Shane Douglas Keene’s Favorite Reads of 2018
Okay, I confess this list is somewhat disjointed, akin to my ADHD addled brain and all over the fuckin’ place, but it is what it is. I read so incredibly many great books last year that this list has been as impossible to nail down as putting on a blindfold and choosing a soulmate by throwing a dart. So, in the end, I landed on the following titles not because they are the only ones deserving of this list, but because they are the ones most representative of my reading experience in 2018. There is something here for everyone who likes crime or horror and all things in between so I hope you find some good reading inspiration. That’s what it’s all about people.
Note: These entries are not in order of preference because I don’t do that. If a book was a favorite in a particular category, I will mention it in the blurb.
7 Favorite Anthologies and Collections
Little Black Spots by John F.D. Taff
Mr. Taff always delivers the goods, whether writing long or short form fiction and this is hands down the best single author collection I read all year. This is one of several Grey Matter Press (GMP) books that made mine and Rich Duncan’s lists this year.
Spree and Others by Lucy Taylor
Chiral Mad 4 Edited by Michael Bailey and Lucy Snyder
Terror is Our Business: Dana Robert’s Casebook of Horrors by Joe and Kasey Lansdale
What needs to be said about the great Joe Lansdale and his multitalented singer-songwriter-author daughter Kasey Lansdale? Not a lot, they’re superb individually and fucking stellar together!
Suspended In Dusk II Edited by Simon Dewar
My first encounter with Simon Dewar as editor came in the form of the breakout anthology and much revisited volume, Suspended in Dusk. That book blew one of my socks off. This one blew both my socks off and also blew my mind in the process.
Ride the Star Wind by Scott Gable and C. Dombrowski
Yet another knockout mashup of horror, weird cosmic fiction, and sci-fi from the superb folks at Broken Eye Books, this anthology completely took me out of myself, and it’ll do the same to you. Buy it.
The Drowned Life by Jeffrey Ford
Two words: Jeffrey Ford. What more do you need to know? My first experience with Ford was The Twilight Pariah and that book was a game changer. His remarkable new collection, The Drowned Life made a Ford convert out of me and lifelong fan out of me.
The Big Book of Hap and Leonard by Joe Lansdale
If you’ve long wanted to get to know the phenom that is Hap and Leonard but don’t know where to start, here’s Shane, telling you where to start. Read this to get a feel for them, then go snag Savage Season.
7 Favorite Novellas
The Sea Dreams it is the Sky by John Hornor Jacobs
John Hornor Jacobs’ 2011 novel of cosmic, gothic horror was a revelation to me and made and instant Jacobs acolyte out of me. This newest novella shows him working at a much elevated level that is nothing short of breathtaking.
At the End of the Day I Burst Into Flames by Nicholas Day
It’s hard to believe it’s only been a few sort years since author Nicholas Day appeared on my radar. It feels like I’ve been reading and loving him for years, an act I intend to make real before my live is over. This newest one merely serves to further cement that goal.
We have a review of this one coming from the ever awesome Tracy Robinson in the next few weeks so stay tuned for that.
All Hail the House Gods by Andrew J. Stone
This is the second novella I’ve read by Stone, the first being The Mortuary Monster, and those two books turned me into a Stone fan for life. Hands down my favorite bizarro author.
Kingdom of Teeth Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason
Whoa. Coming from the Sisters of Slaughter (SOS), this book was a huge surprise. Because it’s whimsical and that is not usually the direction these authors go with their stories. They don’t call them SOS for no reason. But never fear, wherever the sisters go, their trademark mayhem and bloodshed aren’t long to follow and you’ll find yourself knee-deep in chaos before you know it.
Manifest Recall by Alan Baxter
Horrific bloodshed, brutality, and insanity wrapped in a crunchy, gritty shell of the darkest noir? Yes please. Known mostly for his urban fantasies and underwater adventures, Alan Baxter proves with Manifest Recall that he’s adept no matter what the genre or mashup thereof he should choose to take on.
Darkroom by Michael Bailey
Michael Bailey in the house again with a book that haunted me months ago when I read it and haunts the fuck out of me now. Michael’s a courageous writer, both willing and able to take on difficult to look at subjects and make you want to see in spite of the disturbing nature of the subject matter.
Shiloh by Philip Fracassi
It’s no secret to anyone who knows me or follows me that Philip Fracassi is a treasured author to me. Nor is there any shortage of materials out there in the webosphere that contain me blabbing about him and his work. Shiloh is one of the best things he’s ever written and that’s saying a hell of a lot!
