‘CUGA’S CUTS >> Be(a)st Horror of 2010

Author Joshua Jabcuga delves into horror, where every Friday is Friday the 13th!

Novel of the Year:
RED SKY by Nate Southard

If you’ve been paying attention, Southard has been building quite the buzz over the last couple of years. It started with a short story here and there, and then — bam! — when he earned his way up to the plate, he just knocked that fucker right out of the park. Southard is clearly a student of the game, honing his craft, voice and talent through old-fashioned hard work, and there’s no bullshit about that. I’d tell you to look out for this guy, but I think you’ll be hearing plenty about him in the very near future.

Think of him as Quentin Tarantino, right before he blew up and became a household name. Yeah, this guy is going places, and he deserves it. My suggestion is you jump aboard this Michael Mann (vintage Mann) meets Norman Partridge thrill ride so you can witness a first-class talent on the rise. His prose is gritty and no nonsense, as if you’ve got sand in your teeth and nothing but tequila to gargle with.

I was so impressed, that after reading a PDF review copy, I dropped $60 to order the hardcover of the book for my personal collection. To butcher someone else’s saying, I took the ride, so I thought it was only appropriate that I pay for the ticket.

Short Story Collection of the Year (tie):
CITIES OF NIGHT by Philip Nutman and FUTILE EFFORTS by Tom Piccirilli

ChiZine Publications seemed to come out of nowhere in 2010, releasing some stellar books. They put together quite the catalog and became quite the name. In particular, Paul Tremblay’s IN THE MEAN TIME garnered a lot of buzz. As a result, I think to some extent, CITIES OF NIGHT by Philip Nutman unfairly slipped under the radar for many readers. So here’s your wake-up call and a chance to redeem yourselves. As Nutman might say, “Saddle up wankers, it’s time to ride!”

Some of you die-hards out there might know his now-landmark novel, WET WORK. Nasty (and smart) stuff, that. Reading CITIES OF NIGHT, you may experience a sense of awe, like witnessing a mash-up of The Clash and Miles Davis (although Nutman notes: “The book was fuelled on Guinness, Sauza Tequila, Echo & The Bunnymen [very LOUDLY], and Monty Python).” It’s a killing moon, indeed. CITIES OF NIGHT serves as both a career overview and a greatest-hits collection. The prose is elegant and dangerous, like a high-priced escort with a razor pressed against your balls.

You get “Full Throttle,” originally published in 1990 in the now-infamous SPLATTERPUNKS, along with newer material exclusive to the collection, weaved in seamlessly. And for the uninitiated, if you’re saying to yourself, “That name sounds so familiar,” it’s because Nutman was one of the brave souls (along with Daniel Farrands) who masterfully adapted Jack Ketchum’s THE GIRL NEXT DOOR for film. I’ve referred to Nutman as the Lester Bangs of genre writing, and the folks at FANGORIA have lovingly given him the title of the Hunter S. Thompson of horror. Buy CITIES OF NIGHT, and just maybe the “evil Dr. Phil” will give you more of the bad medicine that makes you feel so good.

Four-time Stoker Award winner (and inaugural “’Cuga’s Cuts” winner, ha!) Tom Piccirilli has become the king with a crown of barbed wire. FUTILE EFFORTS is monstrous, in terms of its disturbing content, and in sheer size alone: 17 stories and 45 poems with insightful intros from a highly respected cast of scribes including the likes of Ray Garton, Christopher Golden and Edward Lee. Just shy of 500 pages, this cinderblock of pulp is a no-brainer, bells-and-whistles must-have for any self-respecting horror fan. Brutal and beautiful.

There’s not much I can say that would do it justice because it needs to be seen (and read) to be believed. Like Nutman, Piccirilli is a writer’s writer, and the man has become a master storyteller, at the top of his game for quite an impressive stretch now. He’s like a champion fighter who can’t be beaten, one who sharpens his arsenal with each bout. And Piccirilli is a fighting champion. This book gets the deluxe treatment, and rightfully so. Bravo, Cemetery Dance!

