Well, it’s 2015, a brand new year. The festivities and holidays are over and everyone is back to the daily grind. For me, 2015 is all about the follow up – I’m working on my second and third novel this year. It also ushers in my second and third anthologies as an editor (Undead Legacy and Under the Bridge, both due from J Ellington Ashton Press, will follow my debut, Carnage: Extreme Horror) and I aim to start my first series of books with The Vector Series. The year stretches out before me…it should be an exciting one.
I haven’t written a blog for a few weeks, having been busy with personal commitments and taking a small rest from the creativity. However, I’ve seen a few of these lists popping up on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads etc. and thought it pertinent that I create one. The main reason? In 2014, I discovered many indie/small press authors that deserve a mention and some recognition. And we can all do with a little free promotion now and then. True, I read many books from established authors this year, both old and modern, but the lesser known guys (and lady) on this list have thoroughly impressed me with their work, so much so I actually read more independent/small press efforts this year than anything else. My reviews for these books can be found on Goodreads.
Below is my Top 10 of 2014, for independent/small press authors. All books are available on Amazon (links in the titles).
Henley’s Ricotta is a very British comedy tale set in a quaint, seaside hotel. Think Fawlty Towers with a sublime charm, wit and hilarity that could only happen in super polite Britain. John Cowton has firmly established himself as one of my favourite comedy authors with his honest and enjoyable writing. Now and then, I have to put the horror down and change genre and thanks to Mr. Cowton, I now have a reason to do that. My sanity is saved!
The characters are quirky, realistic and humorous; their escapades are awkward, slapstick and unavoidable. Cowton writes with a style and craft that creates normal, everyday characters that draw you in, place you on a chair in the corner and give you a front seat to their amusing world. An excellent and humorous tale.
Hourglass Heights could have been a conundrum; a noir/horror/erotica/animé inspired tale of murder, lust and conspiracy. Juggling multiple genres is never easy when writing a novel, but somehow Ian Noakes has pulled it off with perfection. You can almost see the precarious plates spinning in the air.
A likeable but flawed female protagonist, a creepy, dark and nightmarish main setting and a town that feels like the bastard child of Gotham and Sin City, this story is not for the faint of heart. Sex is the dark, brooding heart of Hourglass Heights, it drives the tale forward, corrupts the characters and ultimately brings about several gory, but excellent set pieces. Knowing Ian is a prolific screenplay writer, it’s no wonder you can envision the book clearly in your mind…a fantastic and creatively visual novel. Be warned though, the content isn’t for everyone.
I love a crime mystery thriller. Bond, Bourne and Reacher dominate this genre, but Geoffrey West has unleashed a new hero in Jack Lockwood. Bond he ain’t, he’s the every man who finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time because of his knack for writing an excellent true crime novel. However, when the time comes and his life is on the line, Lockwood is more than capable of becoming a likeable and vulnerable hero.
Based in the U.K, and very British in its application, Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide is a treat. West creates a world that you wouldn’t think exists in good ol’ Blighty. For every picturesque Kent landscape, there’s a darkened street dripping with evil and death as Jack Lockwood navigates his treacherous lifestyle to unveil the truth behind a decades old conspiracy. The best thing about this book is the way is pulls you in and doesn’t let go, which is quite welcome when the characters are as interesting and enjoyable as this. A must-read!
Of all the authors I discovered in 2014, none are more prolific than Matt Shaw. Averaging one book a month, Shaw is an inspiration in the writing world. Showing that self publishing can be the way forward, he crafts sublime and quick-read stories that entertain and disgust. His output is second to none…his stories though, are something else.
So why did I choose Porn? Aside from the hilarity that comes with such a title (one work colleague asked me what I was reading, I answered “Porn”. Cue awkward looks and social outcasting), Porn was a refreshing tale of revenge and horror. Porn takes us into an industry that is both controversial and shady and Shaw scribes this with expert precision and stunning realism. I read multiple Shaw stories in 2014 (check them all out), but Porn just had something about it that pushed it above the rest. To say much else would ruin an original and horrific story. Highly recommended!
For me, claustrophobic horror is very hit and miss. Setting horror inside a building can restrict the scares a little, if not done right. If you do get it right though, it can become horror genius. Stephen King did it perfectly with The Shining and when you read the blurb of The Haunted Halls, you might be thinking you’re in for a similar story. But this isn’t a Overlook Hotel imitation, this is a beast all on its own.
