 2014, including collections by Steve Rasnic Tem and John Howard, a short novel by R. B. Russell, plus their first anthology and two issues of The Green Book, a journal devoted to the Irish Gothic tradition, this has to be their most productive year yet. I can’t fault them for the quality of either their written content or production values, while I find their respect for the traditions of the field, particularly as regards the work of J. Sheridan Le Fanu, to be wholly admirable. I only wish they’d start producing paperback or eBook editions for those of us on a budget. Kudos also to Tartarus, Spectral, Alchemy, Gray Friar, Telos, and NewCon, who all had good years.
NB: No stories or novellas published by TTA Press were considered in the writing of this blog post.