Top 10 Horror Books of 2016

by Jay Kay

Cannibalism… murder… twisted love… revolution… confusion. These are some of the themes from some of my favorite books of 2016. Over the last year, more authors and titles have become available with new stories, characters and ways to cultivate horror coming out of the shadows. I was very lucky in 2016 to have so many talented and terrifying authors join me in live conversation on The Horror Happens Radio Show. Here is a list of my ten favorite horror titles that exemplify the independent horror spirit, knowledge and storytelling talent of these authors.

1. Vicki Beautiful – Somer Canon (Samhain Publishing Ltd.)

A wonderfully wicked debut novel from author Somer Canon on the publisher Samhain, finds a group of close friends faced with one of their own committing suicide after cancer has returned to destroy her perfect life ad family. Her final wishes are beyond crazy as it tests her group of friends and husband’s love, loyalty and the level of macabre we will go for the ones we care about. A very quick and personally challenging read for me, Somer challenges the reader to enter into a situation that not only is so farfetched but also connecting to and evaluating the close relationships they have in their lives. Powerful, wicked and dark, Somer Canon finds a personal voice in each of the characters and their relationships within the story whether through marriage, friendship or parent. Finding that balance of the macabre and truth, Vicki Beautiful is horror novel that pays off, creates conversation and offers depth in its storytelling. Truly a full course meal, Vicki Beautiful captivated me and made me feel uneasy as I followed the madness and perfection of the human monster. Well deserving of my number one. Read my review and insight from form Somer Canon on Vicki Beautiful here


2. Children of the Dark – Jonathan Janz (Sinister Grin Press)

It takes a truly talented writer to find the darkness of childhood. In the book Children of the Dark, we meet Will Burgess who is faced with his dysfunctional and damaged family. The girl he cannot have but his enemy can. The challenges of school. Being mature before his time and multiple version of evil in his path. Crafted on foundation of dysfunction, darkness and the that connection of growing up, John Janz creates a story that keeps you hooked and never allows the evil to settle but keeps the main character in the constant cross hairs along with his family and friends. Wonderful structure and character development that goes beyond the typical cast of characters with a storytelling pace that never slows down and fully develops each arc. A powerful read for me, that transported me back to my childhood days thankfully less adventurous then Will’s.


3. Blister– Jeff Strand (Sinister Grin Press)

Author Jeff Strand can bridge love and the macabre. With challenging and quirky characters in the back country comes a down home and f’ed up fable. A local legend of a deformed freak woman named “Blister” who is locked away in a shed. A cartoonist named Jason Tray who pushes the line to far and is sent away for some down time. A protective father with a secret. A town with too many secrets and cover up of the past. These sparks create the dark passion of Blister. Sharp, clever and never totally knowing the next step, this twisted tale blends unlikely love, deformed attraction, back water horror and sheer stupidity into one macabre romance novel that sticks with you and makes you rethink the ideal of beauty and the beast. Read my interview with Jeff Strand here


4. Films of the New French Extremity: Visceral Horror and National Identity – Alexandra West (McFarland Publishing)

The only book on this list not a horror novel, is an incredibly informative, researched and historic text that discusses and breaks down the movement of the New French Extremity that developed in late 1990’s with films, filmmakers and horror content that reflected the differences, conflict and darkness of France over the many years. Discussing a variety of films that created one of the most infamous sub-genres of horror filmmaking, Rue Morgue Magazine writer Alexandra West masterfully connects the reason for the madness that has been presented in such films as Trouble Every Day (2001), Irreversible (2002), Twentynine Palms (2003), High Tension (2003) and Martyrs (2008) to name a handful. West not only breaks down the films of that period but many of the filmmakers like Phillippe Grandrieux, Catherine Breillat and Claire Denis to also name a handful. West enlists such respected names like lecturer and writer Andrea Subissati and TIFF’s programmer Colin Geddes along with insight and knowledge from a variety of incredible sources and film experts. Films of the New French Extremity: Visceral Horror and National Identity is worth every moment invested as West goes beyond the ultra-violence, gore and extreme sexuality show reason and cause of these insidious and art house expressions. Films of the New French Extremity is an incredibly crafted book that delves into the madman, messages and mayhem caused by this movement and an educational piece for all those who dare to turn the page.

5. The Catcher’s Trap – Ricardo Henriquez (Inkshares)

Perhaps the most personal book on this list, author Ricardo Henriquez found his voice in his debut novel The Catcher’s Trap. This story revolves around a young man named Andres who has never truly fit in anywhere and never lived up to his expectations. Kidnapped one night and thrust into slavery to harness crops of special drug, Andres along with many who have been abducted by the “Catchers”, must face the conflict of survival or perish under a dictator rule and a destiny of revolution. Ricardo knocks this one out of the park facing so many challenges inside himself to create a statement of liberation from within. Created with so much emotion, respect towards the history he grew up with in Chile and the ability to battle the darkness inside with conflicting points of view, Ricardo tells a story that is more than one dimensional and offers the reader connection on many different levels. Hopefully the first book of a series going forward, The Catcher’s Trap is filled with twists, choices and mounting tension that is worth the time and is more than a horror novel. Read my full review here


6. Savages – Greg Gifune
7. Black Tide: A Matt Rowley Novel – Patrick Freivald
8. Dream Woods – Patrick Lacey
9. Blood Sacrifice – Brian Moreland
10. I Kill in Peace – Hunter Shea

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