Richard’s Top 10 Books of the Year: 2010

Well, there are so many books that I didn’t get to, and I know I’ll be reading a ton in January, but here is my list of the top ten books that I read in 2010. They all totally blew my mind. They are in no particular order.

The Physics of Imaginary Objects
by Tina May Hall
A dark, surreal lyrical collection of shorts dripping with emotion and truth. Drue Heinz Prize winner. She was a new voice to me, and one that really resonated, haunting me for weeks.

by Lindsay Hunter
She never shies away from sex, violence or brutal honesty. I loved this debut collection, so much fun. Be sure to read Lindsay’s work wherever you see it, or come out to Quickies! Chicago.

It Came From Del Rio
and The Ones That Got Away
by Stephen Graham Jones
I’m going to cheat a bit here and give Stephen two as one. Del Rio was a wild ride, set in Texas, with a bunny-headed vigilante and chupacabras. His short stories never cease to amaze me, blending the best of genre fiction (horror, fantasy, science fiction) with the elevated prose and honesty of literary fiction.

The Wilding
by Benjamin Percy
This is the story of man vs. nature, and sometimes nature wins. Percy is a master of the authoritative voice, and set in the Oregon woods, this father-son-grandson story is also one about hope and loss and love. Such a great debut novel, I’ve been enjoying his short fiction for years.

In The Mean Time
by Paul Tremblay
How can you create tension and unease at the same time that you create beauty and love? Dysfunctional and surreal, this is a collection that I just couldn’t put down. So good.

Sarah Court
by Craig Davidson
More broken, dysfunctional characters, this time from Craig Davidson. Like many on this list, I’ve been a fan of his work for a long time. Visceral, painful, and extremely rewarding.

Under the Dome
by Stephen King
I know, look a BIG PRESS and a BIG AUTHOR. I’ve been a fan of King since high school, and I think this is his best book in years. It’s expansive, as he’s known to be, but the story, the characters, this small town trapped under a dome – it’s as addictive as his work always is to me, and even at 1000+ pages, I cruised through this.

Stay God
by Nik Korpon
My label mate at OWP and fellow neo-noir author, this was a book that I couldn’t wait for, so happy to see it out. Dark, gritty, set in Baltimore, it’s also funny, touching and full of love. A great debut.

by Chris Deal
This started out as a 100 word contest that I created at The Velvet. Chris Deal just exploded with stories and ideas, and won it with authority. I told him he needed to put this into a collection and get it out there. He did that, and I am so proud, and excited that he did this. His work is dark, surreal, visionary and touching. Expect more from him.

Charactered Pieces
by Caleb J Ross
Soon to be published with OWP as well, Caleb is one of the smartest, most connected, giving authors I know. This collection is just the tip of the iceberg. Dysfunctional families, riddled with despair and loss, his stories are also emotional and touching. Keep an eye out for more from Caleb as well.

Support your small, independent presses and pick up one of these titles today. You won’t regret it.

Benjamin Percy’s The Wilding

So my review is now up at TNB. Go check it out, peeps.

If you haven’t read Ben’s work, well, you need to go do that. I can’t remember the last time I found a new voice that captivated me as much as Ben Percy. It started with the story, “Refresh, Refresh” in an issue of The Paris Review that my friend Drew McCoy showed me. From there, I got the collection, Refresh, Refresh. It’s like the first time I read Chuck Palahniuk, or Brian Evenson, or Will Christopher Baer. It hooked me for life.

His work it typically focused on the outdoors, such as Oregon, but not always. He taps into the universal truths that I’m trying to find in my own work. And he does it with authority and emotion.

I’ve been lucky enough to meet Ben at various AWPs, talk a bit, listen to him read (good lord the man is a baritone, a bass, makes Barry White sound like a soprano) at various panels, and talk via email. He’s good people – talented, generous with his time, and all kinds of cool. The Wilding is his first novel, and I can’t wait to read more of his work.

Stay God, the debut neo-noir thriller by Nik Korpon IS OUT RIGHT NOW!

“Someone stabbed the sun. It’s dripping onto Baltimore, seeping through gauze clouds onto the cobblestone street, reflecting off wet tire tracks in pinpoint sparks like the ones that follow a two-by-four across the nose. It’s dimming, dying, falling in slow motion, but the city is oblivious. Couples in matching jackets and complementary scarves walk arm-in-arm down Thames and through Fell’s Point. They push strollers with babies double-wrapped in winter coats. Share hot chocolate and kiss the dot of whipped cream off their noses. Window-shop the poster place next-door, looking for the perfect thing for the TV room. Happy lives, happily self-contained in their happy little oblivious universes.”

I’ve known of this book for years, been reading it in our Write Club workshop, and was thrilled when it landed with me at Otherworld Publications. Nik is one of my neo-noir brothers, a guy that doesn’t mind laying on the mood, the setting, injecting the emotions, slapping you in the face with the harsh Baltimore weather, every grimy cobblestone on top of every chipped brick until you are immersed, a part of it all, trying to keep up, trying to find a way out, holding your breath as you turn the page.

Stay God is a neo-noir thriller, one that isn’t afraid to go dark. But it’s not one note. He puts your through the wringer, making you laugh, become friends with this cast of miscreants, understand their love, and then shatter it all in the blink of an eye.

Chuck Palahniuk said something like “Teach me something, make laugh, and then break my heart.” Nik Korpon does this and more. It is a book I really enjoyed reading, from start to finish.

Pick it up at Amazon or Otherworld Publications, and spread the word. This is Nik’s debut, not long after my debut, and part of the pantheon of excellent work that OWP is putting out. Keep an eye out for Caleb Ross, Brandon Tietz, and Michael Sonbert in 2011 on our label as well. More compelling fiction that isn’t afraid to punch you in the gut and walk away.

Redesign The Velvet – A good cause is up at IndieGoGo – GO NOW!

The Velvet is home to three talented authors that have greatly shaped my work.

Will Christopher Baer is one of the best neo-noir authors around, and has been the great influence on my work. His trilogy (Kiss Me, Judas; Penny Dreadful; Hell’s Half Acre) is a perfect example of the voice, the mood, the tone of what neo-noir is and can be. Dark, strange, grounded in reality, but floating in the surreal, it’s hypnotic. I’d give a kidney to meet the man. Inside joke.

Craig Clevenger is another author that has dabbled in the neo-noir, but is moving on to other genres. The Contortionist’s Handbook is a classic, and Dermaphoria is equally as rich and layered, hallucinatory and yet vivid and visceral. He’s taught me in two classes at The Cult, and pushed me to submit my story “Stillness” until it got accepted in Shivers VI (Cemetery Dance) alongside Stephen King and Peter Straub. He’s generous and brilliant.

Stephen Graham Jones is the only one of the trio I’ve met, at two AWPs, and he’s one of the most intelligent, giving, well-read authors I know. All the Beautiful Sinners haunts me to this day, and the rest of his work is equally stunning. Pick up any of his books. And he’s one of the most published and accomplished short story writers I know. 100+ I’d say. Whenever I’m researching places to submit, I say “If it’s good enough for Stephen, it’s good enough for me.

Go to IndieGoGo and support the cause, the website, the plethora or emerging authors that hang there, and the talented, giving people that make up the community. Even $5 helps. Lots of great things are being given/auctioned away, so go check it out. A portion of the donations goes to charity too.