Unlike the Overlook, which was a grand structure and had that air of rarity, The Bruton Inn could be any hotel/motel on any street or highway or forecourt. Rolfe crafts a story filled with rich characters, original scenarios and refreshingly scary set pieces. Then he places it in everyday suburbia and lets our imaginations run wild. As the story rolls along, you’ll find yourself gripping the book ever tighter. This was my first experience with this author, but it certainly won’t be my last. Compelling and petrifying stuff!
Werewolves. You could say Twilight has tarnished their somewhat legendary reputation in recent years. Lycanthropes have become soft and cuddly and less deadly. When I picked up High Moor, I was pleasantly surprised to be whisked back to my childhood, when werewolves were horror gold in cinematic masterpieces like An American Werewolf in London and The Howling. What made me smile though was the detail, the rich, vivid characterisation and, most importantly, werewolves that kick arse. All based in Britain…a winner in my book.
On finishing, I instantly obtained High Moor 2. I’ve yet to read it, it’ll be one of my 2015 highlights, I’m sure. Graeme Reynolds has not only created a horror masterpiece in this novel, he’s created a universe, one full of potential for multiple sequels, a solid origin story or three and werewolves that bring back the fear that made them so terrifying in the first place. This book should be on your To Be Read list. If it’s not…you’re missing out.
This one is kind of cheating, since it’s a collection comprised of three shorts. Dr. Blessing was released in three parts (Blessings Curse, Blessings Rapture and a Christmas Blessing) and compiled in this stunning trilogy. However, as each is actually a chapter of a longer tale, you can’t read just one of these Victorian horrors without the other. So, in my eyes, it was a full novel. It was also one of the highlights of 2014.
I’ve had the pleasure to work with Jack Rollins on several projects this year, but when I first discovered his talent, I was blown away. I’m a huge fan of Hammer Horror movies from the 60’s and 70’s, and this book dropped me straight back into that world. You can hear the footsteps on the cobbles and the horse drawn carriages clattering through London as you read this dark, delicious tale of a Doctor with a dark secret. Fantastic reading!
And we hit number 3 with a female author. In fairness, I can count the number of female horror authors I read on one hand. I’ve heard many arguments for this (females don’t write horror as well, they can’t conjure the darkness, they’re too innocent), but this is, frankly, bullshit. In 2014, I’ve met many females who not only make horror interesting and fun again, but can even do it better than some of their male counterparts. Chantal Noordeloos is one such woman, and you only need to read the first few chapters of Angel Manor to realise this.
Dark and disturbing, debauched and lavish, and written with a smooth, dedicated style, Angel Manor is a rare horror story with no boundaries and a familiar storyline applied with originality. But then again, this is what horror stories should be. The reason it cracked my Top 3? I couldn’t put it down once I started. Highly recommended!
Plebs, for much of 2014, was my #1 book of the year. A behemoth at 600 plus pages, this novel is the story of three young men who, on a night out, stumble across some hot women. A simple premise. However, the night is about to take a dark and terrifying turn courtesy of the Plebs, mutant creatures intent on destruction and murder…amongst other things. What makes Plebs such a great read? There are several factors.
Inspired by Laymon, reminiscent of 70’s and 80’s horror, and ballsy, violent and graphic, Plebs is one of those books that, despite the long page count, never wears out its welcome. True, it might be a night out gone wrong, a male fantasy written on page, or an adventure for the ages. Whichever way you look at it, Plebs is fun, hilarious and terrifying. Don’t let the page count put you off, this is one of the best books of 2014.
Halloween, demons and a town in peril. All the ingredients for a fantastic horror novel. Based in the 80’s, paying homage and honouring the books and cinema of the time, Devil’s Day is a revelation. Very few authors can capture the catastrophe and evil that comes with demons trying to destroy the world, but Kyle M. Scott has done just this. Several scenes will have you wincing, people die with abandon and no one is safe. The pace of the book is blistering and the violence is shocking, which provides a solid and thrilling horror tale. Uncertainty really captures the chaos and terror of an unearthly invasion and it’s ever present in this book.
Scott is one of the authors to watch in 2015. If he carries on like this, he’ll soon be doing big things in the writing world. This book is not for the faint of heart, but then again, good horror is made to provoke and scare. Devil’s Day has balls, no boundaries and Scott shows his passion for the genre, one that doesn’t look to be subsiding any time soon.
If you pick up one book this year, or 10 as my list has shown, you have my recommendations. Devil’s Day is top of the pile, but all the books on this list are phenomenal in their own way. If you need to spend Amazon vouchers or just fancy a good book, read above. 2014 was a good year for independent authors, and I can only see this improving in 2015.