Craig Caudill’s novella Carny Folk needed a lot more work to make it ready for publication and just didn’t get it. Full of grammatical errors and clumsy turns of phrase, it simply failed to deliver on the promise of a creepy circus story.
Told from the first-person perspective of a carnival guitarist, the story goes through basic scene-setting, takes us into the supernatural, and just sort of ends. The book’s saving grace is its brevity. Obviously, first-person novels can be tricky: do you want your narrator to be as good (or bad) a writer as you the author, or do you want him to have his own voice? A great example of an imperfect narrator is Charlie Gordon in Daniel Keyes’ incredible novel Flowers for Algernon, but what made that so great was that he was consistent in his writing/intellectual handicap (and then later progression to genius). We don’t get that in Carny Folk. The only consistency is its lack of quality writing, its inability to develop tension. Things just happen and then they stop happening. The narrator’s personal style is immaterial in the face of inexpert storytelling.
There is not one single page in this book that isn’t full of misspellings, wrong word choices, punctuation errors, and almost incomprehensible sentence structure. I say this not to personally attack the author, but to express the idea that if he’s going to produce a piece of writing to be purchased, read, and reviewed, it is his responsibility to create something that, if nothing else, looks professional. He has not done so with Carny Folk.
The novel does do something interesting in its reversal of a theme: instead of having a demonic carnival come to town, terrorizing the townspeople, a non-demonic carnival comes to a demonic town, terrorizing the carnival performers. It isn’t the strength of the ideas that failed Carny Folk, but the weakness of the writing.
Bram Stoker Award-winning author Joe McKinney said, “Carny Folk is an hallucinogenic trip on the freaky side, made all the more surprising, and beautiful, for the love and great sympathy with which Craig Caudill develops his cast of eccentrics. This book has depth.” At the time of this review, Carny Folk is available on Amazon Unlimited, so if you’re a member, give it a try and see if you agree with a Bram Stoker Award-winning author. You might be surprised.