My Top 25 Dark Fiction of 2015!
by Adrian Shotbolt
When Erin asked me if I’d like to write a guest blog of my top reads of the year, I jumped at the chance. 2015 has been another great year for this reader. My tastes tend to lurk in the darker regions of fiction; Horror, Crime, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Bizarro are all genres that provide me with an escape from the daily grind that is life.
With the exception of Nick Cutter’s The Troop, all of these books have come from the small press. Sinister Grin Press, Broken River Books, DarkFuse, Sinister Horror Company, Grey Matter Press, Samhain Horror – these are all just some of the small publishers that operate under excellent ownership and throughout the year release strings of top quality books. If you are reading this and are looking to buy a book for somebody this Christmas then I urge you to check these guys out.
My number one choice is The Last Outpost by Rich Hawkins. It surpassed everything else he had written to date (and he has written some really good stuff!). The Last Outpost was a bleak, terrifying look at a world gone to hell after a plague turns the country into a living hell. Monstrous mutations and some fantastic characterisation straight out of the top draw had this reader in raptures at the books conclusion an eagerly looking forward to the final book in the trilogy.
The rest are in no particular order as that would be far too difficult. Some of these books were not published this year (however, most were) but still managed to find their way into my hands one way or another. There are some dazzling debut novels listed here from Dallas Mullican, Kit Power, and Duncan Ralston. These three in particular hit all the right notes and the fact that they were their first long form works makes them all the more impressive. A couple of novellas snuck onto the list also. Mark Morris – Albion Fay was a terrific and scary read from a writer I can’t wait to read more from. And Ketchup on Everything by Nathan Robinson was an emotional rollercoaster of a short story and kicked off my year of reading in fine style.
A couple of anthologies also made the list. Grey Matter Press has been a favourite publisher of mine for some time. They consistently release quality, varied collections that challenge the reader with unusual themes and captivating stories and their Savage Beasts anthology may just be the best yet! Neil Baker’s April Moon Books also came up trumps with a terrific shapeshifter anthology in the form of Flesh like Smoke.
So, without further ado, let’s get stuck in. Here is a list of top 25 books that I have read so far in 2015 and 25 books that would make your book collection a lot cooler. And don’t forget-if you buy a book, leave a little review on Goodreads and/or Amazon. It really does help other people discover great talent and I know authors really appreciate it.
Cheers! 😀 Adrian Shotbolt (Lord of darkness, down under)
Top 25 List (In No Particular Order)~
Each title directs to book on GoodReads
The Last Outpost – Rich Hawkins (Crowded Quarantine Publications)
The sequel to the British Fantasy Award-nominated novel, The Last Plague. The Last Outpost continues to chronicle the events as a devastating epidemic reduces the UK to an infected wasteland.
Great Britain has fallen to the Plague and the war is lost. The few people left alive scavenge in the desolation of a ruined country. A lone man wanders the ravaged land, looting houses for food and hiding from the monstrous infected. Guilt-ridden for failing to save his family, there is nothing left for him but memories of the old world – until hope is whispered in a radio transmission promising safety and shelter from across the North Sea. He joins a group of desperate survivors and heads for the coast in search of transport and salvation. His last chance to make amends. But will they survive the journey, hunted by the infected and the desperate men who stalk the land? Will they find sanctuary at… THE LAST OUTPOST?
Wolf Land – Jonathan Janz (Samhain Publishing)
An unholy predator on the prowl! The small town of Lakeview offers little excitement for Duane, Savannah, and their friends. They’re about to endure their ten-year high school reunion when their lives are shattered by the arrival of an ancient, vengeful evil. The werewolf. The first attack leaves seven dead and four wounded (2 men and 2 women).
And though the beast remains on the loose and eager to spill more blood, the sleepy town is about to face an even greater terror. For the four victims of the werewolf’s fury are changing. They are experiencing unholy desires and unimaginable cravings. Once they transform into furry, powerful, fearsome quadriped werewolves, they will prey on the innocent. They will act on their bestial desires. Soon, they’ll plunge the entire town into a nightmare. Lakeview is about to become ‘Wolf Land.’
Zero Saints – Gabino Iglesias (Broken River Books)
Enforcer and drug dealer Fernando has seen better days. On his way home from work, some heavily-tattooed gangsters throw him in the back of a car and take him to an abandoned house, where they saw off his friend’s head and feed the kid’s fingers to…something. Their message is clear: this is their territory, now. But Fernando isn’t put down that easily. Using the assistance of a Santeria priestess, an insane Puerto Rican pop sensation, a very human dog, and a Russian hitman, he’ll build the courage (and firepower) he’ll need to fight a gangbanger who’s a bit more than human…
Four Days – Iain Ryan (Broken River Books)
BRISBANE, 1984. Jim Harris is a hard-drinking Australian detective on his way to a nervous breakdown. Every day, he works alongside corrupt cops and dangerous crooks. That is, until a brutal murder case unravels his career, bringing past indiscretions to light. Alone, afraid, and out of control, Harris makes a pact with himself: Four days to locate the killer. Four days to take revenge. Four days to find redemption.
