Storyville: My 8 Most Anticipated Books of 2016

So, of course I wanted to start off by mentioning my own titles—Breaker (out January 5th); my third short story collection, Tribulations in March; The Soul Standard, a novel-in-novellas with Nik Korpon, Axel Taiari, and Caleb Ross in September; and a craft book TBA soon. I also have stories in two excellent anthologies, Chiral Mad 3 (alongside Stephen King and Jack Ketchum) and Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories (alongside Neil Gaiman and Clive Barker). And I have to mention the two books Dark House Press is putting out—Paper Tigers by Damien Angelica Walters on 2/29/16 and Scratch by Steve Himmer later in the year. With that out of the way, here are the books I’m most excited to read, in order of release, by a wide range of authors, big and small. Enjoy!

'Almost Dark' by Letitia Trent

ChiZine Publications
February 21, 2016

I’m a little biased towards Letitia’s writing, having published her novel Echo Lake at Dark House Press, and her story, “Wilderness” in Exigencies. But based on the synopsis and cover art, and what I’ve read of this novel, it’s going to be a compelling read. Letitia does an excellent job with atmosphere and setting, and those aspects seem to be a big part of this novel, as well.

SYNOPSIS: Claire, a private and outwardly content librarian, carries a secret: she is wracked with guilt over her twin brother Sam's accidental death fifteen years earlier. Claire's quiet life is threatened when Justin, an aggressive business developer, announces the renovation of Farmington's oldest textile factory, which is the scene of Sam's death along with many other mysterious accidents throughout its long history. Claire not only feels a personal connection to the factory, but she also begins to receive “visitations” from her brother, which cause her to question her sanity. As Justin moves forward with his plans to renew the factory, Claire, and the town as a whole, discover that in Farmington, there is no clear line between the past and the present.

'United States of Japan' by Peter Tieryas

Angry Robot Books
March 1, 2016

If you read Peter’s last book, Bald New World, which was nominated for several awards and appeared on many lists, then you know he’s an emerging author with a strong voice. I was lucky enough to help edit both BNW and USOJ, and can tell you that this new book is just as good as the last one, a surreal vision of what could have happened. The references to Philip K. Dick are pretty accurate, I dropped his name in reference to both titles, with a sprinkling of Haruki Murakami as well.

SYNOPSIS: A spiritual sequel to The Man In The High Castle, focusing on the New Japanese Empire. The Axis won WWII and now, in the late 1980s, the Japanese Empire rules over the western United States, their power assured by technological superiority (including giant mecha). But when a video game emerges that posits a world where the allies won, a game censor and an Imperial Government agent discover truths about the empire that make them question their loyalty.

'Mongrels' by Stephen Graham Jones

William Morrow
May 10, 2016

Of course you all know I'm a huge fan of the work Stephen is doing. I also had the unique experience of being an editor at a small press that tried to SIGN this title, but lost out to William Morrow. Stephen got a new agent, and she (rightly so) pulled back the submission. Stephen should be publishing with bigger presses anyway, it’s about time! This is a powerful story, uniquely told, with a lot of heart. If you are a fan of Stephen’s work then this is a must-read title, one of his best.

SYNOPSIS: A compelling and fascinating journey, Mongrels alternates between past and present to create an unforgettable portrait of a boy trying to understand his family and his place in a complex and unforgiving world. A smart and innovative story— funny, bloody, raw, and real—told in a rhythmic voice full of heart, Mongrels is a deeply moving, sometimes grisly, novel that illuminates the challenges and tender joys of a life beyond the ordinary in a bold and imaginative new way.

'The Fireman' by Joe Hill

Willam Morrow
May 17, 2016

I’ll admit I started reading Hill because of his father, King. And while I’ve enjoyed his previous books, he’s never been as good as his dad. But this looks like the title that could finally propel him to those heights. It sounds compelling, complicated, and full of horrific and stunning imagery, exactly the kind of book I love to read.

SYNOPSIS: A chilling novel about a worldwide pandemic of spontaneous combustion that threatens to reduce civilization to ashes and a band of improbable heroes who battle to save it, led by one powerful and enigmatic man known as the Fireman. No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.

'End of Watch' by Stephen King

June 7, 2016

This trilogy isn’t his best work, but I have a feeling this third title is going to blow people away. I LIKED the first two, but based on what’s been hinted at so far, and the synopsis, this has the potential to be one of King’s best books in a long time. In fact, it was the end of the last book, Finders Keepers, that kept me reading, willing to pick up the third book, the last scene creepy and unexpected, a shiver running up and down my spine. I’ve read just about every King book out there, am a lifelong fan, so of course I’ll read this. But it really does sound compelling.

SYNOPSIS: In End of Watch, Stephen King brings the Hodges trilogy to a sublimely terrifying conclusion, combining the detective fiction of Mr. Mercedes and Finders Keepers with the heart-pounding, supernatural suspense that has been his bestselling trademark. The result is an unnerving look at human vulnerability and chilling suspense.

'The Heavenly Table' by Donald Ray Pollock

July 12, 2016

I can still remember the first time I saw Don read, opening up for Chuck Palahniuk on tour, I think it was for Snuff. That got me to read Knockemstiff, and then later, The Devil All the Time, two excellent books. It’s been four years since we last got to read a book by DRP and this looks great.

