There are some tropes in horror that when you look at them just seem silly, the hero always being handsome, women always needing rescuing and towns that seem to be a hub for all things supernatural. You would think that in this day in age of communication everyone and their uncle would know that something was afoot in these towns, an quickly clear out.
The people of Matlock, the town at the centre of these seven stories seem oblivious to the secret and not so secret dark underbelly of its city walls. Which to be honest is a good thing as these seven rather splendid stories would be have to pack up their troubles in and old kit bag and find somewhere else to live.
In Everyone Loves Clowns Thomas Cranham offers up a solid and at times excellent set of stories, that tackle some of horror's great unwashed (zombies) and some lesser used denizens of the underworld (vampire.... well you just have to read the book to find out exactly what kind of vampires inhabit this book.
There is a lot of great writing in this collection, Cranham keeps the collection fresh with stories that play around with styles of tone, from the serious and thought provoking Oh To Be Alive. Which takes an astute, and moving look at the plight of intelligent zombies. Just when I think I have seen it all when it comes to the zombie genre, along comes a great writer like Cranham to give it a fresh coat of paint.
In a similar vein The Rule of Three has a narrative told from the perspective of the Grimm Reaper. This is another clever story helped along with some really strong writing.
For me the stand out story has to be Everyone Loves Clowns. You could say it is easy to make a story about clowns chilling and scary, as 99% of us have a built in primal fear of them. Rather than sitting back and letting this drive the narrative Cranham has weaved a deeply moving and engaging story, that mixes in elements of Matilda. Something Wicked This way Comes, and of course, IT.
Emily is suffering from cancer, a plucky and strong minded 5 year old, who feels not just isolated by her disease, but by her class and teacher, thanks to her rather strong mind and above average intelligence. But when the circus comes to town, it's up to Emily and her foolish knight Jasper to save the day and battle the flesh eating clowns.
Everyone Loves Clowns, is more than just a simple horror story, it has a great heart to the story. The way in which Emily's battle against the clowns and her battle against the cancer is played alongside each other is wonderful piece of writing. This is one of those stories that manages to heart warm and heart breaking a the same time.
Where this collection excels is in the way in which Cranham turns the genre on its head many of the stories make us look at the monsters in a different light and in some cases manages to humanise them in way.
This is a well written and confident book that successfully does something different with the genre.
If you want to read some more about clowns then please read this article from Lex Jones
Seven stories of the macabre attempt to answer the most important of questions - Are zombies victims of discrimination? Does Death really care? Are ghosts or humans more evil? Does what side you wake up on make you either a saint or the Devil incarnate? If cows that keep out of the sun, have they lost interest in grass for something more bloody? How would a bedtime story go in a world over run by the brain eating undead? And what if a little girl's clown toy came to life with murderous intent? Over 280 pages of heavily illustrated literature that delivers many a sleepless night! The seven stories edited by Simon Marshal-Jones are ... 'Oh to be Alive' 'The Rule of Three' 'The Ghost of Bone Mill and the Infinite Man' 'The Left is Sinister' 'The Cows are Coming' 'A Bedtime Story' 'Everyone Loves Clowns'