Carlton Mellick III is probably best known for his bizarro fiction. His fiction blends bizarre scenarios mixed with horror, action, and even more bizarre actions to create fiction that toes the line between the absurd and the dark places of the mind. I have always found Mellick to be shocking yet entertaining and happily dig in to his fiction when I get the chance. I was happy to have a chance to read an advance review copy of his upcoming novel “ClownFellas” which is scheduled to be released by Random House Hydra in July.
The world went through a reality-shifting change not long after the government passed laws that made comedy illegal. Soon, a new class of people rose from obscurity and began to take control of the criminal world. These people were the clowns. Little Bigtop soon became a three-ring circus of crime and the clowns became the kings of crime. In the new world of vice, there was no clown family more vicious or powerful than the Bozo family.
The Bozo family sat atop the crime world for years and had control of all aspects of illegal enterprises. They ran everything from drugs to clown brothels to the thriving illegal comedy industry including distribution of comedy movies as well as comedy speakeasies. The family has begun to fall on hard times, however, and a new group of French clowns is gearing up to overthrow the Bozo family. Le Mystere, the French clown mafia, is primed to make its move and the police are closing in as well. This could very well be curtains for the Bozo family but they are not going to relinquish power without a fight.
“ClownFellas” was not as over the top as I was expecting but it did have its moments and was very entertaining. Rather than a unified novel, the book is more of a series of connected short stories that chronicle different aspects of the Bozo family and the clown crime syndicate. The story is light on horror and focuses mainly on a kind of crime story with more than a hint of the absurd. These clowns can have the reader in stitches while they are trying to force their enemies to need stitches (or worse). I found parts of it to be grounded in reality and then the bizarre happens and the clowns begin to do their thing. Overall, a very funny and interesting read at the same time as well as a unique commentary on organized crime.
“ClownFellas” is not a book for everyone as it does stray into the realm of bizarro fiction yet it is one of the tamer of Mellick’s book that I have read. The thought of clowns turning balloons into guns as well as guns that shoot flowers and clown prostitutes (or the Juggler Brothers, who were my personal favorite characters) may be too much for some readers to handle. I, however, enjoyed this book and would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who is willing to suspend his disbelief and just take the story at face value. It is possible that you may even get some insight into the real world. If you have been thinking of trying bizzaro fiction, this is a good book to read as a starting point. With more of a heavy dose of the absurd mixed in with fiction grounded in the world of books such as “The Godfather,” “ClownFellas” is a rollercoaster ride through a strange world that borders on our own reality. It is a story that is just as difficult to define as it is to put down.
I would like to thank Random House Hydra and NetGalley for this advance review copy. “ClownFellas” is scheduled to be released in July.