Thursday, December 20, 2012

My Favorite Books of 2012 (Regardless of Their Publication Dates)

There is a shortage of book talk on this blog, and it's a shame considering that I do read them as well as write them, I really do.  In fact, even before the process began of researching agencies, which in itself prompted me to begin reading a wide variety of books strictly to see what else was out there, I had a pretty good backlog of books that I wanted to not so much review here but highlight.  An earlier post from August of 2011 emphasized what "inspired" me about Andrew Davidson's novel The Gargoyle, for instance, and this is what I plan to do here with this small handful of books in this my first multi-image post!

I'll start with the most recent, Dean Koontz's 2005 novel, Velocity.  And most all of the reviews that I've read and even watched on YouTube say the same thing about this book, that the book's title says it all, with a story that is for the most part in real time as it races through only a few days in the life of our unfortunate hero.  While being put to the task of choosing the victims of a killer through a series of notes and riddles, I was at first put off by the fact that I had stumbled onto another crime story, but then I was inspired above all by how much fun Koontz was having with the material.

Which takes me to the previous book I'd read, Richard Laymon's 1986 horror novel The Beast House, which is actually the second book in his Beast House Chronicles series.  Here, I was treated to a book much like one in which I would structure, complete with multiple viewpoints and motivations and cinematic descriptions of the action that all added up to a novel that read very much like a "grindhouse" monster movie.  I read this one during breaks in the morning hours and the Koontz book at night, and I suppose I lucked out, because they both sustained my attention and proved to be good picks to double-up with from our very own bookshelf at home.

Going back now a few months, I dove into the world of Joe Hill, and I did this first with his 2010 dark-fantasy novel Horns.  Here I was impressed with much of the same things that I had admired about The Gargoyle, which was that there was really a minimal amount of plot in favor of character and insight that leant itself more to the genre of literary fiction than to horror.  Our hero wakes up one morning from a drunken night with horns on his head, and why and when this happens is explored in a bit of an abstract and allegorical way, which in my opinion is perfectly acceptable.
But in Hill's previous outing, the 2007 straight-up horror novel Heart-Shaped Box, an aging rocker purchases a suit of a dead man that carries with it a vengeful ghost.  This one was more accessible as it dealt with a situation, the premise of the suit itself being haunted, and it was explored and carried out in a satisfying if not poltergeist-bright-and-flickering-lights kind of way.  Hill is the son of a lesser-known horror writer with the surname of King.
Which brings me to the novel with which I started the year, Anne Rice's 2012 return to her Gothic roots, The Wolf Gift.  As you can guess, this is an exhilarating exploration of the wolf man (or, as she prefers to call it in the book, the "Man Wolf") myth, and it begins what will soon be another series by the author that started the inside-out re-imaginings of the legends of horror.  I am still thrilled to have been called out by Ms. Rice herself on this blog regarding an early and speculative post about this very book, and it can be found here on the sidebar as my most-popular post to date.

Thanks, Anne, not just for the shout-out but for basically starting this whole writing thing that's consumed me since your 1976 novel Interview With the Vampire.  But that's a love letter for another post.  This was about books that have inspired me, about what I've learned about the genre that my books may or may not fall into, and about how I should move on in the new year with the business of being Ted Torres. 

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