It's been more than a decade since Soho Press, the venerable Manhattan-based independent press, launched a new imprint, after Soho Teen debuted in 2012. But this year, the publisher, best known for its literary and crime lists, is entering the haunted house of horror publishing with Hell's Hundred, with two books slated for this year and another two set for 2025.
“Named after the once bleak, now chic New York City neighborhood of SoHo—formerly known as ‘hell’s hundred acres’ for its grim industrial facades and deadly fires—Hell’s Hundred provides fertile ground for new nightmares to take root,” reads the new imprint's inaugural catalog. “From grisly and macabre to darkly humorous, Hell’s Hundred publishes bold visions of horror from voices new and established.”
The first two books from Hell’s Hundred will debut this summer. First up is youthjuice by former beauty editor E.K. Sathue, which Soho associate editor Taz Urnov bills as “a horror satire about the beauty industry that really puts the gore in gorgeous,” slated for June. And in August, Soho Crime list stalwart Stuart Neville, whose noir mysteries often incorporate supernatural elements and regularly border on horror proper, will jump to the Hell’s Hundred list with Blood Like Mine, his 10th book for the publisher. Soho calls the novel “a chilling monster story about a mother and daughter on the run across the Southwest” and “as much an inauguration of Hell’s Hundred as it is a new chapter in Neville’s oeuvre.”
“Anyone who knows the fine people at Soho knows they are not your average publisher. Their unrivalled passion for books and authors, their unique vision, and their clear sense of the market and their place within it, have allowed Soho to punch well above their weight for many years,” Neville said in a statement. “I can't wait to see what happens when they bring that creative and business savvy to the horror genre.”
In addition, Soho will migrate Sara Gran’s 2003 demonic possession novel Come Closer, which the publisher reissued last year to mark the book’s 20th anniversary, to the Hell’s Hundred list this year—the first among a select number of backlist titles to be migrated, with further titles to be announced.
Also forthcoming next spring are two more new titles: Dennis Mahoney’s Our Winter Monster, which Urnov calls “a book that's kind of like the worst couples therapy session anyone could possibly imagine,” and David Demchuk and Corinne Leigh Clark’s The Butcher’s Daughter, which provides the hitherto untold backstory of Mrs. Lovett, the woman who bakes the bodies of the victims of Sweeney Todd, the infamous demon barber of Fleet Street, into pies and sells them in her London pie shop.
The Monster Squad
Soho publisher Bronwen Hruska said that the imprint wasn’t planned so much as the result of a natural confluence of a few factors: an increased cultural fixation with horror over the past few years, a bump in horror and horror-adjacent submissions at the press, and the passion of two young editors.
In some ways, Gran's Come Closer proved a bellwether for Soho. Last year's reissue of the book was prompted, Hruska said, by something of a surprise. “This book has been out for over a decade, and it just kept selling and selling—in fact, the numbers just kept rising,” she said. “You don't see that happen with a book organically, usually, unless you decide to pull the book out of your backlist and market it as a new book. We were seeing Come Closer on all these cult classic lists, and people on social media talking about this crazy, wonderful book, and it's just sort of organically happening. People want to be horrified!”
While some horror-adjacent submissions to Soho over the years, such as Gran’s novel, fit the list of one of the press’s existing imprints, the team was seeing an uptick in horror submissions they loved but that didn't quite fit. So, Hruska said, to give the books “the right amount of oxygen,” and to help both readers and booksellers understand that horror is “a real focus and passion project,” in-house, the people of Soho Press got to work.
Urnov, one of the two aforementioned passionate young editors—along with assistant editor Nick Whitney—headed up a task force Soho called the “Monster Squad,” where the team “did a lot of reading, a lot of homework, looking into both the history of the genre and its present, to really get a sense of the market, of what people were looking for, of what we personally like,” Urnov said. “And over the course of these very extensive conversations, and stopping just short of a blood pact, we decided to really commit, and do it as a whole separate breakout imprint.”
Whitney, a lifelong horror fan and former Feminist Press staffer who worked with editor Joe Vallese on his 2022 anthology It Came from the Closet: Queer Reflections on Horror, pointed to the recent horror films of Jordan Peele, especially his 2017 hit Get Out, in explaining why now was precisely the right time for Soho to launch this imprint. “Since the days of Aristotle, we've sought catharsis as a form of consumption or entertainment,” Whitney said. To that point, he added, “Peele just edited an anthology of Black horror authors, and he says in the foreword, ‘Horror is catharsis as entertainment.‘ And I really do think that people have turned, in this time of upheaval, to this idea of catharsis as something worth grabbing on to, and that that has made horror resonate on the level that it has over the past few years.”
After some discussion, Soho production and art director (and avid horror fan) Janine Agro suggested the imprint’s name, and Urnov and Whitney began acquiring manuscripts in earnest. The collective nature of the endeavor, said Urnov, whose two-and-a-half-year tenure with Soho is their first publishing job, is exactly what makes the press special.
“I'm very much a child of Soho Press, in that the kind of publishing we do is the main kind of thing that I know how to do—and it's the kind of thing I'm most enthusiastic about, with our very particular hands-on, all-hands-on-deck model, with everybody so involved in everything,” Urnov said. “Even though the editors have their own individual authors and their own individual projects, it's a very collaborative team regardless. It really feels like we all cook this big potluck, and then everybody gets to enjoy the various meals on the table”—Mrs. Lovett's meat pies very much included.