“What does that mean? Whatever you want it to mean. Are these movies “the best”? Are they our favorites? Are they “movies we got to see before the deadline”? In my case, it’s some combination of all three — but I’m really quite happy with the aggregate results.” — Jim Emerson
Baaaad Muthaz by Bill Campbell
Citizens of the universe, let me put on my sunglasses here so I can see what I’m doing. Baaaad Muthaz tears the roof off. It is your James Brown Pass to join up with Uncle Jam’s army. This is probably the most fun(k) I had reading this year.
Break the Bodies, Haunt the Bones by Micah Dean Hicks
Memories and ghosts can haunt a place. And in this book they do. A great use of the fantastical to address current issues and events.
Carnivorous Lunar Activities by Max Booth III
A tale that takes place in one set. Two characters in a state of distress. One chained to an anchor. One there to help. Oh, and one is trying to convince the other he’s a werewolf. A little audacious? Yep. A little crazy? Yep. And it mostly works too. Definitely haven’t read another werewolf book like it.
Halloween Fiend by CV Hunt
CV Hunt published all of her work through her own Grindhouse Press (along with many other writers). Grindhouse published really dark horror fiction. Halloween Fiend is a more family friendly affair. Frankly it should be a bigger. A brand new, cult classic addition to the Halloween fiction canon.
Magical Negro by Morgan Parker
My favorite poem this year was Tiana Clark’s “The Rime of Nina Simone”. My favorite collection was Magical Negro. A challenging book that confronts you and demands to be noticed. Don’t you dare look away.
Neon Dies at Dawn by Anderson Prunty
Another Grindhouse Press book. This is a full dark book for the basement noir crazies. If you don’t know what that last sentence means, this one may not be for you. There are noir adjacent sensibilities here, but the effect is different when approached by a writer who comes from the horror side of things.
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
The Nickel Boys is thematically similar to Richard Wagamese’s Indian Horse. The former is about a reform school and the latter is about the Indian Residential school system in Canada. They are not the same book, but they each address a similarly oppressive system that chewed up young children and spit them out. They are both also based on true events. A singularly propulsive narrative and an ending that will send you back to the start.
Scarstruck by Violet LeVoit
Noir can be a pretty staid genre exploring the psycho-sexual landscape of the straight white male and his straight partner, the femme fatale. Violet LeVoit knows her noir well and turns the classic noir tale inside out. A genuinely subversive noir.
Tales From the Crust: An Anthology of Pizza Horror
Anthologies from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing are unlike any others because they come from a unique starting premise. This one is no different. I mean c’mon, it’s Pizza Horror!
The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Water Dancer was 10 years in the making. An interviewer asked Coates why did it take so long. He responded, “I had to learn how to write a novel!” The time it took is reflected in the work. Part of the reason this is an important book is because it shows the daily lives of the enslaved. This book has received plenty of coverage, and rightly so. But I wanted to take a moment to focus on a small element. When the protagonist is in Philadelphia, parts of the story read like hardboiled African American hat squad. I would love to see Ta-Nehisi Coates explore that more further in a later novel.