“Carlton Mellick III goes past silly, through weird, detours around dumb, blasts through bizarre, and gets to a place where the normal physics of narrative no longer apply. You will never be the same.”—Cory Doctorow, author of Little Brother and Homeland
In a topsy-turvy world where clowns are killers and crooks, Little Bigtop is a three-ring circus of crime, and no syndicate is more dangerous than the Binzo family. From the wildly original mind of Carlton Mellick III comes the short-story collection ClownFellas—an epic mob saga where life is cheap and the gags will slay you.
For years, the hard-boiled capos of the Binzo family have run all of the funny business in Little Bigtop, from the clown brothels to the illegal comedy trade. But hard times have befallen the Binzos now that Le Mystère, the French clown Mafia, has started moving in and trying to take over the city. If that weren’t enough, they’ve got to deal with the cops, the Feds, the snitches, the carnies, the mysterious hit man Mr. Pogo, and the mutant clowns over in the Sideshow district. With the odds stacked against them, the Binzos must fight to survive . . . or die laughing.
Praise for ClownFellas
“Mario Puzo meets Barnum & Bailey . . . You just can’t look away as the ridiculousness escalates.”—Publishers Weekly
“The most original novelist working today? The most outrageous? The most unpredictable? These aren’t easy superlatives to make; however, Carlton Mellick may well be all of those things, behind a canon of books that all irreverently depart from the form and concepts of traditional novels, and adventure the reader into a howling, dark fantasyland of the most bizarre, over-the-top, and mind-warping inventiveness. In my opinion, ClownFellas is his best work to date.”—Edward Lee, author of City Infernal and Header
“I rarely enjoy clowns—which is ironic since I’ve been one for over four decades—but ClownFellas is great on so many levels, irony being one of them. What can I say besides I love it! Great read, and funny as hell . . . I have been accused of being unfunny before, and after the trial I had to enter the Witless Protection Program. This is funny!”—Barry Lubin, aka Grandma, longtime Big Apple Circus clown
“If Martin Scorsese and Ronald McDonald had a baby, this would be it. . . . Each story is clever, multi-layered, and filled with witty dialogue. . . . A must-read.”—This Is Horror
“Mellick’s writing is wonderfully descriptive and wildly imaginative. . . . I was utterly delighted, amused, and engrossed. . . . ClownFellas is a gem!”—The Qwillery
“A rollercoaster ride through a strange world that borders on our own reality . . . a story that is just as difficult to define as it is to put down.”—Examiner.com
“Mellick has created another amazing read. . . . Highly recommended.”—Kitty Horror
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Read an Excerpt
“So you the doc?” the clown asked in a deep, raspy voice.
Earl couldn’t even respond to the question. He just stood on the curb, frozen in shock, trembling like a chicken about to get its head bitten off by a sideshow geek. Ever since he was a kid, Earl Berryman had been terrified of clowns. There was something about their googly eyes, inhuman smiles, and skin-curdling giggles that made the poor schmuck cry like a baby. You’d think he would’ve grown out of it, him being an educated man and all, but over the years his phobia only got worse—especially now that there was a whole race of clowns out there, walking around New York in their size 30 shoes.
The clown leaned out of his lipstick-red car. “Hey, foureyes, I’m asking you a question over here.”
Only spittle and gibberish sprayed out when Earl tried to speak. He hadn’t been this close to a clown since his mother hired some junkie to dress up in clown makeup for his sixth birthday party and the freak went into a drug-induced seizure, puking white foam all over his Power Rangers birthday cake. Earl thought he’d be able to handle spending a single day with a group of clowns, but his coulrophobia was getting the better of him. He already regretted taking this job.
“I’m here to pick up a guy named Berryman,” said the clown. Smoke billowed out the car window, but there was no sign of any cigar or cigarette. “If that’s you, get in the freakin’ car. If not, then get lost.”
Sweat pooled inside Earl’s slate-gray suit. Every fiber of his being begged him to turn around and run in the other direction, but he had to be strong. His family was depending on him.
After taking a deep breath, Earl said, “Yeah, that’s me.”
“Then hurry it up already. I’m on a schedule here.”
Earl picked up his case of medical equipment and rushed toward the tiny car. The smell of rotting cotton candy and cheap gin hit him in the face as he squeezed into the passenger seat. The interior was a swirl of pink and blue, with a stick shift that looked like a giant lollipop and purple balloons that hung from the rearview mirror like fuzzy dice. It hardly looked like the vehicle a killer would drive.
“They call me Captain Spotty,” the clown introduced himself, holding out his hand to shake.
When Earl looked at him, his skin crawled. With his wild-eyed stare and permanent crazed smile exposing a row of black rotten teeth, Captain Spotty was the single most terrifying clown Earl had ever seen. His style was that of a hobo, with a patchwork coat made of green-and-orange plaid. A family of cockroaches scurried beneath his shabby clothes, crawling in and out of his collar and up his neck. Earl had to hold his breath to stop himself from screaming.
As Spotty shook his hand, the paper-white clown skin felt cold and rubbery to the touch. Earl knew clowns weren’t human, but he didn’t realize just how inhuman they really were until he felt one in the flesh. He jerked his hand away as a cockroach crawled out the clown’s sleeve and tickled his knuckle.
Captain Spotty wiggled his bright-red nose when he saw the uneasy look on Earl’s face. “What’s wrong with you? You look like you’re shitting bricks over there.”
“No, I’m just . . .” Earl diverted his eyes.
“You wearing a wire?” Spotty asked.
“No, no way,” Earl said.
The clown pulled a pink knife out of his bow tie. “I’ll slit your throat if you come into my car wearing a wire!”
Earl had no idea where the clown’s outburst had come from. He shrank into the corner of his seat as the knife approached his throat. The blade was carved out of a watermelon Jolly Rancher, the edge sharp enough to cut through flesh.
He cried, “Why would I wear a wire? I’m just a veterinarian.”
“An animal doctor.”
“How do I know you’re not some cop pretending to be an animal doctor?”
Spotty waved the candy blade at the vet, his maniacal grin growing wider on his face. This clown wasn’t just scary. He was also a genuine honest-to-God psychopath.
“Look.” Earl dug his wallet out of his back pocket and held out his employee ID card. “I work at the Bronx Zoo. I have a degree in wildlife medicine. I’m not a cop. I’m just a normal guy.”
The clown peered at the ID with his bright-red eyes.
“Then why are you so nervous?”
“I’m just . . . coulrophobic.”
“I’m afraid of clowns.”
The clown looked Earl in the eyes, then back at the ID, then back to Earl’s eyes.
“I’m not wearing a wire, I swear,” Earl said.
Then the clown burst into laughter.
“Of course you’re not wearing a wire,” Spotty said. “Why would you be wearing a wire? You’re just an animal doctor.”
The wallet nearly fell out the window Earl was trembling so hard.
The clown cackled. “Lighten up. I’m just bustin’ yer balls.”
“It was just a joke?”
“I’m a clown.” Spotty put the shift into gear, beeped his high-pitched horn twice, and sped into traffic. “That’s what we do.”
It was quickly turning into the worst day of Earl’s life.