Finishing Touches by Thomas Tessier (1986)
Nine truly weird tales make up this collection from an unjustly obscure British writer. It's obvious that Samuels is well read because his stories bear the influence of everyone from Arthur Machen to Franz Kafka to H.P. Lovecraft to Jorge Luis Borges to Thomas Ligotti, but like all writers of vision, he uses his influences to forge stories that are definitively his own. His writing is polished but quite crisp, and the stories read quickly. He's good at creating strange nightmare scenarios where the line between what is real and what may not be real is blurred, and he excels at evoking a sense of the uncanny in modern urban environments. Each one of the stories in this book is rich in mystery and a feeling of the otherwordly.
This book is recent, and there is nothing overlooked about it. But I just wanted to mention it because I like it so much. Victor Lavalle, who's from Queens, New York, sets this novella about sorcery and monsters in Jazz Age New York City, and it works as a brilliant subversion of H.P. Lovecraft's fiction, specifically "The Horror at Red Hook". The racism prevalent in Lovecraft, especially early Lovecraft, is inverted in LaValle's tale about Charles Thomas Tester, a black musician and sorceror who uses his power to summon Lovecraft's Old Ones in Red Hook for his own righteous reasons. Lavalle, in effect, channels Lovecraft in a way and for a purpose that would have made the man from Providence roll in his grave. Yet what makes this incisive examination of the Lovecraft universe work so well is the author's clear admiration and liking for Lovecraft's work, racial hang-ups and all. The Ballad of Black Tom functions as both a critique of Lovecraft and a respectful acknowledgment of his influence, and that Lavalle can accomplish these two things at the same time is impressive. One of my favorites reads this year.