Nonfiction Book of the Year:

Yes, technically, this book was originally released in 1990, but the revised edition is even more definitive and exhaustive (which is difficult to fathom if you’ve seen its previous incarnation). Quite simply, this is a text devoted to two legendary silver-screen icons. It’s important that we preserve the past. Lugosi and Karloff certainly have their place in history, and I’m glad this book exists, to help reinforce and perpetuate the legends. It’s funny how time slips away, isn’t it?

Reprints of the Year (tie):
JOYRIDE by Jack Ketchum and THE BRIDGE by John Skipp and Craig Spector

Stop prowling around the used bookstore hoping to get your hands on these and grab fresh copies (or download them for that eReading device you scored for Christmas). JOYRIDE includes the ultra-disturbing novella WEED SPECIES.

Outstanding Project of the Year:
THE SECRETARY OF DREAMS: VOLUME TWO by Stephen King, illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne

Worth the wait, worth the money! That’s it in a nutshell. But that’s not fair. Why? Well, besides the fact that Cemetery Dance did a marvelous job with the production (as they did with the first volume), it’s necessary to point out the contributions from Chadbourne. This is really his baby. I want there to be dozens of volumes from Cemetery Dance, and I want Chadbourne to perform his black-ink magic on all of them.

If you were to buy only one “collector’s book” this year (you know what I mean: the kind where you say to yourself, “Do I not eat for a few days and purchase the book?), this is that book. Sure, it looks all purty on your shelf there with its slipcase, but this book begs to be read. Dive in. Open it up on your coffee table. Pour over every last detail in Chadbourne’s stunning illustrations, and lose yourself inside not just the world of King, but the world of Chadbourne.

Anthology of the Year:
HAUNTED LEGENDS edited by Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas

Think of it as a concept album, with a bunch of rock stars covering folk songs. Trust me, it’ll make sense once you pick up the book. And there’s a Ramsey Campbell piece called “Chucky Comes to Liverpool” about an urban legend surrounding the CHILD’S PLAY films and video nasties (I’m not making this up!), and it’s charming and it made me laugh and then it bit me in the ass. Quite clever, that Campbell. I think the lad’s got a future. Same with HAUNTED LEGENDS. It begs for a follow-up. And here’s a request for the band: Jack Ketchum covering the Jersey Devil. Please?

Zombie Book of the Year (this category will never die!):
PARIAH by Bob Fingerman

It’s this year’s zombie novel. Need I say more?

Horror Website of the Year

Whether or not you agree with everything Keene says, in his often engaging, occasionally hilarious, sometimes bitter, always honest rants, the man never ceases to entertain. And his website is a portal to bigger things. It’s not just about him. That’s the thing: He gets it. Always has. His website is a community, and it’s evolved into a much bigger universe, this Keenedom. As one industry vet told me, when it comes to promoting, “Keene is a machine.” I admire that.

But you know what I dig the most? The part that gets overlooked, because critics or message-board trolls are too quick to point their fingers at him when things go wrong in the horror industry (granted, you live by the sword, you die by the sword), but that thing is a passion and a respect for this business that I dare anyone to match. Keene does more to promote the great things about the genre than almost anyone associated with it. He’s got a soapbox and he’s not afraid to step up and put his ass on the line. He’ll go out on a limb and shine a light on up-and-coming writers that deserve props, when others don’t want to take a chance, forgetting what it was like trying to break in. Keene has taste, and he’s been in the trenches.

If you’re smart, you’ll tune in, shut up, listen and learn. He is a machine, but he’s also a tireless, selfless ambassador. I try to visit Keene’s website everyday, just to see what’s up, and to get his take on things. The horror community is a better place because of him (and I may get some of his “haters” posting here as a result of that comment, but if I’ve learned one thing from reading Keene, it’s that you shouldn’t be afraid to stand up for something you believe in; everyone else can piss off). And with each passing day, the horror community and the Keenedom are becoming synonymous with one another. Bookmark that bad boy!