Savage Beasts Anthology – Various (Grey Matter Press)
SAVAGE BEASTS is a volume of all-new contemporary dark fiction inspired by some of the greatest artists in musical history. SAVAGE BEASTS is a thrilling and thought-provoking nightmare of devastating supernatural experiences exploring darkly introspective science fiction and fantastical alternative realities, each accompanied by the sound of the music that has defined our lives.
Written by some of the most talented authors in genre fiction, the short stories in SAVAGE BEASTS shine a light on eleven dark worlds with fictional work inspired by rock icons Nine Inch Nails, Pink Floyd, The Cranberries, Genesis, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Danish death metal band Pestilence, new wave and dancehall diva Grace Jones, Portuguese electronic house due Underground Sound of Lisbon, indie rockers School of Seven Bells, classical composers Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Johann Sebastian Bach and more.
Flesh like Smoke Anthology – Various (April Moon Books)
Shape-shifters, skin-walkers, werewolves – the beasts go by many names and take on many different forms.
Some fight the curse, others relish the freedom as they stalk and consume their human prey.
Sixteen terrifying new stories from today’s modern masters of literary horror featuring tortured souls with thoughts dark and twisted… and flesh like smoke.
Mutt – Shane McKenzie (Rothco Press)
When Patrick, a White/Korean mutt who can pass for Latino, moves to a new town, he falls for Krystal, a seductive, fast-talking Mexican girl. Believing him to be Mexican, she invites Patrick to a party hosted by Los Reyes Locos, the reigning local gang. Little does Patrick know he’s been recruited. He survives the beating/initiation and is branded in blood and ink into the family, with “El Rey,” the god-like leader, calling the shots. El Rey’s means of teaching him the ropes the next day consists of Patrick bearing witness to murder and gang rape. Fearing for his life and already in too deep in his lies, his only way out is to fight with bloodied fists for the crown. A fast-paced action/suspense story right off the first page, Mutt’s protagonist takes us on a masochistic ride in his quest for love and ultimately, survival.
Death Don’t Have No Mercy – William Boyle (Broken River Books)
Eight stories about broken men making bad decisions.
The Dunfield Terror – William Meikle (Darkfuse)
It starts with a strange glowing fog that arrives at the height of a snowstorm.
A terror from the past has returned, bringing with it death and destruction that threatens to overrun the town. The old stories tell of a post-war experiment gone wrong, one that opened the way for the fog—or whatever was behind it—to begin its reign of terror.
A small team of workmen are the last hope to keep their town alive through the long, storm-filled night. But the many horrors that await them are beyond anyone’s worst nightmares.
Jagger – Kristopher Rufty (Sinister Grin Press)
Other than the trailer park left to her by her deceased daddy, Amy’s favorite treasure is Jagger, her 180-pound bull mastiff. One day while she is away, Clayton, her best friend’s scumbag boyfriend sneaks into her yard and takes the dog. His prize fighting pit bull was killed during its last match, costing a lot of bad people a lot of money. To make up for his dog’s losses, and to save his own life, Clayton enlists the help of a medical student dropout to turn Jagger into a killing machine by pumping him full of experimental drugs and muscle enhancers. Now Jagger is a monster, a beast that can’t feel pain, with an unquenchable thirst for blood. He quickly breaks out of his pen and starts making his way home, tearing apart anyone in his path on his way to the one he feels has betrayed him the most—Amy.
Die Dog and the Hatchet – Adam Howe (Comet Press)
Escaped mental patient Terrence Hingle, the butcher of five sorority sisters at the Kappa Pi Massacre, kidnaps timid diner waitress Tilly Mulvehill and bolts for the border. Forcing his hostage to drive him out of town, it’s just a question of time before Tilly becomes the next victim in Hingle’s latest killing spree. But when they stop for gas at a rural filling station operated by deranged twin brothers, Dwayne and Dwight Ritter, the tables are turned on Hingle, and for Tilly the night becomes a hellish cat-and-mouse ordeal of terror and depravity. The meat in a maniac sandwich, Tilly is forced against her nature to make a stand and fight for survival. Because sometimes the only choice you have is to do or die…to Die Dog Or Eat The Hatchet.
