Clown Wars: Blood and Aspic is quite like nothing else in the market: Is it horror? Is it comedy? Is it a commentary on racism and xenophobia? Is it meant to scare people with coulrophobia? Is it Underworld with clowns? What the hell is it?
When screenwriter Jeremy Drysdale and author Joseph D’Lacey announced they’d written a novel together, I immediately wondered which publisher had picked it up. I mean, Drysdale wrote the indie hit Grand Theft Parsons and Stephen King once declared that “Joseph D’Lacey rocks!”, so who wouldn’t want to release this novel? Surprisingly, the big publishers weren’t interested, so Drysdale and D’Lacey embarked on the self-publishing route instead. As soon as the details of the book were released, it suddenly made sense why the publishers didn’t flock.
“For as long as anyone can remember, the Clowns and Humans of Blueville have co-existed peacefully. Sure, each species thinks the other is a little weird but that’s never been something to fight about. Until, that is, a series of freakish terrorist attacks – seemingly perpetrated by clowns – turn the two bloodlines against each other. When war breaks out, the future of both species hangs in the balance.”
D’Lacey has said Clown Wars: Blood and Aspic is the ultimate Marmite book – you’ll either hate it or love it – and he’s absolutely spot-on with his assessment. Think of it as the literary equivalent of a Tarantino film; you never know which direction it’s going and every twist and turn will surprise you. And just like a Tarantino film, you’ll either rave about everything from the tonal shifts and quirky dialogue or you’ll lambast it for not following the traditional Hollywood three act formula. It’s divisive.
Writing a novel with someone else can be a laborious affair due to the different styles and approaches, but the combination of D’Lacey and Drysdale works well. It’s hard to separate who wrote which section, as it all blends into one seamless flow. The prose is elegant and sharp, and the story takes you on a wild ride with unforgettable, colourful characters (especially Colin Clarke) that leave a dent in your imagination. There are parts where the Clowns evoke momentary states of fear and paralysis, much like the first time we encountered that arm-ripping bastard Pennywise the Dancing Clown, but they’re neatly complemented by humour to calm our evil clown-hating nerves.
At 247 pages, Clown Wars is a fairly quick read – and this is a good thing. With a concept such as this one, the story could’ve easily lost its impact had the novel been any longer. It says what it needs to say and stops before it becomes convoluted. Clown Wars: Blood and Aspic is an ambitious, unshakable effort that’s sure to rile up more than a few people. It’s scary, it’s funny, it’s tongue in cheek, it’s everything you want from a book about Clowns and Humans. Highly recommended.