The Art of Horrible People by John Skipp
Lazy Fascist Press (August 2015)
176 pages, e-book $5.95, paperback $12.95
Reviewed by Blu Gilliand
On the back cover of John Skipp’s The Art of Horrible People, author Josh Malerman implores readers to “savor this book.” It’s a good suggestion, but difficult to follow with prose like this, which fully embodies the tried-and-true cliché of being difficult to put down.
The book collects nine stories written over the last decade, each of them featuring the razor-like wit and sharp insight which has characterized Skipp’s work all the way back to his days as a young (splatter)punk breaking into the business. Each story has its merits, but a couple of them stood out for me.
“Depresso the Clown” examines the ramifications of coulrophobia, the fear of clowns, from a clown’s point-of-view. A man trying to eke out a living in greasepaint is captured by a woman desperate to face – and conquer – her fear. Instead, her attempt at home-spun therapy only serves to create that which she fears the most.
“Skipp’s Hollywood Alphabet Soup of Horror” is a gleeful evisceration of Tinseltown, packaged in 26 pieces of flash fiction – one for every letter. Skipp takes aim at the movie industry’s inflated egos and get-ahead-at-all-costs mentality in particular, revealing that the true victims in Hollywood horror stories are usually creativity and dreams.
The Art of Horrible People is a welcome collection from one of horror’s great treasures. John Skipp is a unique and important voice in fiction, and we should count ourselves lucky that he shares his nightmares with us.