When Peter Straub and Jack Ketchum recommend an author you sit up and take notice. Such is the case with Jeremy Shipp. I’ve been thinking how to communicate his unique brand of fiction, commonly labelled ‘bizarro’. And so I’ve decided to use a drug metaphor.
Let’s pretend you’re on your way to the fun-fair and to spice things up, your and your buddies decide to drop a tab of acid. It doesn’t work, so you drop another. But hang on. You were too impatient. It was working all along. So now two tabs of acid are kicking in just as you’re setting off on the Haunted House ride.
At first it’s funny. The walls are moving. Your friend’s face is distorting. Oh look, there are clowns. Hahaha. But, woah, this acid is really strong. Everything starts to melt and you begin to feel a little out of control. And you’re not sure what’s real and what isn’t anymore. And your friends are still laughing but it’s a hollow laugh, because deep down you can all fear the fear bubbling up. You’ve had enough now. You want to get off. But you can’t. And it’s moving faster and faster…
You get the picture. Mr Shipp leads you, or rather hurls you, into his hugely original and fantastical worlds, inhabited by characters such as Globcow the diminutive demon, who desires redemption even more than your toe-nail clippings. There’s a group of urbane ghosts who discuss the merits of clown mice over their ectoplasmic breakfast. Tiny men made of soap, led by General Feather (of course, who else would lead them?). And there are the Attic Clowns, who make regular appearances, the demented theme that tie this anthology together.
I hear echoes of Hunter S Thompson and Richard Brautigan in the writing. Words are never wasted. Yet there’s this persistent nightmarish quality to Shipp’s writing, too, which is hard to pin down. Maybe that’s because it’s wholly original? One minute you’re laughing out loud, the next, you’re shifting nervously in your seat because the boundaries of reality are starting to shimmer and shift. 13 dark and twisted tales await. But this is as far as I can take you. After this, you’re on your own – good luck. Four Black Stars.
Book Review: Attic Clowns – Author Jeremy C.Shipp