"If 2017 was Victor LaValle’s year for mainstream horror fiction, then it was Matt Hayward’s year in the horror fiction underground.
Like Josh Malerman, Hayward is primarily known as a musician — one of Ireland’s most renowned rock guitarists. in addition to his solo work, he has written and recorded with various bands and notable musicians, including Lace Weeper, former Nirvana drummer Chad Channing, My Sister’s Machine singer Nick Pollock, Clannad singer/bassist Ciaran Brennan, Edie Brickell, Malfunkshun guitarist Kevin Wood, and many others.
Burned out on the music business, Hayward looked up at his bookshelf full of novels by J.F Gonzalez, Bryan Smith, Alan M. Clark, and others, and decided to try his hand at writing horror fiction.
And we should all be glad he did.
2017 saw the release of his collection BRAIN DEAD BLUESand his novel WHAT DO MONSTERS FEAR. If this list had gone to twenty instead of fifteen, the former would have been at number sixteen (right before Amber Fallon’s TV DINNERS FROM HELL). It’s a remarkable showcase of a young author with plenty to prove. Simultaneously, WHAT DO MONSTERS FEAR is a solid debut novel that promises great things to come.
Back in 2005, in a novel called GHOUL, I asked the question “Who are the real monsters?” It’s an old question in horror fiction, but one that still provides fresh material in the right hands. Hayward does a commendable job of asking a variation of that question in WHAT DO MONSTERS FEAR, and his answer is much better than mine.
Like Malerman, Hayward bleeds onto the page in a brutal and blistering tale of madness and horror that hearkens back to the best of the Splatterpunk movement while also straddling the line between extreme horror and bizarro. Possessing an emotional depth and resonance, and expertly rendered characterization, it’s hard to believe this is his first novel. It doesn’t read like one, and I can’t wait to see what he does next."