2009: Another Year in the Books

January 1, 2010

2009 was not the greatest year of reading, but it wasn’t bad. It has less to do with the quality of what I read, and more to do with the quantity – and diversity – of what I did read. I had a lot of big plans to branch out in the types of reading I do (and I bought the books to back those plans up), but a stranger-than-fiction work schedule and a major mid-year reading slump derailed me a bit. Still, I read some good stuff, some thought-provoking stuff, some new stuff, and a I even re-read a favorite or two along the way. Here’s the complete list, followed by my personal Top Ten.

What I Read
Killing Castro by Robert Block
All You Despise by Tom Piccirilli
The Reach of Children by Tim Lebbon
Dark Hollow by Brian Keene
Ghost Walk by Brian Keene
Master of the Moors by Kealan Patrick Burke
The Keeper by Sarah Langan
Gunpowder by Joe Hill
Last Days by Brian Evenson
The Missing by Sarah Langan
The Coldest Mile by Tom Piccirilli
The Pilo Family Circus by Will Elliot
The Nobody by Tom Piccirilli
The Adventures of Mr. Maximillian Bacchus and His Traveling Circus by Clive Barker
Savage Season by Joe R. Lansdale
Mucho Mojo by Joe R. Lansdale
Castaways by Brian Keene
Just When You Thought It Was Safe: A Jaws Companion by Patrick Jankiewicz
The Two-Bear Mambo by Joe R. Lansdale
Bad Chili by Joe R. Lansdale
Diving Into Darkness by Phillip Finch
Button, Button: Uncanny Stories by Richard Matheson
Mind the Gap by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon
The Shimmer by David Morrell
Personal Demons by Gregory Lamberson
Hell Hollow by Ronald Kelly
Dark Delicacies III: Haunted edited by Jeff Gelb and Del Howison
Pet Sematary by Stephen King
Futile Efforts by Tom Piccirilli
Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman
Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror Vol. Three edited by Angela Challis
Under the Dome by Stephen King
Stop This Man! by Peter Rabe

The Top Ten
10. The Keeper by Sarah Langan:
Moved beyond the haunted house story to become a haunted town story. Lyrical, taut, suspenseful, and peopled with great characters.
9. The Coldest Mile by Tom Piccirilli: I can’t say enought about this guy and his work, other than it’s frustrating to think of how many people have yet to discover him. His transition from horror to the darkest noir continues with this book, and proves that as long as he’s writing what his heart tells him to, we’re in for treat after treat.
8. Dark Hollow by Brian Keene: Stephen King used to describe his work as “the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and fries.” In other words, you knew what you were going to get every time you picked up one of his books, and as long as you liked the flavor you were sure to be satisfied. King left that description (one that I never really bought, anyway) in the dust a long time ago, but it fits Keene to a “T”. His novels aren’t bound for literary awards any time soon, but they are fast-paced, suspenseful, and a ball to read almost every single time. This is my favorite of all his work so far – and it’s not even a zombie book.
7. Dark Delicacies III: Haunted edited by Jeff Gelb and Del Howison: A collection of short stories that deliver page after page – and, in many cases, long after the book is closed.
6. Savage Season by Joe R. Lansdale: I’ve been reading Lansdale for a while, but this is the first time I’ve really got acquainted with two of his best creations, Hap and Leonard, two fictional characters who I find it hard to believe aren’t really alive somewhere, getting into trouble, sniping at each other, and spinning these outrageous tales for Lansdale to write down and deliver to us. These books are ones that I will re-read over and over again.
5. The Pilo Family Circus by Will Elliot: Weird, wild stuff. Psychotic clowns, a carnival of the damned, and more. Confounding and terrifying with each passing page.
4. Under the Dome by Stephen King: Midway through this 1,000+ page behemoth, I really doubted it would crack the Top Ten. It was good….but that was all. Comparisons to King epics like The Stand were being made left and right, but this one wasn’t – and isn’t – quite there for me. The last 200 pages moved like a house a-fire, though, and really lifted my opinion of this one. But King, as he’s been known to do, let me down a bit with the ending and the explanation behind the events of the book. Not his worst, and still among the best I read this year, but within the King canon it’s barely a blip on the radar.
3. The Reach of Children by Tim Lebbon: Lebbon, another writer who deserves a wider audience, teaches us the true meaning of “haunted” with this hearbreaking examination of grief and loss. An amazing story.
2. The Two-Bear Mambo by Joe R. Lansdale: Almost made it to the #1 slot by virtue of the reasoning behind the title. Another great entry in Lansdale’s Hap and Leonard series.
1. Mucho Mojo by Joe R. Lansdale: What can I say? 2009 was owned by Lansdale, Hap Collins and Leonard Pine.

