John Hornor Jacobs never fails to make me laugh, and his entry into my Fave Reads of 2014 series is no exception, so enjoy, and also, be sure to check out all of his books, because they’re made of awesome (just like he is.)
I didn’t read a lot of books this year, but the ones I did that stood out were ridiculously good. BUT – sometimes it’s hard to separate the art from the artist. Case in point, Robert Jackson Bennett. He’s probably the worst person on Earth – an egotist, a liar, pervert, deviant, and doesn’t pay back $20 when you lend him $20 even though he says he’s gonna next week on payday – but he wrote CITY OF STAIRS, a quirky, cold-war John le Carré spy novel slash epic fantasy with (kinda) dead gods, engaging characters and SIGRUD. All caps intended. But he doesn’t need any more praise, really. He’s got praise falling out of his pockets, the son of a bitch.
Scott Kennemore is a great dude, he will lend you 20 bucks when you’re hard up and pay you back when he says he will, unlike that miserable piece of excrement, Robert Jackson Bennett. Never trust anyone with two first names and two sets of double consonants in their last one. Anyway, back to Scott Kennemore. He wrote a great novel that deserves more attention called THE GRAND HOTEL, which is labyrinthine and creepy and heartbreaking. And its end will surprise you. It doesn’t go where you think it’s going. I read it at a time when I was in a reading doldrum and it reinvigorated my enthusiasm for great fiction.
Robert Brockway is a new guy, and I haven’t had a chance to touch him for any money yet, so I don’t know if he’s a tremendous asshole or not, but his novel THE UNNOTICEABLES is pretty incredible. It’s about statistician angels and tar men and Hollywood, and 1970s punks, and it’s demented and profane and pretty damned wonderful, full of different yet utterly believable characters and truly frightening antagonists.
BUT. Hands down, my favorite book of 2014 was the late Graham Joyce’s THE GHOST IN THE ELECTRIC BLUE SUIT. I’d never before read Joyce, and when he died, I thought I should rectify that, since a lot of my fellow Gollancz authors were personal friends with him and in such pain at his passing. It was solidarity, maybe. This book hit me on multiple levels – I immediately connected with the character and setting, somewhat lost young man working in a seaside resort on the east coast of England in a terrible heatwave in the late 60s. I’ve worked at resorts, in my youth, and often felt (and feel) lost and disconnected to everything around me. If you grow up on the outside, looking in, even when you’re in the middle of a crowd of associates, or peers, you’ll still always be an outsider. Maybe my personal experience is coloring things here. Anyway, there’s a weird suspension of reality to resort life, the falseness, the forced joviality, the scheduled events and canned environments. And underneath all of that, there’s the (if not secret) hidden life of the staff, the secret undercurrents of graft and sex – all this was on display in THE GHOST IN THE ELECTRIC BLUE SUIT. Forbidden relationships, political references that as an American were fascinating and as a Southern American, resonated in all too familiar ways, and an ending that hit all the right notes. A forgotten history and a ghost. Wonderful, wonderful book.