Friday, June 7, 2019

Only Pretty Damned - A Review


By Niall Howell

Rowland's World Class Circus is a world of shattered dreams. Under the bright lights is a dark life. As the carnies travel across the United States and Canada we feel a history. So much has happened before, underpinning the story, information that slowly oozes out as we catch glimpses of who Toby  was...and who he is now. We see the seedy underbelly of this vagabond life, see it as it tarnishes those who hope to succeed. 

Life under the big top has fascinated people for years. Itinerant players with their own rules, looked at with awe, envy, and perhaps a bit of disdain. Circus folk are a breed unto themselves, a marginalized group and in ONLY PRETTY DAMNED we get a view of the fall of its denizens.

Howell paints his characters with a hint of grime yet manages to make readers feel some empathy for them. The glimpses we get of Toby before the first murder, the earnestness of Gloria as she yearns for more, the way almost everyone puts the show first, all good things, yet things that will force the characters into a downward spiral.

Howell is quite adept at planting seeds, skillfully utilizing foreshadowing, yet managing several surprises along the way. He captured me in his first sentence and never fully let me go.

ONLY PRETTY DAMNED gives readers a view of the underbelly of the big top. It's a fascinating tale of carnies in a mid century circus, their hope for success and ultimately their destruction.

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