Book Reviews

[Review] Killer Clowns Come To Town: Dead White

Publisher: Tor Books | Published: November 11th 1983 | Pages: 320


This is my second Alan Ryan read, my first being The Kill. Both Dead White and The Kill feel like dime store Stephen King books. They both have a unique premise that is hard to ignore; I was tricked both times. The writing is good, it’s not padded or longwinded. It’s just that when you buy a book and spend hours reading it, you expect a good payoff. You have all this tension and build up that ends up being just another convenient ending. The author didn’t take any chances. The storytelling was very formulaic, and it fell bland after a while. I was hoping for more, especially when you combine clowns and snow. I mean come on, it’s a can’t miss story, but somehow it missed.

Dead White is a quiet horror story. There is some good, but it takes a while to get there. It’s all about atmosphere and the foreboding danger of the small upstate New York town of Deacons Kill and its inhabitants. Alan Ryan doesn’t get too fancy with his words, he keeps it economically friendly. The chapters are time stamped, and the story is told with multiple narratives. The author makes you use your imagination, it’s not in your face horror by no means. There are several, probably too many instances of over describing the snow and the landscape. It sounded like Forrest Gump describing the snow. It snowed this way, that way and every which a ways.

Dead White starts off with an old circus train full of evil clowns appearing in Deacons Kill in the midst of a freak blizzard. The residents have to survive the cold and an evil presence that road in on the train. The legendary Stanton Stokely’s Stupendous Circus is led by a ringmaster with a traditional black top hat and cape. The town inhabitants are isolated, making them easy prey for the evil that lurks within the circus train. The small town relies on a callow sheriff and an old doctor. What could go wrong?

Clowns start popping up in different places. They float across the snow. They stare at you through your frozen windows. They even kill. But sadly we don’t get to “see” the deaths because the author holds back. The characters felt cliched and paper thin. I didn’t really connect with any of them. I just wanted to see what the creepy clowns were going to do. You have to wait a while. And remember, all this time, tensions have been building for hundreds of pages, and then the ending comes and goes with a whimper. I was wanting a bang or a boom, but instead, it fizzles out.

I’m going to read Alan Ryan’s other work. I don’t think any of his work has been published on Kindle or Nook. I know Dead White and The Kill is out of print, but you can find used copies for a reasonable price online.

Rating: 2 out of 5.


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