You know the score, so I'm not going to mess about with a long intro to this. It's the end of another year on this crazed planet, so here's the top-ten favourite books I read in 2018:
The Martledge Variations, Simon Kurt Unsworth (Black Shuck Books)
Three excellent ghost stories comprise the bulk of this mini-collection, but what really made it special was the wraparound narrative which set each of them, and the idea of 'ghosts' themselves, in a new light. Masterfully done.
Tales From The Shadow Booth #1, ed. Dan Coxon
The first volume of this anthology of strange and haunting tales contained so many good stories it was enough to reaffirm my faith in the weird almost singlehandedly. If you like these kind of stories as much as me (and if you're reading this, there's strong odds) you need to step into the Shadow Booth.
Hollow Shores, Gary Budden (Dead Ink)
"... a piece of writing both personal and communal, something unique that impressed me no end..." (my review here)
The Silent Companions, Laura Purcell (Penguin)
"...wonderfully done, and manages that rare trick of slowly building a sense of unease while also being a genuinely page-turner" (my review here)
Figurehead, Carly Holmes (Tartarus Press)
An excellent collection of short stories, incorporating tropes from ghost stories and the gothic, but creating something singular and personal from them; fantasy rewritten and turned on its head to show the author's view of now. Exquisite prose, too.
(Slight Return), Neil Schiller
"If this all sounds to bleak, then it's worth pointing out that it's all wrapped in prose as insightful as it is gorgeous" (my review here)
Altar, Phillip Fracassi (Dunhams Manor Press)
A real gut-punch of a novella, this started relatively calmly before spiralling into a vortex of visceral and memorable imagery. A reminder that supernatural horror can, when done right, still inspire both shock and a sense of awe.
All The Fabulous Beasts, Priya Sharma (Undertow Publications)
"...stories which are by turns creepy, beautiful, tender and terrifying. A whole book-load of them? Count me in." (My interview with the author here.)
The Affirmation, Christopher Priest (Simon & Schuster)
A confession: about 50% of the people who've read The Quarantined City seem to have assumed it was influenced by The Affirmation, but I'd never read it until this year. Having done so, I can see where they were coming from and all I can say is it's a good job I hadn't read it before writing TQC, as it's so intimidatingly good and clever and original, I'd have probably given up. I absolutely loved it.
The Wish Mechanics, Daniel Braum (Independent Legions Publishing)
"a varied, eclectic, accomplished set of short stories, with a number of genuine classics within its pages" (my review here)