Tag Archives: Cole Alpaugh

Best of 2011: Shock Totem Staff Picks

As we enter 2012, let’s take a quick look back at some of our favorite things (that we could actually remember) from 2011.

FAVORITE SMALL PRESS NOVEL/NOVELLA/NOVELETTE:

Ken’s Pick

Skullbelly, by Ronald Malfi

Mercedes’s Picks

Bear in a Muddy Tutu, by Cole Alpaugh


“Map of Seventeen,” by Christopher Barzak

John’s Pick

The Damned Highway, by Brian Keene and Nick Mamatas

Nick’s Pick

Animosity, by James Newman

FAVORITE ANTHOLOGY/COLLECTION:

Ken’s Pick

Full Dark, No Stars, by Stephen King

Sarah’s Pick

The Zombie Feed, Vol. 1, Edited by Jason Sizemore

FAVORITE MAINSTREAM NOVEL/NOVELLA/NOVELETTE:

Mercedes’s Pick

Mrs. Peregrin’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs

John’s Pick

There Is No Year, by Blake Butler

Nick’s Pick

11/22/63, by Stephen King

Sarah’s Picks

Tie between Treachery in Death and New York to Dallas, by J.D. Robb

FAVORITE MOVIE:

Ken’s Pick

Red State

Mercedes’s Pick

Hugo

John’s Pick

The Muppets

Sarah’s Pick

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

FAVORITE DISCOVERY:

Ken’s Pick

The brilliant work of Darrell Schweitzer

Mercedes’s Pick

Gemmy Butterfly Collection™

John’s Pick

The Memphis Morticians

Nick’s Pick

The Parlor Mob

Sarah’s Pick

Lie to Me

FAVORITE ALBUM:

Ken’s Pick

Dystopia, by Iced Earth

John’s Pick

Bad as Me, by Tom Waits

Nick’s Pick

Thirteen, by http://www.megadeth.com

Unfortunately, for various reasons, we couldn’t all give picks for certain categories. I didn’t read a single novel last year that actually came out in 2011, for instance. So no Novel pick from me. Sarah didn’t read any small-press novels/novellas/novelettes that came out in 2011, so no pick from her.

And the old gray matter just failed us on other things. Which of course means right after this goes live the answers will become clear…

Anyway, as you can see, we have varied tastes that extend well beyond horror. Check out some of our picks; you’ll probably discover something great.

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The Bear in a Muddy Tutu

I was instantly hooked by Cole Alpaugh’s The Bear in a Muddy Tutu. You can’t read the first sentence and not know that you’re in for a trip. The opening character, Billy Wayne Hooduk, leaves his morbidly obese mother and his timid life behind as he sets out to be God and start a happy cult of his own. After a traveling circus act goes horrifyingly wrong, Billy Wayne shoots a dangerous tiger, declares that he is God, and takes charge of the circus. If this doesn’t give you a taste of the delight in store, nothing else will.

I was enchanted by the sometimes distasteful but always likeable characters that populate this book. We spend time with cult-leader wannabe Billy Wayne, a broken journalist who is searching for his missing daughter, a gentle dancing bear who delights in delicious smells, and the traveling pesticide guy who unknowingly played an important role in Billy Wayne’s life. Each character manages to have their own unique voice without losing the continuity of the narration. The chapters are creative, interesting reads and I didn’t find my attention flagging. That’s always a good sign.

The writing itself was a joy. The winding narrative was sometimes a little difficult to wrap my eyes around, and at other times it was almost painfully beautiful. Either way that it ran, it was interesting and full of quirky whimsy. In fact, that’s how I would sum up this entire book. Quirky whimsy. Joyful heartbreak. A story of broken people who find a way to hold themselves and each other together.

I’d recommend it if you want a charming, bizarre tale with a satisfying, fate-driven ending. It reads a little like Christopher Moore but with more heart. If you are annoyed by flights of fancy, then you’ll want to stay away from The Bear in a Muddy Tutu. It’s fanciful, beautiful, and escapist to the core.

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