Top Ten Reads of 2013

Although you wouldn’t necessarily know it from looking at my Top Ten list this year, 2013 was a good year for me in discovering new writers. Those new discoveries aren’t completely unrepresented here – both Gary McMahon and Aaron Dries made the list – but there would be a lot more unknowns if it hadn’t been such a strong year for established authors. The King family dominates the first three spots, and may have been even more of a presence had I had the opportunity to read the releases by Owen King (Double Feature) and his wife Kelly Braffet (Save Yourself), both of which I hope to get to in 2014. Ace Atkins has become a perennial favorite with dual releases each of the last couple of years in his own Quinn Colson series and his continuation of Robert Parker’s Spenser novels (this year’s Spenser, Wonderland, is another unfortunate victim of didn’t-get-to-it.) Tom Piccirilli is a mainstay on my yearly list of favorites, as are Daniel Woodrell and Justin Cronin in the years they release books.

If I have any reading goals for 2014, it’s simply to read more. More variety. More volume. Catch up on the ones I missed last year and stay ahead of the curve this year. Revisit some old favorites and seek out new talent. Chop down that massive to-be-read pile. Yeah – good luck with all of that. The great thing, and the cursed thing, about books is they just keep coming.

So, without further adieu, here’s my Top Ten Reads of 2013. I’ve linked to full reviews of the books when appropriate. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the list, as well as your own top reads of 2013 – the comments section is at your disposal. Thanks to all of you for visiting October Country in 2013 – Happy New Year and Happy Reading!

1. Joyland by Stephen King
NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
3. Doctor Sleep by Stephen
4. The Broken Places by Ace
5. The Maid’s Version by Daniel
6. Turn Down the Lights edited by Richard Chizmar
7. The Last Whisper in the Dark by Tom
8. The Bones of You by Gary McMahon
9. The Fallen Boys by Aaron Dries
10. The Twelve by Justin Cronin

Happy October from October Country!

"Skull of a Skeleton with a Burning Cigarette" Van Gogh

“Skull of a Skeleton with a Burning Cigarette” – Van Gogh

So here we are.

It should come as no surprise to you that this is our favorite time of year here at October Country. And it’s not just Halloween, although that’s a major part of it. It’s the chill in the air, it’s county fairs and football season, it’s bonfires and s’mores and jackets and changing leaves and pumpkin-flavored everything.

But mainly…yeah, mainly it’s Halloween.

For the last couple of years (the life cycle of this blog thus far), we’ve done a series here called “Essential October Reads.” Last year we invited a bunch of our favorite authors to contribute, and a staggering number of them did just that. Folks, that’s hard to top. So this year, rather than try to top it, we’re going to let the Essential October Reads series take a rest. If you’re so inclined, you can catch up on what we’ve done here. I’ve already got an idea on how to add to the series next year. so look for its triumphant return in 2014.

This year, though, we thought we’d share a few things here at the beginning of the month that we’ll be reading/watching/participating in during October. This is feeling like a movie-centric kind of Halloween season this time around, so a lot of what’s to come reflects that. Aside from this list, we’ll be reading plenty of good (we hope) horror stuff over the next few weeks, and you’ll see reviews of it here (and at FEARnet and Ain’t It Cool News) as we count down to Halloween.

In the meantime, here’s some cool stuff going down over the next 29 days. Maybe we’ll bump into each other. After all, it’s Halloween…everyone’s entitled to one good scare.

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Horror Writers Association presents: Halloween Haunts 2013

Turner Classic Movies presents: Vincent Price Thursdays

Shout! Factory’s 31 Days of Screams


2012: The Year in Reading

edgeOverall, 2012 was a great year for me and the written word. I read a lot of books (you can see a list of them all here) and, most importantly, I enjoyed the overwhelming majority of them. I got new books by favorites like King and Barker, and discovered new voices like Adam Cesare that I’m excited about following into the future. Here, countdown-style, were my ten favorite books of 2012. I should point out that not all of them were published in 2012 – I give books I read for the first time a chance to make that year’s list no matter when they were published. I reviewed a good many of these and have provided links to those reviews if you’d like to read more about why they made the Top 10. The short answer is these are the books that thrilled me, surprised me, impressed me, and stayed with me.

As always, the comments are open and I’d love to hear what your favorite books of 2012 were, or how wrong I was to include some of these and what an idiot I am to have excluded others. Who knows? Maybe we’ll introduce each other to one (or more) of our favorite reads of 2013.

Now, without further ado, my favorites of the year that was…..

10. Kinsmen by Bill Pronzini

9. Father Gaetano’s Puppet Catechism by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden

8. Abarat Book Two: Days of Magic, Nights of War by Clive Barker

7. Abarat Book Three: Absolute Midnight by Clive Barker

6. Video Night by Adam Cesare

5. The Dark Tower: The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King

4. The Last Kind Words by Tom Piccirilli

3. This Dark Earth by John Hornor Jacobs

2. The Lost Ones by Ace Atkins

1. Edge of Dark Water by Joe R. Lansdale

What will October bring to October Country?

So, yeah. October is almost here. And it’s going to be a very busy month here at October Country.

For one thing, I’ll be continuing my story-by-story reviews of The Devil’s Coattails and A Book of Horrors. Those have gotten put on the backburner the last couple of weeks as I prepared for the Halloween season, but they’ll be returning with a vengeance next week. For now, you can catch up on those reviews (and all October Country reviews, for that matter) right here.

