"Dead Clown Barbecue" Book Review
Written by Steve Pattee
Published by Dark Regions Press
Written by Jeff Strand
2013, 264 pages, Fiction
Released on March 27th, 2013
My first introduction to Jeff Strand's work was the wonderfully enjoyable Fangboy. After that, I read Wolf Hunt, Facial, and Faint of Heart (all of which I dug), purchased Wolf Hunt 2, Dweller, A Bad Day for Voodoo, and a few others I haven't had the chance to plow into yet (although Dweller is at the top of my pile). So I was more than pleased to receive a review copy of Dead Clown Barbecue because those go at the top of my list 99.9% of the time, and I didn't have to put off reading another novel from Strand any longer.
Dead Clown Barbecue isn't a novel but rather a collection of his short stories. If you've never read Strand's work, this is a fine place to start because you immediately get a sense at the dark comedy treats you are in for.
The book contains 29 stories in its 264 pages, and I laughed out loud just as much as a cringed reading each one of them. Strand is one of the few people that can expertly pull off humor and horror, as it's not often when you are literally giggling reading one sentence, then curling your toes the next. That takes a good amount of skill, something of which Strand clearly has a lot.
Since there are just under 30 tales, naturally I won't be going through each one to keep this review as lean as Strand's writing. Yet there are definitely some that should get special attention, starting with one of my favorites, "The Bell...FROM HELL!!!" In this 6-page story, a guy has a bell forged by Satan and when it's rung 666 times, he claims, Lucifer himself is summoned. Unfortunately for our narrator, none of his co-workers believe him and poke fun at the poor office worker. So he does what any of us would do, he starts the process of calling up The Dark Lord. Of course, things don't go as planned and the ending is both a little sad and a lot amusing.
"Pett Semmuteary" is the first tale in the collection and it's a humorous nod to the Stephen King classic novel. In this one, our main character must take the beloved family pet back and forth to the local pet cemetery. Each burial and subsequent resurrection is worse than the last.
As I mentioned above, my first trip into Strand's world was his novella Fangboy, so it was a pleasant surprise when I came to the story "Fangboy and the Troll". It was like seeing a friend you've lost contact with, and they tell you what they've been up to. In this case, it's the adventures of Fangboy and a troll, and if you've read the titular novella, it's exactly what you expect it to be.
While it's just as amusing in parts as the rest of the stories in the collection, "Gramma's Corpse" is equally disturbing. It centers on a young girl who gets in trouble and her father's punishment is to make her sleep in the same bed as her dead grandmother. This is a great example of Strand's talent as he manages to disgust you, make you laugh, and even feel horrible for the little girl.
"True Hero" is hilarious. What it lacks in scares, gore, chills or the macabre, it makes up for in hilarity. Without spoiling anything, the six-page story is about a guy who saved a girl and the press conference that follows.
Look, I could go on and on telling you how great each story is, but you need to find out for yourself. Dead Clown Barbecue wraps up with an epilogue from Strand giving you some fantastic tidbits on each story. I don't recall a time I've ever seen something like this, and with it the collection really does become a cover to cover read; did I mention the prologue is hilarious? Because it is. If you are looking for laughs, gore and grue, this is a no brainer.