I was fortunate to read a small mountain of amazing fiction in 2012, but 2013 has the potential to top it with ease. In addition to the books listed below (which I would not be surprised to find sitting in my Top 10 at year’s end), there’s plenty of stuff coming by authors I’ve just discovered, not to mention all of the surprises that the year no doubt holds. In other words, we’ve got a lot to look forward to – here’s just a taste of what I’m anticipating as the new year approaches.
NOS4A2 by Joe Hill (April 30) (William Morrow)
Joe Hill continues to solidify his voice with each passing project, and what I’ve read about NOS4A2 leads me to believe he’s fully embracing his horrific roots while putting his own gleeful spin on the genre’s tropes. The book is about Charlie Manx, a 140-year-old slice of sleaze with a predilection for children. Manx has a hidden place called “Christmasland” that promises to twist the cheerful connotation of its name into something hideous and terrifying, and it's there where he takes his children to play. Only one child ever escaped him, a girl named Victoria McQueen, and her path is about to cross Charlie’s once again.
While I’ve enjoyed his novels Heart-Shaped Box and Horns, my favorite thing of Hill’s so far remains his comic book series Locke & Key. Based on the information (and a small excerpt) that I’ve been able to track down about NOS4A2, it may well jump into that top spot once the reading is done.
I Travel by Night by Robert R. McCammon (May 31) (Subterranean Press)
Early publicity material is calling this McCammon’s return to “flamboyant, go-for-broke horror fiction,” and that alone should have horror fans salivating. Before taking a sabbatical and returning to concentrate on the historical thrillers of his Matthew Corbett series, McCammon built a following with stuff like Baal, Bethany’s Sin and Swan Song. Night returns to those dark and twisted pathways in a story peppered with vampire queens, haunted priests and ghost towns buried deep in the Louisiana swamps. The cover copy alone is more atmospheric than some entire novels manage to be. If you’re just now getting into McCammon, rest assured the best is yet to come.
Little is known about this, King’s second original novel for Hard Case Crime. We know it’s King’s take on the classic “whodunit”-style mystery; we know there’s a carnival, a murder, and a dying child. Really, isn’t that enough? If not, consider what Hard Case Crime editor Charles Ardai said in a press release: “…it’s a story about growing up and growing old, and about people who don’t get to do either because death comes for them before their time.” King seems to have finally stopped threatening us with retirement, content instead to churn out amazing gifts like 11/22/63 and “The Little Green God of Agony.” Joyland feels like it’s going to continue that momentum right into September, when King bookends the summer with…
In which King returns to a character from The Shining, one of his most compelling and masterful early novels, to continue the story of young Danny Torrance, who we all somehow knew wasn’t going to live a normal, quiet life after his father succumbed to the demons of that small Colorado hotel. I’ll admit I’m a little nervous about this one – The Shining is one of the sacred texts of the King bibliography, and this high concept approach to a sequel is either going to soar alongside the original or fall fast and hard on its face. Danny is using his ability to “shine” to comfort those near death when he runs afoul of a group of “psychic vampires” who feed off of the kind of energy Danny produces in abundance. Whereas The Shining was a claustrophobic tale about the disintegration of one family, Doctor Sleep will play out over a much larger scale. It may eventually divide King’s fanbase straight down the middle, but right now it’s got us all united in that universal game of “can’t September get here already?”
Pale Preachers by Tom Piccirilli (TBA) (Creeping Hemlock Press)
Tom Piccirilli’s 2012 has been the Year from Hell. Although he released one of the best books of his career with The Last Kind Words, he barely had time to enjoy it before being diagnosed with a brain tumor. Surgery followed, along with chemo and radiation treatments, and all reports indicate that Piccirilli is kicking cancer’s ass up and down the street. Therefore, it feels perfectly alright to me to look ahead to this zombie novella coming to us from the “Print Is Dead” imprint of Creeping Hemlock Press. Piccirilli has described this as a southern Gothic tale about a group of people dealing with a zombie uprising deep in the swamplands. If you’ve read Piccirilli’s take on Southern Gothic in A Choir of Ill Children, you’ll understand why I’m so excited about this. If you haven’t, go track it down and get it read before Pale Preachers comes out, which Creeping Hemlock hints is going to be sooner rather than later.
Shivers VII edited by Richard Chizmar (TBA) (Cemetery Dance)
The Shivers anthology is consistently one of the most loaded collections of its kind, gathering works from the darlings of the small press and parking them side-by-side with the genre’s biggest names. The upcoming installment is no exception. The table of contents is bookended with rare stories by Clive Barker (“The Departed”) and Stephen King (“Weeds,” the story on which the King-starring segment of Creepshow was based), and includes originals by Al Sarrantonio, Norman Partridge, Norman Prentiss, Ed Gorman, Bev Vincent and many others. That’s 26 stories and over 400 pages for twenty bucks, otherwise known as a no-brainer. No firm release date has been announced, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see this one in the first half of ’13.
Blu Gilliand is a freelance writer of fiction and nonfiction. He covers horror fiction at his blog, October Country, and contributes interviews to the Horror World website. Follow him on Twitter at @BluGilliand.