2011 was, like most years, good and bad. The world and my country seem to continue to fall apart, and more people seem concerned about playing the blame game than come up with any solutions. My personal life has been miserable, but things at my job have greatly improved. Ebooks continue to overtake publishing, but thanks to true bibliophiles, the small press is thriving.
Allow me to list some of my favorite books and movies of the year.
One of my very favorites of the year came out of nowhere. I received an offer to review a YA horror novel called Rotters, by Daniel Kraus, and it completely blew me away. Not enough people in the community took a chance on this one.
Old favorites of mine turned out some of the best work of their careers. Lansdale returned with his popular Hap and Leonard characters with Devil Red and Hyenas. Both were excellent. And Joe also published a ripping YA book called All the Earth, Thrown to the Sky, which I rank with his very best work.
F. Paul Wilson continued his revisionist Repairman Jack series with The Dark at the End, and I thought it was one of the best books he has done.
Bill Pronzini somehow manages to keep his longstanding character, The Nameless Detective, fresh and compelling. Camouflage, the latest, is as good as any book Bill has given his fans.
Preston and Child created a new character and series with Gideon's Sword. While not as fun as their Pendergast books, Gideon Crow makes for fun reading. And Cold Vengeance continued the Pendergast series in a dark, violent story. Their legion of fans eagerly await the next adventures of both Crow and Pendergast.
Stephen King finally wrote a book that pleased nearly everyone. 10/22/63 is a long novel, but it is one of King's finest creations. His best in decades, or possibly ever.
Lewis Shiner has been a big favorite of mine since I first read him, and his 2011 novel, Dark Tangos, is a hard, lean, mean look at things most of us have no desire to see. If you missed it, don't hesitate to get yourself a copy. No one is better than Shiner.
Matthew Warner wrote a big nasty one called Blood Born. Despite its lurid subject matter, it's literate and beautifully written.
The legendary Richard Matheson returned with a new novel called Other Kingdoms. While it can't hold a candle to his earlier classics like I Am Legend, Somewhere in Time, or Hell House, Other Kingdoms is interesting and unusual. You should read it.
Norman Prentiss followed up his brilliant debut, Invisible Fences, with another great book, Four Legs in the Morning. If you miss the wonderful type of horror fiction that was being published in the 70's, read it.
Chet Williamson returned after far too long of an absence from the field with Defenders of the Faith, a very dark suspense novel. It's a controversial book that didn't win over everyone, but I thought it was one of the best of the year.
It was a pretty good year for movies. Not a lot of great horror was released in theaters, but there were some highlights.
Audiences responded in a big way for Paranormal Activity 3. I thought it was easily the best in the series.
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark suffered from a deceptive ad campaign, and it disappointed many viewers. I felt that it was a fine feature with a nice, dark fairy tale essence.
Insidious performed well at the box office, and thought that the first half was highly effective. The second half fell pretty flat, but not enough for me to suggest that you shouldn't give it a chance on home video.
Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson brought back their Scream franchise with Scream 4. It was good to see the characters again, but the results were fairly lackluster.
As usual, my favorite film of the year was not a horror movie. Alexander Payne's The Descendents is a rich mix of humor, drama, and pathos, with a rich Hawaiian soundtrack. Do not miss this one.
Payne co-produced another big favorite of mine from 2011: Cedar Rapids. Being a conventioneer myself, I really appreciated this one. It is hilarious and almost as raunchy as The Hangover, but Cedar Rapids had much more heart.
The Hunter S. Thompson adaptation, The Rum Diary was finally completed and released. I thought it was one of the best movies of the year. Most reviewers did not agree.
Woody Allen, loved by thousands, despised by millions, is my favorite director. Midnight in Paris was his most successful movie ever. All but the most hard-hearted Woody haters sang its praises.
Judd Apatow and Paul Feig teamed to prove that the girls can be as raunchy and hysterical as the dudes. Bridesmaids was a blockbuster that played to big audiences for weeks. It was a star-making film for Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes wasn't perfect, but it wiped away the horrid memory of Tim Burton's wretched remake.
I liked some others, but the ones listed above were the ones I felt were most noteworthy. There are others I wish to see, like Hugo, Young Adult, War Horse, and J. Edgar, that I haven't gotten to yet.