Gunmen – Timothy Friend (One Eye Press)
Owen Ashe and Charlie Brittle are the dead-broke owners of the least popular saloon in the desert town of Olvidados. So when a known bank robber with a bounty on his head is spotted in the vicinity, the pair see a way to quickly improve their fortunes. Capturing their man proves to be easy enough. But while attempting to collect the reward they find themselves at odds with the notorious Scault gang, a vicious outlaw family widely feared for their ruthlessness.
After a violent encounter leaves one of the family dead, the Scaults retaliate, leaving Owen and Charlie no choice but to track them to their lair in the heart of the desert. Each leg of the journey brings more brutality and death, and the reluctant bounty hunters are forced to embrace their own savage natures when they finally face the deadly Scaults in a showdown at the ends of the earth.
Strangers – David Moody (Infected Books)
A spate of brutal murders occur in and around the small town of Thussock. The bodies of the dead – savagely mutilated, unspeakably defiled – are piling up with terrifying speed. There are no apparent motives and no obvious connections between the victims, but the killings only began when Scott Griffiths and his family arrived in Thussock…
“In his evocation of fear and unease and the speed with which he grips you, he brings to mind old Brit horror writer James Herbert. And that is some recommendation.” —London Lite
The End in all Beginnings – John F.D. Taff (Grey Matter Press)
THE END IN ALL BEGINNINGS is a collection of horror that’s a literary tour de force through the emotional pain and personal anguish of the human condition. Praised as one of the best collections of heartfelt and gut-wrenching horror written in recent history, it’s a disturbing trip through the ages exploring the painful tragedies of life, love and loss.
Each of the five masterfully written novellas included in THE END IN ALL BEGINNINGS examine complex themes running the gamut from the loss of childhood innocence, to the dreadful reality of survival after everything we hold dear is gone, to some of the most profound aspects of human tragedy.
The Troop – Nick Cutter (Headline)
Once a year, scoutmaster Tim Riggs leads a troop of boys into the Canadian wilderness for a three-day camping trip—a tradition as comforting and reliable as a good ghost story and a roaring bonfire. But when an unexpected intruder—shockingly thin, disturbingly pale, and voraciously hungry—stumbles upon their campsite, Tim and the boys are exposed to something far more frightening than any tale of terror. The human carrier of a bioengineered nightmare. An inexplicable horror that spreads faster than fear. A harrowing struggle for survival that will pit the troop against the elements, the infected…and one another.
A Coin for Charon – Dallas Mullican (Winlock Press)
Gabriel isn’t murdering anyone―he’s saving them.
The media has dubbed him the Seraphim Killer. He believes the gods have charged him to release the chosen, those for whom life has become an unbearable torment. Gabriel feels their suffering—his hands burn, his skull thunders, his stomach clenches. Once they are free, he places coins on their eyes to pay Charon for passage into paradise.
Detective Marlowe Gentry has spent the past two years on the edge. The last serial killer he hunted murdered his wife before his eyes and left his young daughter a mute shell. Whenever she looks at him, her dead eyes push him farther into a downward spiral of pain and regret. He sees the Seraphim as an opportunity for revenge, a chance to forgive himself―or die trying.
Gabriel performs the gods’ work with increasing confidence, freeing the chosen from their misery. One day, the gods withdraw the blessing―a victim he was certain yearned for release still holds the spark of life. Stunned, he retreats into the night, questioning why the gods have abandoned a loyal servant. Without his calling, Gabriel is insignificant to the world around him.He will do anything to keep that from happening.
Salvage – Duncan Ralston (Forsaken)
Something is Lurking Under the Lake…
When Owen Saddler’s little sister mysteriously drowns, Owen is determined to uncover the circumstances by following in her footsteps, even if it means diving into the murky—some would say haunted—waters of Chapel Lake.
Thirty years earlier, the town of Peace Falls had been flooded to build a hydroelectric dam, and its ruins remain below the surface of Chapel Lake. The strange disappearance of the town Pastor, along with many of the parishioners, still haunts the citizens of Chapel Lake. But does the church haunt the lake itself? Is Owen really seeing ghosts… or has he descended into the depths of madness?
SALVAGE is the debut horror novel of author Duncan Ralston (GRISTLE & BONE). A darkly disturbing story of depression, religious fanaticism, and the afterlife, SALVAGE seeks to illuminate the evil within us all.
GodBomb – Kit Power (Sinister Horror Company)
Somebody wants answers.
