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Daniel I Russell - Writer of Horror Fiction


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Monday, February 14, 2011

CARNIES by Martin Livings


Carnies by Martin Livings was one of my 'pay it forward' sales, in that I always ALWAYS buy a book by a small press writer I know if I see it in a brick and mortar store. That store was Borders...so I guess the sale wasn't enough to keep the boat afloat.

So Carnies. A bit of history.

The book is a Ditmar and Aurealis award nominee and the winner of a Tin Duck award (a quite prestigious award for writers in Western Australia). The book has also been optioned to be made into a feature film.

So, going into the this novel, I was expecting big things. But werewolves? WEREWOLVES? After vamps and zombies, werewolves get the cliched bronze medal. But does Livings take the subgenre into completely new territory? No...but read on.

In the town of Tillbrook, there is a carnival that has stood on the sight for a century. The locals can't remember why they still go and spend their hard earned cash...it's just become a tradition. But some people in the town know all about the secret the carnival holds and will stoop to any lengths to see it gone.

Step in David, a reporter past his prime who is now relegated to write the fluff articles for the newspapers weekend supplement. Tipped off that there might be a meatier story (and there certainly is!) behind the carnival facade, he sets off for Tillbrook with dreams of exposing it and reigniting his journalism career. Along for the ride is Paul, his younger brother. Paul's life is dovetailing. Permanently unemployed and with a busted ankle he suffered in a FLT accident, Paul goes with his brother for a few days away from his crappy life and to make a few dollars. He's a dab hand with a camera.

And that's all I'm going to give you for now really. Oh, and there's werewolves. LOTS of werewolves.

I mentioned that nothing remarkable is done with the werewolves. They aren't in space. They aren't fighting bigfoot. They aren't telekinetic werewolves that have formed a cult to stop a government conspiracy to raise Cthulu.

The traditional werewolf story here is actually quite refreshing. Livings dispenses with far-fetched notions to make the novel stand out, and instead, concentrates on writing a damn good story that doesn't need to try too hard to win over the reader. This, my friends, is what makes it stand out.

Livings comfortably spins his yarn. This is one of the most welcoming books I have read in a long, long time. The book comes across as clever without being smug about it and funny without resorting to jokes or bizarreness for the sake of it. The voice here is just so...effortless! You sink right in and the pace belts along, but with enough depth and thought to give the pages a bit more personality compared to other horror thrillers.

Gore hounds will be satisfied, yet the blood and guts are done tastefully, so I don't think that green horror readers will go...greener. The writer doesn't go for graphic deaths or torture, spilling every cringe-worthy detail (unlike some other horror writers. Dan whistles nonchalantly...). It's simply a great all round book.

One last thing: Livings is from Perth, so while the book could kinda be set in America to an untrained eye, this book is about as Australian as a Chiko Roll, only it has both taste and texture. We don't have gangsters...we have bikies. The petrol stations I'm sure are here in town. As a writer living in Australia, I love to see these things. Makes a change from an almost US saturated market of good, quick horror.

Put down your crappy teen romance "horror" book, or the constant turds that are vampires vs werewolves caught in an eternal battle (boooooring!). For a great read of all things tooth and claw, and without the bullshit, I can't recommend Carnies enough. One of those books were you intend to read a chapter or two and find a hundred or so pages have whipped by.

You're going to need a silver-plated bookmark for this one! Cannot wait for the movie. The Howling? Eat your heart out. (Sorry, werewolf pun)

Posted by Daniel I. Russell :: 9:42 am :: 0 comments

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