First off, let me announce my disdain for the term “best of” for any list at year’s end. The best book/movie/song etc. is very likely something I have not read/seen/heard yet. So when someone announces a best list, it is really a “favorite of what I was exposed to” list.
With that out of the way, the best stuff I was exposed to this includes, but is not limited to (because I forget a lot of shit):
Books – So many good books this year. I spent the back end of 2012 doing a lot of obligation reading, which tends to suck much of the life out of a book for me. But this year I read a bunch of books that hit the sweet spot in my tastes.
Last Call For The Living by Peter Farris. A great take on what is technically a bank heist book. Rally kind of a getaway book. Kind of a bunch of books in one. The interwoven stories blended seamlessly and moved the book along with great pace. And Farris gives it the most important, and often most elusive quality in crime fiction – character.
The Terror Of Living by Urban Waite. A 2011 release, but much like Last Call For The Living, a great tale of parallel stories that kept me guessing and completely entertained.
The Professionals by Owen Laukkanen. Okay, I think I like books with multiple points of view. This book was, for me, the very definition of a crime thriller. Different from an espionage thriller. This is a crime story, but I never knew where it was headed. I loved the cat and mouse sides to it. I loved that there were consequences and people died. I loved to learn there would be more coming in early 2013.
These would make a great trilogy of reading if Owen had thought ahead and worked in the word Living to the title.
Bullets Are My Business by Josh K. Stevens. This book satisfied my pulp fiction receptors deep in my brain. It’s profane, violent, sex-riddled and yet adheres to a classic PI model and puts the main character through the ringer. Classic pulp for a modern age.
Cash Out by Greg Bardsley. I was predisposed to like this book since I like Greg and have been a witness to the slow gestation of this baby for a long time now. I was honestly nervous as I cracked it open that I wouldn’t like it. But it’s a wild, unpredictable ride that is part crime novel, part satire and a terrifying glimpse into Bardsley’s mind. You can tell he loves to write about guys like Crazy Larry a little too much.
Dark As Night by Mark T. Conard. I wrote about this dollar store find a while back and it still is on my list as a favorite for the year. A tough-as-nails crime novel with low life characters on a collision course with each other. I just really loved it. Fit my wheelhouse perfectly.
I have to throw down for my Snubnose Press comrades. I’m proud as hell to be associated with this gang of great books. I haven’t read them all yet – they come too fast! – but everything I’ve read has been high quality and befitting a little pulp imprint that could. Piggyback, Hill Country, The Subtle Art Of Brutality, Blood on Blood. All the great story collections like Old School, Laughing At Dead Men, The First Cut, A Fu*kload of Shorts. Snubnose is one of those imprints like New Pulp Press, Blasted Heath or Black Lizard where you pretty much know from the logo on the front that you’re going to get a good book. And such fetching covers!
Ahhh – so many more! Some from favorite authors like Sean Doolittle (finally read Safer, but Lake Country still stares at me from my bookshelf waiting for its turn in line) Victor Gischler (Finally read Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse, why did I wait so long?) Joe R. Lansdale (Edge of Dark Water) And there are so many on my To Be Read pile like the new Johnny Shaw, Frank Wheeler’s The Wowzer, The Sisters Brothers, but those will have to wait for next year.
I can’t believe I’m saying it, but I think Boardwalk Empire has eclipsed Deadwood as my favorite HBO show of all time. Part of that is the truncated and unsatisfying end Deadwood came to, but hot damn Boardwalk Empire is all kinds of good. Affirms my notion that The Sopranos is barely even in the top ten HBO shows anymore. So overrated!
I also love Justified. It is in a groove I absolutely love.
With my kids and my writing schedule I don’t get out to many movies anymore so I feel unqualified to list anything as best because I’ve seen so little. I loved Argo. I liked the new Bourne film. I liked Drive.
The documentary Life In A Day blew my socks off. I wish I’d seen that in a theater. It could have been one of those wonderful transcendent movie-going experiences.
In my never-ending quest to see every film noir released between 1940-1959 I’m getting down to some of the dregs. But then I saw Kiss The Blood Off My Hands, a film that couldn’t possibly live up to its title. And yet it did. Classic noir stuff.
How about this – I have a new favorite journalist. Jimmy Callaway. Sure, I love his fiction writing too, but this year he seems to have slowed down on that and picked up the pace with his blogging/reporting/essaying for a host of websites. Callaway is a master of wit and someone not too precious about the pop culture he most frequently writes about. In the fresh, sarcastic takes on his topics of choice, he also manages some real insight and smarts. He’d probably be pissed at me for saying so, but he’s quite a thinker under there.
Doing a list like this makes me wish I wrote more shit down. How has the last 12 months turned to such jelly in my brain.
I do want to share one best of from my own writing life. I don’t sell a lot of books and I don’t get a whole lot of reviews. That’s not a complaint. It means I’ve avoided the scathing review from the unsuspecting customer who bought a book not knowing there would be so much cursing or bloodshed. I’m still waiting for my first one-star review on Amazon. Knock wood it hasn’t happened yet.
And honestly, most reviews I’ve gotten were from people in my life sympathetic to my cause. Even if a few of those were redacted by Amazon in the great purge, many still live on.
But then came the best reader review I’ve ever had. It was for my book The Devil Doesn’t Want Me and it was genuinely from someone I didn’t know and he almost didn’t like the book. He wrote, as part of a 5-star review, “about a fifth of the way in I almost stopped reading because the character and plot drastically altered from where I thought it was going and I was disappointed, but, I stuck with it and it just got better and better.”
I actually won someone over. Someone who doubted. That is so damn gratifying I can’t even tell you. Well, okay, I kinda just did. But honestly, that may have been my “best of 2012” moment.