7. The Grin Of The Dark, by Ramsey Campbell (2007)
Admit it, at one point or another in your lifetime, you’ve been scared of clowns. Or at least left in a state of unease by the sight of a creepy man wearing makeup and constantly smiling. That’s the universal fear that Liverpool, England, native Ramsey Campbell exploits beautifully in The Grin Of The Dark, a purposefully disconcerting descent into madness that’s written with Campbell’s signature brand of dense, attention-requiring prose.
The Grin Of The Dark puts you into the increasingly fractured mind of shamed movie critic Simon Lester, who hopes to fix his dishonored name by writing a definitive biography on mysterious silent film star Tubby Thackeray. Acted out in a clown get-up, Thackeray’s performances, the recordings of which have disappeared over time, reportedly drove audiences crazy, literally.
And, predictably, but not lamely, Lester goes loopy himself while trying to unravel the tubby one’s secrets. Campbell is at his scary best whenever Thackeray’s performances are described, and he’s funny as hell when depicting the psychologically warped manners in which Lester’s paranoia gets assaulted.