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The Naming of the Books 2019

Presenting a list of all the books I read in 2019! This year the number totals 24. I used the same rules for this list that I always do: I count collections and anthologies, but not individual stories; I count graphic novels and trade comics collections, but not individual comic book issues; and I don’t count magazines, only books. So here are the books I read this year, presented in the order in which I read them:

The Isle by John Foster
Rat Queens, Vol. 2: The Far-Reaching Tentacles of N’rygoth by Kurtis J. Wiebe
Rat Queens, Vol. 3: Demons by Kurtis J. Wiebe
Rat Queens, Vol. 4: High Fantasies by Kurtis J. Wiebe
Rat Queens, Vol. 5: The Colossal Magic Nothing by Kurtis J. Wiebe
Nothing is Everything by Simon Strantzas
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
Lovecraft: Four Classic Horror Stories by I.N.J. Culbard
The Twilight Pariah by Jeffrey Ford
The Migration by Helen Marshall
Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle
The Clockworm and Other Strange Stories by Karen Heuler
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones by Alvin Schwartz
X’s For Eyes by Laird Barron
Rat Queens, Vol. 6: The Infernal Path by Kurtis J. Wiebe
My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
The Last Astronaut by David Wellington
Growing Things and Other Stories by Paul Tremblay
The Glittering World by Robert Levy
A Hawk in the Woods by Carrie Laben
The Stand by Stephen King
Home for the Holidays by Randee Dawn

There you have it, the books I read in 2019! Here’s looking forward to another book-filled year in 2020!

Home for the Holidays

Home for the HolidaysHome for the Holidays by Randee Dawn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This slim volume acts as a highly enjoyable sampler of author and journalist Randee Dawn’s prose and poetry. There’s something for everyone in the six stories in HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, which run the gamut from horror to a Jane Austenish comedy of manners to a deeply emotional autobiographical vignette. My favorite story in the bunch is “Trap Doors,” a somewhat surreal, Robert Aickmanesque “strange story” about the holes in our lives, some left behind by absent friends, some offering a place to hide, and some as invasive as surgery. I was also fond of the title story, a tale of ironic comeuppance right out of EC Comics in which two neighbors angrily and obsessively try to outdo each other’s Christmas decorations every year. Dawn’s poetry is accomplished as well, with eight selections rounding out the volume. HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS is recommended for anyone looking for a new and versatile author to read. Meanwhile, I eagerly await Dawn’s next publication.

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The Stand

The StandThe Stand by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What an incredible achievement! I can see why THE STAND is a favorite for many Stephen King fans. As with his other lengthy masterpiece IT, the strength here is in the characters as much as anything else. There are many, many characters in THE STAND, some more memorable than others, but all of them interesting. I think the two I was most fascinated by were Harold Lauder and Nadine Cross. I don’t want to spoil anything for those of you who might not have read THE STAND yet, but these two characters have such memorably tragic arcs, half due to their own bad decisions and half due to simple, ugly destiny, that they really stuck out for me. Of course, I loved Stu and Glen and Frannie, too! (My feelings about Larry Underwood are more complicated, although he certainly proved himself to be a better person by the end.)

I even had some sympathy for poor old Trashcan Man, and that’s something that speaks to the strength of King’s abilities as a writer. He populates Randall Flagg’s Las Vegas not just with madmen and criminals, as you might imagine a stronghold of evil to be, but with lots of characters who are worthy of sympathy, even more than Trashcan Man is. King seems to be saying that even decent people can make the wrong choice or be caught up in the grinding wheels of fate. If there’s one sin the denizens of Las Vegas might share, however, it’s cowardice, as even those who have a moral compass and know Flagg is a monster are too scared to do anything about it, and so they blindly follow his orders, swallowing their consciences one bit at a time.

As riveted as I was by the novel in general, a section in the middle dragged for me, the part when Stu and the others are setting up committees and a rudimentary governmental system for the Free Zone. But even that has an important role to play later, and one could say THE STAND is really far more about the journey than the destination.

