With only days to the big gift giving event known to many as Christmas, you’ll see or have seen a lot of best of and recommended 2015 book lists. This is in general a nice nod to those who have given you a little literary enjoyment in the chaos of life. Book people love to read, and there isn’t a better gift (other than a winning lotto ticket) that they appreciate more. I know I’m thrilled my stockings will be filled with books this year.
I had wanted to pool the recommendations of my editors and close contributors to compile a 2015 Merry Bookmas list, but things have been crazy in the Earl of Rontown‘s life, and so I offer my meager opines on the books I’ve enjoyed in 2015.
My year started off with Joe Clifford’s Lamentation, published last October (2014) from Oceanview Publishing. This is the introduction to Jay Porter who is down on his luck, just eeking by and trying to do right by his son and his estranged wife. Hoping for a bit of normalcy, Jay’s addict brother tumbles back into his life bringing with him more baggage than just his normal troubles. Can Jay save his brother and piece back together his family?
Clifford has me on the hook for book two, December Boys which is solidly on my 2016 anticipation list. If you liked Tom Piccirilli’s The Last Kind Words you’ll enjoy Lamentation.
Former Shotgun Honey editor, Christopher Irvin released Burn Cards from 280 Steps which I had the pleasure of reading through development as a short story all the way to release as a novella. Burn Cards set in Reno and an environment of debt, Mirna Fowler attempts to overcome her broken childhood to build a life greater than that of a stylist at a salon, only to find herself responsible for her father’s debt. Chris has a depth of writing that allows him to produce a diversified catalog of short fiction from Federales to his recent collection of short stories, Safe Inside the Violence. I can only imagine and hope to enjoy good things from Chris.
Another from 280 Steps, these guys are really putting out an impressive catalog, is Rumrunners by Eric Beetner. I was immediately drawn to Rumrunners because the title and cover brought to mind the Robert Mitchum movie Thunder Road. I can almost see Mitchum playing the older McGraw, but that’s where comparisons end. Rumrunners is about a family of outlaws who run contraband for a local syndicate. You need something delivered from point A to point B, you call the McGraws. Every family has its black sheep, and in the McGraw family that is Tucker, the grandson who wants nothing to do with the life. That is until his father Webb goes missing and puts the family on the hook for the load that went missing with him. No experience, Tucker calls his grandfather Calvin, and the two commence a reckless bonding experience to find the missing Webb.
Bull Mountain by Brian Panowich was my most anticipated book for 2015. Brian didn’t let me down, or all his other fans. Following a similar theme, and I guess you can figure out my predilection to genre and story telling, Bull Mountain is the story about the outlaw Burroughs clan from northern Georgia, covering a tale that born across generations and ending a Cain and Able standoff as black sheep Clayton Burroughs attempts to serve both his badge and his family.
The story is built on broad shoulders of Bull Mountain, and a few words do not do justice to sprawling tale of family, cruelty, and crime crafted by Panowich. Compared to McCarthy, Brown, and Woodrell, Bull Mountain pulls you in and you can only hope to survive. I look forward to the follow up which I believe is currently in the revision stage, and not to mention Panowich is an eclectic writer whose passion is shown on the page. So I’d welcome a birthday card if he wrote it. (which by the way is January 9th.)
One of the greatest crime/noir digests sprung into existence months before Shotgun Honey offered its first piece of flash (and I hope to see return in the near future,) was… is Needle Magazine. Needle featured a story in issue 2 titled “The Hitter” by Chris Holm that went on to garner a lot of acclaim, landed in The Best American Mystery Stories 2011, and was expanded into a full blown novel called The Killing Kind.
The Killing Kind is the story of Michael Hendricks who left his past behind, took the skills he was given as a sniper to become a world class hitman. The twist is that he only hits other hitters before they can complete their hits. (say that 10 times fast) This gives Michael a unique clientele and a degree of anonymity, and with his retainer he hopes one day to retire to a tropical non-extradition country. With the FBI and an equally dangerous assassin trying to ferret out his identity and his next move, Hendricks soon find the past he’s trying protect and the future he desires crashing together.
Chris Holm masterfully expanded “The Hitter” into a complicated story that will take you on a run for your life, and has you holding your breath for the next Michael Hendricks novel.
Ash McKenna lives in a rent controlled apartment that he ‘inherited’ in the East Village, he works part time as a unlicensed PI finding solutions to peoples problems more like a blunt object than a precision tool, but he gets the job done. When his former girlfriend, Chell, is found dead after a black out drunk night, Ash is the number one suspect. Determined to find Chell’s killer, outrun the cops, he cashes in favors and takes on debts, anything to get the job done. Rob Hart’s New Yorked delivers a deftly told tale of conspiracy, murder, despair and discovery against the backdrop of New York City. This is just one in an impressive catalog from Polis Books, publishing such offering as Concrete Angel by Patricia Abbott and Sympathy for the Devil by Terrence McCauley.
There were tons of good books this year, many that are setting on my TBR pile or on my Kindle, and as I like to bemoan I often feel like Burgess Meredith in that classic episode of Twilight Zone wishing for more time to read. As managing editor of Shotgun Honey and publisher of One Eye Press, I don’t always get to read all the books I want, but I’m fortunate enough to read and publish some really good stories. To that point, I’d like to remind you of the limited catalog published this year by One Eye Press and are all marked down to 99 cent through the month of December.