10 Favorite Novels
Blood Standard by Laird Barron
It was really no secret to me that horror author Laird Barron could write crime fiction if he wanted to. He’s embraced noir themes throughout his career in books like Man With No Name and X’s for Eyes. And here he is now, turning his attention fully to the criminal and introducing us to what I believe is his best character creation ever. You should buy this yesterday!
The Cabin at the End of the World by Paul Tremblay
Just the other day I had a conversation with some people about ambiguity in horror and whether it was preferable or not. People were divided on both sides but it was no surprise to me to see this guy’s name come up. Arguably the king of ambiguity, Paul Tremblay always leaves you guessing and wondering what’s real and this is the best example of that to ever be born of his wicked, heartbreaking pen.
Providence by Caroline Kepnes
Caroline who? I honestly must have had my head under a fucking rock since 2014 when Kepnes’ blockbuster debut novel was released because I had never heard from her and she is outright motherfucking amazing. You has now been made into a TV series, for good reason as I understand it, and I hope someday I’ll see Providence on the big screen. Easily tied with two others for number one favorite of the year. Because I’m fickle that way.
Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman
Here’s one of those two other number one favorites of the year I mentioned. In this book, Josh Malerman created three of the most unforgettable characters I’ve ever encountered. Carol, Moxie, and yes, even you, Smoke, I love you and miss you. Oh, and Josh, I fucking love you too!
The Line That Held Us by David Joy
I don’t remember now who first drew my attention to author David Joy, but I wouldn’t be surprised to discover it was Gabino Iglesias. A lot of the stuff I read like this comes to me via Iglesias and I’m eternally grateful for that. But, about this book. This book! Joy writes the kind of gritty Southern Appalachian noir you can really sink your teeth into, but be careful. The Line That Held Us may just sink it’s teeth right into your heart.
Coyote Songs by Gabino Iglesias
Those three victims of my fickleness? The ones I mentioned were tied for favorite of the year. Damn fucking right this is one of them. Billed as a collection by many, even it’s publisher, judging by the Stoker category it’s in, and I gotta kind of call bullshit on that. It’s a series of interconnected narratives that Iglesias kind of magically weaves together to form a cohesive whole and my interpretation is, “this is a novel, mi hermanos.” Damn fucking great and important novel that it is, you need to read this one now. I’ll wait.
The Isle by John C. Foster
Here’s an easy favorite for me, but I’ve never read a book by Foster that didn’t suck me in and own me. But this one went fathoms deeper than his previous works, bringing us a cast of characters as rich as the ancient heritage of New England itself. Here John creates some of the richest humanity he’s ever imagined and also somehow manages to masterfully tie them to the Isle itself, making the setting as much of a character as any other in the story.
Dead Man’s Badge by Robert E. Dunn
Man, I read this one so early in 2018 I damn near forgot to include it, which would be a major crime indeed. Dunn, a writer I already knew to be a fine horror author, turns out to be just as adept with dark crime noir, and here he creates a character who, broken as he is, amoral as he is, managed to find a place in my heart and make me know what happens next. And I hope like hell there is a next because when it comes to crime, Dunn is a true master and one you don’t want to miss out on. If you haven’t read this book, go unfuck that now.
We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix
This amazing heavy metal nightmare wins the award for the most holy-shit scary scene I read all decade and maybe even all century so far. When it comes to atmosphere, characterization, and mood, Hendrix has few comparable peers, and in this booming age of horror, that says a hell of a lot about the author’s alacrity with the written word and his ability to create a scenario that he knows is going to fuck with you in your nightmares in the coming weeks.
Bearskin by James A. McLaughlin
And the award for number one surprise of the year goes to this amazing mashup of cartel crime fiction and straight up crime noir by James A. McLaughlin, who succeeded in penning one of the best, most human stories I read all year. And while that might make no sense to you reading it right here, when you read the book, you will find yourself in awe of his prose and so in love with his protagonist that you never want to let him go. Get this amazing book in your brains now, children!
So there you go. I read so many books last year that could have made this list, but you can only do so many before you run out of passion for the project and the reader runs out of interest in your babble, so I will just leave this here. Every single one of these books is a top shelf read and the authors are all rock stars I hope to see much much more from. What are your favorites of 2018? Feel free to discuss in the comments.