Magazine of the Year (tie):

Wow, one of the toughest categories, and that’s a beautiful thing. Readers, writers, you owe it to yourself to buy these.

Publisher of the Year:
Cemetery Dance

The publishing industry is in a state of flux right now. Writers are scared. Royalties are late. Bookstores are closing down. What does Cemetery Dance do? Oh, they decide that 2010 is going to be their best year yet, even though they’ve been widely recognized as the most respected and reputable publisher for years. I mean, they went pedal-to-the-metal and never let up. Every month there was another astonishing release, right to the very end. There were months with multiple five-star-quality releases.

Besides some of the titles we’ve mentioned already in this column, honorary mentions belong to LAST EXIT FOR THE LOST by Tim Lebbon, BONE SOUP: THIS AND THAT AND BRIC-A-BRAC by T.M. Wright, THE SECRET BACK OF THINGS by Christopher Golden, an exclusive version of BLOCKADE BILLY by Stephen King, LILJA’S LIBRARY: THE WORLD OF STEPHEN KING by Hans-Åke Lilja and a free download of Brian James Freeman’s THE PAINTED DARKNESS.

Hell, their magazine picked up steam, too. Cemetery Dance even announced a limited edition of Justin Cronin’s THE PASSAGE, but good luck getting your hands on a copy of that, which sold out in about four hours (and no, I blinked and missed that sucker, sad to say). 2010 was the year that Cemetery Dance cemented themselves as the premiere heavy hitters in the industry. Well played!

Publisher to Watch Closely in 2011 (tie):
ChiZine Publications, Apex Publications and Thunderstorm Books

Apex has their finger on the pulse. I’m expecting them to really break out in 2011. I’m looking forward to seeing how ChiZine tops themselves in the coming year. Thunderstorm recently announced their Maelstrom line, in association with Brian Keene, which is a great concept and has proven to be buzzworthy. And quite frankly, the quality of their product is top-shelf.

Authors to Watch Closely in 2011:
Wrath James White and Christa Faust

So there you have it! As you can see, horror, speculative fiction, and thrillers are far from dead, my friends.

Please remember, this isn’t a competition. Also, these are books and magazines that were published (or I received review copies of) prior to Nov. 1. Anything after that will be eligible for next year. These are just my picks, and I’d love to hear yours. Feel free to post away with feedback and recommendations of your own. (Note: Apologies in advance, but I won’t be responding to any anonymous opinions. As the saying goes, “We card here.”) —Joshua Jabcuga

Buy them at Amazon.

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Comment by Ellen Datlow
2010-12-28 13:39:54

Wow! Thanks for the shout out.

I’ve asked Jack Ketchum for at least a couple of supernatural stories in the past but he says he’s not interested in writing supernatural fiction any more (only psychological horror).

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Comment by Josh Jabcuga
2010-12-29 16:07:57

Any chance of a sequel to HAUNTED LEGENDS?

Comment by Ellen Datlow
2010-12-30 00:35:25

@Josh–if it does well enough perhaps we could persuade our publisher.

Comment by Tim Deal
2010-12-28 15:05:09

We at SHROUD are absolutely honored (and floored) to share the honor with Cemetery Dance! Thank you from our hearts!!!

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Comment by Brian Keene
2010-12-28 15:32:19

I am very honored! Thank you and thanks to all of the folks who make the website what it is.

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Comment by Nate Southard
2010-12-28 16:04:59

Thank you very much! It’s an honor to see Red Sky listed. Once again… thanks!

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Comment by Jason Sizemore
2010-12-28 17:48:59

*buffs nails*
Apex listed with the awesome folks at Chizine and Thunderstorm Books. Nice.

Thanks for the shout out. I promise we’ll try to make 2011 an even better year for Apex!