The edition I read was the original Signet paperback from 1980, so old and well-loved that its cover is held together with Scotch tape at this point, but I loved the novel enough that I think someday I might check out the “complete and uncut” edition that came out in 1990. I certainly wouldn’t mind spending time with these characters again.

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The Scariest Part: Ray Clark Talks About IMPURITY

This week on The Scariest Part, I’m pleased to welcome back Ray Clark, whose newest book is the re-release of Impurity, the first novel in the continuing DI Gardener series. Here is the publisher’s description:

A murder with no weapon or motive. A detective on edge. A community that wants answers.

One fateful night when off duty, DI Stewart Gardener intervenes in a street brawl and his wife is shot dead.

Trying to come to terms with this, he gradually returns to normal duties policing the streets of Leeds. Finding his wife’s murderer is never far from his mind, but with no leads and a hazy recollection of events, it seems hopeless.

Soon he is presented with a shocking case. A man is found dead in a grubby apartment, having been killed in the cruellest of ways. It is not long before another man meets the same fate.

The deaths are caused by a rapid and violent disintegration of the victims’ flesh. Pathology cannot ascertain the cause.

The only connection between the victims is they both worked seasonally as Santas, dressing up as Father Christmas and entertaining kids in grottos and such like. Who would want to kill such innocuous men as these?

The detective is flummoxed. The local community is ruffled. The press is having a field day. The top brass wants answers. Can DI Gardener overcome his grief and solve the case?

And now, let’s hear what the scariest part was for Ray Clark:

“Is your book scary?” she asked me, and before I’d had time to think about the answer, she said, “It looks it.”

And then came the next question: “Tell me,” she said, leaning forward, “what’s the scariest part?”

As I was desperately trying to think of an answer, I suddenly thought, being asked that question is — unless you count seeing the rejection slip landing in the morning post (or should I say your inbox nowadays).

When I think back to the time I spent researching Impurity, it came down to one clinical point: harbouring a very dark secret for many years, and then being found out.

Imagine living in constant fear of it: looking over your shoulder every day, spending your spare time in a guilt ridden slumber, working with people who think they know you, when all along, they wouldn’t give you the time of day if they knew the truth. You were doing wrong and you knew you were, but you couldn’t stop yourself; knowing that the past will eventually catch up with you, and when it does it won’t be very nice: because you’ll either be facing the person you wronged — or the police!

That is very much what happens in Impurity. When Detective Inspector Stewart Gardener investigates the discovery of a body in a run-down Victorian property in a suburb of Leeds, he knows he’s in for a tough time: ashen faced police constables testify to that.

Nothing could have prepared him for what lay ahead.

The corpse of a seasonal worker living in very tatty conditions is bad enough, but someone has gone to great length to eradicate them by administering a flesh-consuming drug, resulting in the victim’s rapid and violent disintegration. Furthermore, pathology is unable to ascertain the cause. As the novel progresses you realize the scariest part concerns the victim: he’s still alive whilst it’s happening, and fully aware of the effect it’s having on his body, because it’s already been explained to him.

The really frightening thing for me however, is that after having spent considerable time with a chemist, I came to the conclusion that it might just be possible to achieve what the book is offering.

Now that is the scariest part!

Impurity: Amazon / Amazon UK

Ray Clark: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Amazon UK Author Page

Ray Clark is an award winning Yorkshire born author whose first big break came in 1998 with the publication of Manitou Man: The World of Graham Masterton (a biographical account of the author’s work), which was nominated for both the World and British Fantasy Awards. Since then, Ray’s writing career has been quite varied with publications covering short story collections (A Devil’s Dozen & A Detective’s Dozen), horror novels (Calix & Resurrection), stand-alone cross genre novels (Seven Secrets), and the highly acclaimed IMP series, featuring detectives Gardener and Reilly in the Yorkshire city of Leeds. Over the last forty years, Ray has also spent considerable time in the music industry working both in the UK and Europe as a guitar vocalist, and with a number of bands. These days, Ray divides his time between writing books and working live on the music scene, and helping to raise money for the OPA, a charity he feels quite close to. Ray’s London publisher, The Book Folks, are planning to release Book 2 in the IMP series, Imperfection, in time for Christmas.