Ginger Nuts of Horror
Fiction Review: Deadknobs And Doomsticks: Comedian Joe Pasquale's collection of bizarre and surreal horror stories
Stewart Lee once famously performed a routine that poked fun at Joe Pasquale's ability to somehow come up with jokes on his accord ( in reality by his team of "writers" and I use that term in its most loose and free definition) that somehow had been performed by lesser know indie comedians. It is, unlike Joe Pasquale, a hilarious routine that culminates in a Lee creating a Pasquale theft proof joke.
Thankfully this is something that the horror world will not have to attempt to do, judging by this collection of so-called horror stories, as it is clear from reading, what is probably the worst collection of short stories I have ever had the misfortune of reading, that Pasquale has never actually read a horror story In fact I would go as far to say that he has never read a book in his, such is is totally inability to put pen to paper in any form that closely resembles a coherent, well thought out, well researched or satisfying story.
Whoever signed off on this project, must have been off their medication. To say that Pasquale has the writing ability of a five-year-old would be a disservice to any five years old who has written a story about what they did in their summer holidays for their school homework. There is zero narrative flow in any of these stories, in fact, Pasquale's narrative voice is even more annoying than his actual voice. The majority of these stories read as a series of bullet points and random plot twists linked together by the weakest and most incompetent prose I have ever had the misfortune of reading this past 12 months.
And it is not just the writing that is subpar, the ideas for the stories are so underdeveloped, and in some cases, such as the story "The Sea Monkey" are an idea without a story or point. There is no resolution, no narrative journey and no end. A boy is born with a tail, becomes slightly famous gets kidnapped, bundled into a boat, boat runs adrift and he gets picked up on a beach by a friendly Lighthouse keeper, who I hope has an excellent legal team as I fear Portland Bill will sue his arse off.
It's not that I have a problem with ambiguous, or vague endings to stories, hell there are a lot of great short stories that have left me scratching my head, unsure of what I have just read. However those stories had one thing, among so much more, that is lacking in Pasquale's work, a properly executed drive and direction. It's as though Pasquale's thinks ambiguous is another word for just stop writing. So many of these stories will have you checking the page numbers to see if you are missing a final page for each story. Much like his stand up Pasquale's short story career will have you sitting there long after everyone has left the building waiting for a punchline that will never come.
And therein lies another problem with this collection, so many of these stories contain flashes, or maybe smears of Pasquale's attempt at humour. Now you may be a fan of his stand up routine, and that is no reflection on you, we all find different things funny, but his attempt at injecting these lines are so cack-handed that they through you out of the already flimsy story. Creating something that is funny in the written word is a lot harder than making something funny in the stand-up world, so many subtilties, such as timing, are placed in the hands of the reader, and Pasquale's sense of timing is so off, that even if he were a broken clock he would be capable of telling the time correctly twice a day.
For a collection that proclaims to tackle themes of bullying, it may well have not been a good idea for him to compare immigrants trying to get into the country to flies getting into his car, this is level of total lack of self-awareness that Pasquale has throughout this collection. There are numerous occasions where his use of phrases and words borders on the tactless and tasteless. In the hands of a more accomplished writer, this could be seen as a satirical stab at modern life, but feel that Pasquale thinks satire is an upmarket brand of suits. Why he chose to make the villain of one of the stories a Jehovah's Witness escapes me completely, as it has no real baring on the story, and his use of it shows his total lack and ignorance of the religious beliefs. It is almost as though he was too scared to make them one of the more politically volatile religions, so he went for a quick and safe option. Or maybe he had just finished watching Monty Pythons Life of Brian, and the name stuck with him. Either way, you are left wondering at his total lack of understanding on this and nearly everything else in the collection.
Christ, there is even a story about a dentist who gets robbed and gets revenge of the addled drug thief, by kidnapping them, strapping them to their dentist's chair, which conveniently is situated in the dentist surgery in the extension they had just built on their home, and then injecting cocaine, yes you read that right cocaine into parts of their body to numb the pain that will come from the dentists cats eating the thief.
Now let's break that down. One how would a dentist have cocaine? There is no mention of the dentist being a coke addict, so that avenue is closed, and unless this is a time travelling dentist from the turn of the century, then I'm pretty sure she wouldn't have a stash of it for medical purposes. I'm pretty sure that he meant Novocaine, which would be acceptable, despite the fact that Novocaine has been replaced by lidocaine, and the term Novocaine has become much like the name Hoover when we mean vacuum cleaner.
Now let's move onto the use of cats as a method of disposing of the body. I really don't think Pasquale has owned a cat let alone tried to feed a cat. The dentist is clearly very close to her cats, so why the hell would she feed a drug-riddled junkie corpse to her beloved pets is beyond me, I don't know about you, but I am pretty careful about what I feed my pets and drug basted, diseased ridden flesh would never appear on my shopping list.
Secondly, I do not think that disposal by feline munching is an efficient way of corpse disposal as he makes out in this story. Every cat I have owned has got bored halfway through their meal and walked away from the food bowl. I find it very hard to believe that her cats would have eaten the whole corpse, especially when she keeps on putting Whiskers cat food on it to entice their "feeding frenzy."
Now I can hear some of you right now, "why are you making such a big thing about these points?", Well, the reason for this is this story is a perfect example of the total lack of care, understanding and essential ability to do some research, so your story doesn't come across as a total mess. Every one of the entries in this collection is riddled with a complete absence of pride in doing something correctly; it reeks of a total disregard for the reader and their intelligence. Hell, I won't even begin to talk about his story about an armed response police officer and his drug addiction that makes Tony Montana look like an altar boy. Someone really needs to tell Pasquale that Uk police officers and especially armed UK police officers are regularly drug tested.
I'll be honest here I find Joe Pasquale's humour to be about as funny as a kick in the balls, but I did have high hopes for this book. The horror genre has always been the most challenging genre to sell to publishers and readers. There is a huge stigma attached to it, by those of the general public who have never read it. Despite the fact that anyone of us horror fans could rattle off a dozen authors who could break this stigma if only more people read them, without breaking a sweat. This potentially could be a book that is read by thousands of people who have never read a horror a story before, and thanks to Pasquale's embarrassing collection of short stories this book could do so much damage to our already look down upon genre.
Pasquale may well have been crowned king of the jungle, maybe he should have done us all a favour and been eaten by a tiger.