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2010-12-29 18:26:29

*buffs Jason’s nails for him*
We’re thinking the same thing, man. We’re floored to make the list with some great names in the field.

Comment by Bob Fingerman
2010-12-29 01:40:58

Thank you so much for including Pariah on this list. I am very, very flattered. And please, feel free to say more!

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Comment by Josh Jabcuga
2010-12-30 10:55:52

Considering the praise that’s been heaped upon you and/or PARIAH by the likes of Max Brooks, Mike Mignola, Robert Kirkman, Augusten Burroughs, Jonathan Maberry, Jonathan Lethem, David Wellington, Trey Parker, EW, and Fango, I’m not sure what else I might add without sounding redundant. =) I do know that if someone is reading this column, they’re the perfect audience for PARIAH. And they can expect an interview with Mr. Fingerman in an upcoming installment of ‘Cuga’s Cuts at Bookgasm.com in the near future. Until then…GO.READ.PARIAH. To steal a line from Clarence the Angel, every time someone buys a copy of PARIAH a zombie gets to eat more brains. And in my book, that’s a win-win.

Comment by Corey Redekop
2010-12-29 07:22:07

I’ve been telling everyone about ChiZine lately, thanks for giving them a shout-out. Between Douglas Smith’s Chimerascope, Tim Lebbon’s The Thief of Broken Toys, and Robert Wiersema’s The World More Full of Weeping, they’re probably my favourite genre publisher right now.

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Comment by Josh Jabcuga
2010-12-29 16:14:08

ChiZine has shown a keen eye for acquisitions. They’ve become one of my favorites, too, Corey.

2010-12-29 18:28:57

Thanks for spreading the word, Cory & John. It’s ’cause of you guys like you we’re being found, read and appreciated. So many thanks for making CZP happen.

Comment by Rabid Fox
2010-12-29 11:56:40

A great list. And Brian Keene’s blog really is required reading, isn’t it? As for Nate Southard, I’ve only had the chance to read a couple of short fiction pieces, but am definitely looking forward to reading his stuff down the line.

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Comment by Josh Jabcuga
2010-12-29 16:22:17

Brian Keene’s blog *is* required reading, for sure. For those of you who have been around, think of it as Shocklines but without the d-bags. I check out Keene’s site daily, sometimes twice. And by all means, Rabid Fox, order a copy of Nate Southard’s RED SKY if you can swing it. He’s a talent worth supporting and you’ll have fun with that book, I promise.

Comment by Ellen Datlow
2010-12-30 00:36:58

I’ve got a great story by Nate in my forthcoming Supernatural Noir antho coming out in June from Dark Horse.

Comment by Josh Jabcuga
2010-12-30 10:41:24

@Ellen…Many have said that a sign an author has “made it” is by making an appearance in one of your anthos. Glad to see even more eyeballs will be getting the opportunity to read Nate Southard in your Dark Horse title. He certainly deserves it and I’m sure readers are in for a real treat.

Comment by Ellen Datlow
2010-12-30 23:02:40


Comment by John Skipp
2010-12-29 16:14:39

Much obliged, kind sir! And nice company to keep.

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Comment by Josh Jabcuga
2010-12-29 16:30:18

Holy shit, everyone, it’s Mr. John Skipp! We’ve officially surpassed the “coolness” quota on this message thread. First round of pops is on me. Cheers to everyone!

Comment by John Skipp
2010-12-29 16:15:47

Oh, and guess where I heard about it? KEENE’S WEBSITE, that’s where!

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2010-12-29 18:30:51

Two — count ’em — two mentions on this list! “Publisher to Watch Closely” and “Short Story Collection of the Year” for CITIES OF NIGHT. Damn, you know how to make a publisher blush. We hope to keep turning out books that people love in ’11.

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Comment by Thunderstorm Books
2010-12-30 05:01:11

Thanks for the shout out! I am a fan of Chizine and Apex…honored to be mentioned alongside them!

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