I’ll also be continuing my in-depth discussions with Kealan Patrick Burke about the Timmy Quinn series, which is drawing to a close. We’re going through the series one book at a time, and so far we’ve covered The Turtle Boy and The Hides. Vessels is up next, followed by Peregrine’s Tale and, hopefully before the month is out, the climactic Nemesis.

Finally, I’m putting a new spin on something that’s become an October tradition around here: the Ten Essential October Reads series. In years past I’ve written about the books and the comics that captured the essence of Halloween for me. This year I decided to ask some of my favorite authors to talk about their Essential October Reads and, frankly, I’ve been overwhelmed by the response. Some of the biggest names in the genre took the time to contribute, and I’m proud to feature them on my humble little corner of the Internet. Who are they? What are their favorite October reads? Stay tuned throughout October to find out!

Cemetery Dance, FEARnet join forces

Cemetery Dance and FEARnet formally announced yesterday that they are working together to bolster the horror fiction coverage found on the FEARnet website. FEARnet is, of course, a cable channel devoted to horror, boasting not only a deep slate of original movies and series but the combined libraries of Sony Pictures Television and Lionsgate. I doubt that if you’re a regular reader of October Country that I need to tell you anything about Cemetery Dance, so we’ll just say that they are the preeminent small press publisher of horror fiction and leave it at that. That these two are working together to bring coverage of horror literature to FEARnet’s wide and established audience is a good thing for all parties involved.

And, I’m happy (and proud and humbled) to say, I am actually one of the parties involved. Cemetery Dance’s Brian James Freeman has asked me to join the team of writers (which includes Bev Vincent, Nanci Kalanta of Horror World, Del Howison of Dark Delicacies, Lisa Morton and Kevin Quigley) contributing to the site. I jumped at the chance, and it looks like my first piece will be online sometime next week. What I do there will be similar to what I do here – a mix of reviews, news bits, and interviews. I couldn’t be more excited, and I hope that I can contribute in some small way to the success of this project.

My work there will not slow me down here, though. I’ve got a big batch of stuff planned for October Country over the next couple of months, and hopefully some of the FEARnet folks will come along for the ride. I continue to be amazed at the opportunities I’ve gotten over the past couple of years to add my voice to the conversation in and around the horror genre, and I will work as hard as I can to add something worthwhile.

For those who have become regular readers of this little blog, thanks. For those authors and publishers who have let me interview them for this site or sent me books to review, thanks. It’s because of those opportunites (and the chance to write for places like Horror World and Dark Scribe) that I’ve been invited aboard this new project. I look forward to seeing you at FEARnet, and just know that you’re all welcome here at OC anytime.

What I’m reading….

I’ve always been fascinated with reading lists shared by fellow readers, bloggers and authors – what they’re reading, what they’ve read, what they plan to read next – and I don’t think I’m the only one, judging by the sheer amount of such lists that are maintained all across the Internet. Such lists are a great way to discover new books, similar interests (it’s especially exciting when you see that an author you admire reads a lot of the same stuff you do), and to generate discussion.

I’ve been maintaining reading lists for the last couple of years on my old blog, but since October Country is now where I spend most of my time and effort, I decided it was time to move them over. Naturally, much of the list will be mirrored on my index of reviews, but you’ll also get a glimpse of what I’m reading just to read.  

My hope is that you all will go there and comment on the lists, share your own current reads, top reads of the year, and even your least favorite books. As always, I’m hoping that this site sparks good conversation, and I figure the reading list is as good a place as any. Hope to see you there!

You are now entering October Country

Welcome to October Country.

My name is Blu Gilliand. You might have read my reviews over at Dark Scribe Magazine, or my interviews at my old home with You might have read a story by me in Shroud magazine, or Dark Discoveries magazine, or most recently on author Kealan Patrick Burke’s blog.

Chances are, though, most of you haven’t heard of me, and that’s okay too. Part of the fun of this is building an audience, building a reputation, and trying to get yourself noticed without shouting too loudly. I’m hoping that those of you reading this will come back not because you know who I am, but because you like what you see and you want to see more. Like it enough, perhaps, to bring a friend or two with you.

I hope, also, that you’ll like what you see enough to comment on it. Part of the inspiration for this blog is a movie blog called Motion/Captured written by a guy named Drew McWeeney. For years, Drew wrote as “Moriarty” for Ain’t It Cool News. I’ve always been drawn to Drew’s work because it’s clear that he’s passionate about film – all kinds of film – and he’s equally passionate about film discussion. His posts always feel like one side of a really cool conversation, and I hope to bring that same feeling to my work here. Agree with me, argue with me, go off on a tangent because something I write reminds you of something else I should write about….whatever. I hope that, eventually, this blog isn’t a one-sided affair.

As for what you’ll see here – more of what I’ve been doing elsewhere. I’ll mainly be concentrating on the literary side of horror – book reviews, author interviews, news, things of that nature. Opinion pieces from time to time. Plus I plan on keeping the format loose enough that there will be room for writing about movies and comics and anything else that remotely fits. I’ll be reintroducing a couple of features like Interview 5.5.5. and Ten Essential October… that I developed elsewhere, along with some new stuff that’s in the works.

So, there you have it. Welcome to my dark little corner of the Internet. Stick around…I have such sights to show you.