Since I don't read contemporary horror fiction, I have no idea what the "best horror of 2010" is. This probably comes as no surprise to you. The following "vintage" reads were the books I dug the most this year, the ones I insist that all horror fiction fans read as soon as they can, and that I think will give some sense of the depth and breadth of the genre we love so much. Some were rereads, some not, but I loved them all and treasure my well-worn copies. From quiet horror to splatterpunk horror, from Gothic horror to erotic horror, from literary horror to pulp horror, I think this list covers the genre pretty well. The list is alphabetical by author.
Wormwood, Poppy Z. Brite (1994) - Essential short stories that show the growth of a young writer and her new vision for modern horror.
All Heads Turn as the Hunt Goes By, John Farris (1977) - A vivid and original kind of Southern Gothic complete with Freudian neuroses.
Live Girls, Ray Garton (1987) - Sleazy good fun with scary/sexy vampire ladies.
The Search for Joseph Tully, William H. Hallahan (1974) - I've read nothing else like it: a psychological mystery with blasts of suggestive, chilling horror.
The Sundial, Shirley Jackson (1958) - An end-of-the-world fable with the ruthless character disintegration Jackson's known for.
Dark Gods, T.E.D. Klein (1985) - Four short novels of classic literary horror that echo Lovecraft, Machen, James, etc. but alive with very modern concerns.
Falling Angel, William Hjortsberg (1978) - Hard-boiled crime fiction and satanic horror collide in the New York City of the 1950s.
The Auctioneer, Joan Samson (1975) - Her only novel, one about doomed people who can't seem to help themselves for helping others.
Floating Dragon, Peter Straub (1982) - A towering, near-epic example of bestselling 1980s horror.
Finishing Touches, Thomas Tessier (1986) - The power of eros to drive and destroy our lives cannot be denied.
Other works I was happy to find I still liked many years after first reading them included stories by Clark Ashton Smith and Charles Beaumont, as well as Kathe Koja's The Cipher and the zombie anthology Still Dead. Overall it was a very rewarding year; I discovered a good handful of writers to read and books to search for. And just as I'd hoped, my recent trip to Los Angeles provided me with more than a dozen "new" paperback horror novels that I can't wait to get to in the new year. See you then!
Epic Illustrated June 1984
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