2010 promises lots of good reading as I catch up with stuff released in 2009, anticipate the new books to come, and work to break down the To-Be-Read mountain that has taken over my office closet.

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Hear ye, hear ye!

September 19, 2009

A couple of announcements today from your trusty town crier.

First, Fifty-Two Stitches, the print version, is now available for order from Amazon.com. 52 flash fiction stories, including my own “Sitting Up With Grandpa.” Don’t give candy at Halloween this year – be the cool house that gives scary stories!

Next, my review of the Ellen Datlow-edited, H.P. Lovecraft inspired anthology Lovecraft Unbound is now live at Dark Scribe Magazine. Enjoy!


A “Shimmer”-ing review

September 17, 2009

My review of David (First Blood) Morrell’s latest, The Shimmer, is now available at Dark Scribe Magazine.


My “Haunted” Story

September 15, 2009

Excuse a moment of gratuitous back-patting, if you will – I just read a review of Horror Library Vol. 3 which singled out my story “Toll” as one of the reviewer’s favorites. Also, it seems my humble little tale may have stirred up some supernatural activity around the reviewer. Here’s the excerpt:

“Toll” by Blu Gilliand is probably one of my favorite stories for the book, as much for the writing as for the somewhat spooky and hilarious personal experience had while reading it aloud. The storytelling is precise and creates scenes of despair, anger, confusion, and revenge as each piece of the puzzle unfolds through the short appearances of ghostly characters. It all leads the protagonist on her own short journey to uncover the truth of her child’s suffering. An emotional and gratifying story of both compassion and revenge. On a personal note, the story itself may be haunted. Strange things happened while reading this story. Needless to say, it should not be read out loud or while around any electronic devices. (I’m only half kidding about the previous three sentences.)

The entire review can be read here. Thanks Nancy!


“Sitting Up With Grandpa”

August 31, 2009

My new story is now live at Fifty-Two Stitches. It appears almost two years to the day after my first published story, “Books,” appeared on the (now defunct) Delirium Insider website on August 31, 2007. Enjoy!

I’m going to celebrate my two-year anniversary as a published author (now, doesn’t that sound all high-falutin’ and important) with a screening of Halloween 2 this afternoon. I’ll be back soon with thoughts on that, and on Inglourious Basterds.


In “Stitches”

August 17, 2009

52StitchesCoverA nice little review of the anthology Fifty-Two Stitches is available here. My flash fiction story “Sitting Up With Grandpa” is contained therein. You’ll be able to read that story online (and for free) on August 30th simply by going to the Fifty-Two Stitches website. If you’re one of them old fogies who’d rather have their reading matter on paper, by gum, then click here to preorder the paperback.   

Here’s a line from “Grandpa” to whet your appetite: “Jimmy tried not to look at Grandpa, but part of his job was to shoo away flies that gathered around the body.”


Keeping It Irreal

August 10, 2009

My interview with former town crier/current irrealism novelist D. Harlan Wilson is now available at Dark Scribe Magazine.

I’ve signed up for a load of book reviews over the next month or so, so keep an eye here for a note on when they are available. Also, I’m planning a couple of posts on movies I’m looking forward to as we wrap up the summer theater season. Things are starting to gear up for my favorite time of year, so you’ll see anything here from football rants to grilling recipes to Halloween stuff – stay tuned.