SYNOPSIS: It is 1917, in that sliver of border land that divides Georgia from Alabama. Dispossessed farmer Pearl Jewett ekes out a hardscrabble existence with his three young sons: Cane, Cob, and Chimney. Several hundred miles away a farmer by the name of Ellsworth Fiddler is swindled out of his family's entire fortune, his life is put on a violent trajectory that will directly lead him to cross paths with the Jewetts. In the gothic tradition of Flannery O'Connor and Cormac McCarthy with a healthy dose of cinematic violence reminiscent of Sam Peckinpah, Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers, the Jewetts and the Fiddlers will find their lives colliding in increasingly dark and horrific ways.

'The Rib From Which I Remake the World' by Ed Kurtz

ChiZine Publications
July 22, 2016

I haven’t read a ton of Ed Kurtz, but what I have read has been pretty amazing. Anybody that can get into the Best American Mystery Stories anthology obviously has a lot of talent. Ed is one of those authors that write both crime and horror, and I have a soft spot for authors that straddle that fence. 

SYNOPSIS: In a small, rural Arkansas town in the midst of World War II, hotel house detective George "Jojo" Walker wearily maintains the status quo in the wake of personal devastation. That status quo is disrupted when a "hygiene picture" roadshow rolls into town with a controversial program on display and curious motives in mind. What begins with a gruesome and impossible murder soon spirals into hallucinatory waking nightmares for Jojo—nightmares that converge with his reality and dredge up his painful, secret past. Black magic and a terrifying Luciferian carnival boil up to a surreal finale for the town of Litchfield, when truth itself unfurls and Jojo Walker is forced to face his own identity in ways he could never have expected.

'Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction' by Benjamin Percy

Graywolf Press
October 2016

I’m a huge fan of what Ben’s doing and really, I can’t describe this any better than what Graywolf has up on their website. Pick this book up.

SYONPSIS: Looking for an antidote to the “literary or genre” binary mode of thinking? Benjamin Percy's Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction is just what you need. It’s a craft book like none you’ve ever read before—no, really, what other craft book can you name that uses Jaws, exploding helicopters, flaming chainsaws, and the work of genre-bending heavyweights like Kelly Link and Michael Chabon to make its points about aesthetics? Percy breaks down barriers to show how writers craft thrilling tales of all types. The essays on urgency and violence alone will raise the hair on your neck, and the title essay is a reader’s manifesto for the kinds of books that made us readers and writers in the first place. Plus, Jaws.

Benjamin Percy's profile at Graywolf Press.

What titles are you most looking forward to in 2016?

Richard Thomas

Column by Richard Thomas

Richard Thomas is the award-winning author of eight books—Disintegration and Breaker (Penguin Random House Alibi), Transubstantiate, Staring Into the Abyss, Herniated Roots, Tribulations, Spontaneous Human Combustion (Turner Publishing), and The Soul Standard (Dzanc Books). His over 175 stories in print include The Best Horror of the Year (Volume Eleven), Cemetery Dance (twice), Behold!: Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders (Bram Stoker winner), Lightspeed, PANK, storySouth, Gargoyle, Weird Fiction Review, Midwestern Gothic, Shallow Creek, The Seven Deadliest, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, Qualia Nous, Chiral Mad (numbers 2-4), PRISMS, Pantheon, and Shivers VI. He was also the editor of four anthologies: The New Black and Exigencies (Dark House Press), The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers (Black Lawrence Press) and Burnt Tongues (Medallion Press) with Chuck Palahniuk. He has been nominated for the Bram Stoker (twice), Shirley Jackson, Thriller, and Audie awards. In his spare time he is a columnist at Lit Reactor. He was the Editor-in-Chief at Dark House Press and Gamut Magazine. For more information visit or contact Paula Munier at Talcott Notch.

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Dino Parenti's picture
Dino Parenti from Los Angeles is reading Everything He Gets His Hands On January 9, 2016 - 9:33am

This is the first list where I said, "I want to read every single book on it!" Good one, Richard!

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies January 9, 2016 - 3:43pm

Thanks, Dino. I think it's a cool mix. I don't focus on entirely big press titles, either.

Kedzie's picture
Kedzie from Northern California is reading The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien January 10, 2016 - 9:29am

Great list. Mongrels and The Fireman caught my eye, but they all did. Remember that guy from The Stand who started all those refinery fires? Forget his name, because I read the book 40 years ago, but have never forgotten his character. Essays on Fiction might help me out, too. 

Jake Marley's picture
Jake Marley from Orange County, CA is reading Christopher Slatsky, Liz Hand, Robert Levy, Victor LaValle January 14, 2016 - 5:27am

The new Paul Tremblay novel, DISAPPEARANCE AT DEVIL'S ROCK comes out this year, and if it's half as good as A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS I'll be a happy reader.

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies January 14, 2016 - 7:05am

Trashcan Man, Kedzie?

Jake, yeah, I would have added Paul's book to this list, didn't know about it when I put it together. It looks great, too. AHFOG was really good.

Kedzie's picture
Kedzie from Northern California is reading The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien January 28, 2016 - 1:02am

Yes! Trashcan Man! You'd think I'd remember a name that evocative!