North Devon, England. 1995. A born-again revival meeting in a public building. The usual mix of the faithful, the curious, and the desperate. And one other – an atheist suicide bomber. He’s angry. He wants answers. And if God doesn’t come and talk to him personally, he’s going to kill everyone in the building…
Albion Fay – Mark Morris (Spectral Press)
“I know exactly when this photo was taken: July 1975. And I know where it was taken: on the sloping lawn beneath Albion Fay.
The boy in the photograph is me. The girl is my sister, Angie.
This is the morning of the day when we went into the caves for the first time.
It is the day when our lives changed forever.”
Albion Fay, a holiday house in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nature’s bounty. For the adults, a time for relaxation and to recharge the batteries, while for the children, a chance for exploration and adventure in the English countryside. A happy time for all: nothing could possibly go wrong. Or could it? What should be a magical time ends in tragedy – but what really happened that summer?
First One You Expect – Adam Cesare (Broken River Books)
When he’s not holding down a dead-end job or lurking in his mother’s basement, Tony Anastos spends his time shooting ultra-low-budget horror flicks. After meeting his sexy fame-hungry coworker Anna, he sees an opportunity to launch his career into cult stardom. But when Tony’s plan to jolt their next film’s Kickstarter into overdrive calls for real blood, he will sacrifice the last bit of his humanity for a shot at recognition. But it makes sense. Look at him. The stuff he makes, I mean, he’s the first one you expect.
The Visible Filth – Nathan Ballingrud (This is Horror)
When Will discovers a cell phone after a violent brawl his life descends into a nightmare.
Affable, charismatic and a little shallow, he’s been skating across the surface of life in a state of carefully maintained contentment. He decides to keep the cell phone just until the owner returns and everything changes. Then the messages begin.
Will’s discovered something unspeakable and it’s crawling slowly into the light.
Ketchup on Everything – Nathan Robinson (Snakebite Publishing)
For the past twenty years, Elliott Tather has been living a life of mourning that almost destroyed him. After losing everything he held dear and bound by a consuming sorrow, Tather travels the country attempting to fix a wrong that haunts his every waking and dreaming moment. But one evening after pulling into a roadside diner to settle down with a simple cup of coffee, the door opens and everything changes. The nothing he had, and the regret that filled it will never be the same again. Whatever you do, make sure you order Ketchup on Everything. From the author of ‘Starers’, ‘Midway’ and the short story collection ‘Devil Let Me Go’ comes a troubling, heart wrenching tale of despair, loss and what might come afterwards.
Protection – Kyle M. Scott
Celebrated author, James Kember, loves his son more than his own life.
He’d do anything for him.
He’s made it his oath to protect eight year old Edward from the all the horrors of the world.
But something is coming for his little boy.
Something that watches.
Something that wants to carry his innocent child down into the darkness.
And it knows the way into their home.
Seeing Evil – Jason Parent (Red Adept Publishing)
Fate in plain sight.
Major Crimes Detective Samantha Reilly prefers to work alone—she’s seen as a maverick, and she still struggles privately with the death of her partner. The only person who ever sees her softer side is Michael Turcotte, a teenager she’s known since she rescued him eleven years ago from the aftermath of his parents’ murder-suicide.
In foster care since his parents’ death, Michael is a loner who tries to fly under the bullies’ radar, but a violent assault triggers a disturbing ability to view people’s dark futures. No one believes his first vision means anything, though—not even Sam Reilly. When reality mimics his prediction, however, Sam isn’t the only one to take notice. A strange girl named Tessa Masterson asks Michael about her future, and what he sees sends him back to Sam—is Tessa victim or perpetrator?
Tessa’s tangled secrets draw Michael and Sam inexorably into a deadly conflict. Sam relies on Michael, but his only advantage is the visions he never asked for. As they track a cold and calculating killer, one misstep could turn the hunters into prey.
The Unhinged – David Bernstein (Samhain Publishing)
Under the control of a madman…with no way out.
Aaron Dupree has turned his life around. After serving six years in prison for his part in an armed robbery, he’s released on parole. He’s gotten a job and met a girl. Things are looking up…until he’s pulled over for speeding—a parole violation—and blackmailed by the officer. He’s forced to do terrible things to avoid going back to prison.
Aaron soon learns how truly deranged and sick the officer is as he’s dragged under a tide of ever-escalating horror. He thinks he’s seen the worst the cop has to offer until he meets the man with the scar, a vicious and twisted monster who lives only to deal pain.
Who is Adrian?
Adrian Shotbolt lives and works in Queensland, Australia with his wife and two small children.
When he’s not fishing, he’s reading at lightning speed and supporting authors online. Mostly he tells jokes.
Find Adrian talking books on Facebook and Twitter or read all his reviews on Amazon.
Thanks, Adrian, for overtaking my blog today! You can leave comments for Adrian below if you wish! 😀