Dying Embers out now

Dying Embers out now

Sunday 7 December 2014

12 of the best reads of 2014

I've been reading and (trying to) write a lot recently, but not blogging much. So, to put that to rights at least for the moment, here is a list and summary of some books I would recommend.

Elizabeth Bowen is perhaps one of the best short story writers in the English language; and
certainly one of the most prolific. I have been working my way through this collection of 79 of
her tales for some time, and enjoying every minute. Her stories are finely-wrought and multi-layered.
Everyone who reads or writes short stories should be familiar with her work. Blog post soon.
Barbera Roden's NORTHWEST PASSAGES has been one of my finds of the year. These are beautifully
written, literary tales of restrained strangeness. Their settings are varied, from polar exploration to
abandoned amusement parks, Victorian households, a Vancouver hotel, a cabin in the woods...
Roden's imagination runs riot, and her flair for creating atmosphere means the reader
will not forget these stories in a hurry! Review soon. Available here.
Superb collection by the recently deceased Joel Lane. I find his work to be relentlessly downbeat,
but quite compellingly so, and full of original ideas and flair. He was adept at the creation of
an alternative world, where nothing is quite as it seems. Immerse yourself in these
monochrome tales of conflict and misunderstanding. Available here.
I have recently bought several of Dennis Etchison's collections that have been made
available as e-books. In THE BLOOD KISS, there is a feast of plenty. Some of the
tales within made me sit back and say, "wow, I wish I could write like that!"
are all superb, and essential reading. (Although I must admit I was at first put off by the
covers used for Etchison's collections. The stories are more subtle than they look).
Blog post and reviews coming up soon. Available here.
My good friend Mark Fuller-Dillon suggested I read some of William Sansom's short stories, and I'm
very thankful he did. This is the only easily-available collection of his I could find, and it's a little
uneven. Not all of the stories are suspenseful; some seem like nothing more than snippets of post-war
life in London; but no less intriguing for all that. Of course, this collection includes THE VERTICAL LADDER,
which is nail-bitingly good – and worth the price of admission alone! Available here.
I love S.P. Miskowski's writing; and this is a tightly written novella which tells a compelling story...
however, I'm now reading the previous installments of the Skillute Cycle (KNOCK KNOCK,
DELPHINE DODD and ASTORIA), so I will wait until I understand how they all fit
together before reviewing. Great reading. Available here.
HAIR SIDE, FLESH SIDE by Helen Marshall is an intriguing collection of beautifully-realised
literary strangeness, consisting in a world of its own making. Helen Marshall's debut collection
is tender, dark, surreal and unforgettable. Review soon. Available here.
I love this collection. I had never previously heard of William Croft Dickinson, but having read DARK
ENCOUNTERS, I can see why it has been referred to as 'Ghost Stories of a Scottish Antiquary'.
These are ghostly tales of antiquarians, historians, arch├Žologists, and scientists, in a style similar to
M.R. James. Perfect for those cold winter evenings in front of the fire! Available here.

This is a strange one. SEELING NIGHT; A PSYCHOMANTEUM is a deeply flawed book, but nonetheless
a fascinating read. Yes, it needs decent formatting and editing (at least in the e-book version I have), but
there was something about the linked stories which kept me hooked. The main character is well-wrought,
and some of the scenes have stuck in my head. If something left-field appeals, read it with an open mind! Available here.
BEFORE AND AFTERLIVES by Christopher Barzak is a loosely intertwined collection of weird
tales set in a small American town. Eerie, thought-provoking and dark; well worth a read. Available here.
Supremely weird, creepy stories from Michelle Kilmer. LAST NIGHT WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING
is one of those books that makes you shake your head and wonder at the writer's imagination.
Nicely illustrated, too. Available here.
A great collection of the weird by Susie Moloney. THINGS WITHERED was one of those books I had
wanted to read for some time, and then thoroughly enjoyed. These are engrossing tales of the unusual behind
the fa├žade of everyday life; of the strangeness which is glimpsed from the corner of the eye. Available here.

As usual, I will do my best to review as many of these books as I can.... but there is never enough time in the day. In the meantime, I'm pushing on with the writing. Happy reading to you!