In the first weeks of 2016, Joseph D’Lacey—British Fantasy Award-winning author of the magnificently malevolent Meat, in addition to Roadkill, Garbage Man, Black Feathers and a bunch of other wonderfully bloody books—wrote that sometimes, if you love something, you have to let it go. He was referring to his newest novel: a collaboration with screenwriter Jeremy Drysdale which, absent an agent, a publicist and a publisher, had no natural path to market.
At the time, he was toying with the idea of releasing the book we now know as Blood & Aspic for free, but his blog post prompted an outpouring of support from a whole host of folks who were opposed to him giving his hard work away, so D’Lacey and Drysdale opted, ultimately, to consider a couple of other options—such as self-publishing.
As D’Lacey explains in his latest blog post,
Five years ago, Jeremy Drysdale and I finished a manuscript; possibly the strangest manuscript I’ve ever worked on.
We got into the submissions process and it only served to reinforce just how unusual the material was. Many agents and editors came back to us saying they hated it. Others liked it but had no idea how to market it. Either way, the answer was ‘no.’
They say nothing ever happens fast in publishing but, after five unsuccessful years of trying to get this novel to a readership in the traditional way, we decided to take matters into our own hands.
So, without further tantalising, teasing, taunting and being generally mean, feast your eyes on this:
This, by the by, is the first book cover artist Suzanne Waters has tried her hand at. Not bad at all, Suzanne! Not bad at all.
But back to D’Lacey, on the unlikely origins of the Clown Wars:
I don’t like to collaborate, especially not on novels. To me they’re a very personal thing. But turning this idea—originally, a screenplay that Jeremy pitched to Aardman Animations—into a full-length work of fiction was the best fun I’ve had with my trousers on and not in a pub.
Incidentally, the producer at Aardman on the fateful day of the pitch meeting found the idea somewhat unnerving. The poor man had to ‘go for a bit of a walk’ to recover. I don’t know. Some people, eh?
D’Lacey is, in fairness, the first to admit that “this is the ultimate Marmite book. You’ll either love it or hate it.” Having spent a few hours with an early copy of Blood & Aspic already, I can safely say I can’t wait to go back for more of that metaphorical Marmite. If you, too, would like to laugh until your stitches split, you won’t have to hold out for long, because the book should be available in a matter of days.
In the meantime, try the following synopsis on for size:
For as long as anyone can remember, the Clowns and Humans of Blueville have co-existed peacefully. Sure, each species thinks the other is a little weird but that’s never been something to fight about.
Until, that is, a series of freakish terrorist attacks—seemingly perpetrated by clowns—turn the two bloodlines against each other. When war breaks out, the future of both species hangs in the balance. It’s going to take a suicide mission to stop the carnage and only misfit circus trainee Colin Clarke and his three best friends have the courage to volunteer for this impossible task.
Their quest takes them to the mean streets of Cheadle, the most dangerous city in the world. There, in a final bid to defeat their true enemy, they must confront the darkness lurking at the very heart of clownkind.
Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative Scotsman, Strange Horizons, and Tor.com. He lives with about a bazillion books, his better half and a certain sleekit wee beastie in the central belt of bonnie Scotland.