Ginger Nuts of Horror
This has been a busy year for me. For practically the whole year we have been critically understaffed at work. Which for me meant long hard shifts, which in turn left very little time for quality reading. Luckily this has been a bumper year novellas. I think over the last year novellas have become my favourite format for horror books. A great novella can take the best ideas of a horror novel and distill tthm down into one punchy yet extremely satisfying read.
So read on for my picks of this years horror novellas.
Gary Mcmahon is without a doubt one of the finest horror authors to come out of the UK. His novels and short stories are dark, dangerous dramas, populated with real people. The way in which he grounds his supernatural horror within the realms of real life horror borders on the work of genius.
With Nightsiders, Gary takes this one stage further to create a dark and twisted novella of paranoia, isolation and dislocation. Nightsiders has been described as a meta horror, I'm still not quite sure what that means, but this twisted and at times surreal novella is an example of a writer at the top of their game.
Stephen Volk is a legend, he is probably best known for the TV programme Ghost Watch, now some of you may not be aware that he is also a first class writer of prose. And this novella, which details a fictional encounter between Peter Cushing and a real monster is one of the most beautifully written horror stories.
Stephen has captured the essence of Peter Cushing so completely that this fictional story reads like it is straight from one of Cushings memoirs. St in the period directly after the death of Peter's wife, Stephen Volk's descriptions of a man distraught from the loss of the most important thing in his life, will not fail to bring a tear to eye.
Whitstable is the one book this year that embodies the heart and soul of horror
Gardener Goldsmith's Bite, is another kettle of fish entirely. This punchy, down and dirty novella that mashes a classic Noir narrative with vampires was one of my favourite discoveries of the last year.
This hugely entertaining novella narrated by a hard hitting vampire hunter, will have you reaching for a duster and glass of whiskey as it takes you on a brilliant, fast paced, energetic ride down the dark alleyways of horror fiction. If you are looking for a great vampire story to get your teeth into, you can't get much better than this.
There are some authors, who have a particular style of writing, and in the case of William Meikle, here is an author whose stories have never failed to entertain me. Willie has a gift for writing stories that don't just entertain, they also manage to bring a big big joyous smile to your face. So when he tries to write a totally different type of story initially you become a little concerned.
Clockwork Dolls, forgoes Willie's usual tale of high adventure, and derring do, and replaces it with a dark claustrophobic, and thoughtful story that takes a interesting look at fate and double edge sword of destiny. This is a gripping and tense story that shows depth and breadth of Willie's writing talents to perfection.
I love horror, but I hate the connotations that the word brings up to those who are not fans. And like every other book in this list, Tim Lebbon's Still Life, is a fantastic example of what horror is capable off. Still Life, is probably best described as a science fiction / fantasy hybrid, however the feelings and emotions stirred up by narrative are those normally associated with those of a supernatural story.
The sense of a small towns isolation after an invasion from an unnamed alien source, although we are never specifically told that is an alien invasion, mirrors the sense of isolation felt by the main protagonist wonderfully.
Where the lines between the invader and defender are blurred so well that we are never quite sure which is more alien is a great move from Tim. Littered with some wonderful prose, Still Life is fine example of genre blending.
Gary Fry has always been one of those authors whose work has scared me little bit. Not in the traditional way, more in the way of sometimes I'm just not sure I fully understand what he is writing about. Now this is in no way a fault of his writing, it's more a limitation of my reasoning power.
Gary writes some of the most intelligent and thought provoking horror fiction out there. Emergence is one of those claustrophobic, and personal insights into cosmic horror.
The bleak landscape of a fishing town in the north east of England is the perfect setting for a story that deals with the senses of loss, and frailty. The interplay between the grandfather and grandson, who are both having trouble reading packs an emotional depth, that cuts through cold feeling that the main narrative themes induce in the reading.
By interplaying the elements of cosmic horror with one mas fears of getting old and having his body fail results in a story that will pull at your heart strings while at the same time make you think.
And we come to the final selection for my novella of the year. You might see a common thread flowing through these review round ups. A thread that has a distinct Welsh Doctor feel to it. There is a reason for this, it's quite simple. John Llewellyn Probert's writing resonates with me on a level that I can't quite explain.
Differently There sees JLP take a different stance on his writing, gone are the extravagant, humourous, dashing and fun filled themes, to be replaced by a very personal and emotional story. Written as a response to a severe health scare Differently There sees JLP using the writing word to battle the demons and emotions he battled at the start of the year. This is a deeply personal story that will touch the reader deeply. It never makes the reader feel like a voyeur, but by the time you have finished this story it you feel as though you know JLP that little bit more.
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