Saturday, October 20, 2012

James Roy Daley's "The Dead Parade" reviewed

James Roy Daley first thing in the morning
I just finished reading The Dead Parade by horror novelist and all-around good guy James Roy Daley.

How can I describe his book?

In a word: grim.


Like being chained to the back of a pickup truck and dragged 40 miles down a gravel road.

This is a bleak book. It's an amazingly well written, fast-paced, page turner of a book. Reading this book is like witnessing a massive 18-car pile-up with multiple fatalities on the freeway first hand, narrowly avoiding death yourself, all while watching it through a microscope. The excruciating detail of human misery is presented with raw and scintillating depravity.

I loved this book.

First off, on a technical level, it's superbly well written. James Roy Daley has crafted The Dead Parade in a classically elegant pulp/noir "spare" style. There are no wasted words. Each sentence is about moving the plot violently forward. The metaphors are razor-sharp and inventive, reminiscent of some of Raymond Chandler's classic turns of phrase. The dialogue is fresh, authentic and reveals familiar and believable characters efficiently and with minimal description. A reminder to aspiring writers how much can be done with so little, Daley's style is akin to the masterly works of the late great Jim Thompson and equally skillful mid-career one-offs penned by John D. MacDonald (MacDonald is the avowed all-time favorite author of Dean Koontz). James Roy Daley has put a lot of words under his belt, and knows how to write.

He also knows how to captivate.

Secondly, let's talk story. Violence and tragedy erupt like an Independence day cannonade on page one. The story pauses to take a deep breath for but a few pages to establish character and setting, and then disaster bellows out for the remainder of the book. Like the train wreck that it is, how can you not keep reading? One terrible thing after another happens "seemingly" randomly to the innocents within. Does it seem gratuitous? Of course it does, that's why we read such books. Does it seemed depraved? Why yes, I'm glad you asked. Can people really do such terrible things to each other? They could, if given the proper motivation. But what sort of terrible impossible thing could motivate people to such lunacy? Read the book and you will find out. But how, you ask in shocked disbelief, could people THINK such things and DO such things to one another? I don't know, but when Daley takes us inside the heads of the characters in The Dead Parade, it all makes perfect sense. Their actions seem so perfectly suitable and sensible, as if we would all do the exact same thing in their shoes. Daley has such a deft hand when it comes to evoking the inner-minds of madmen, I have to wonder: did he write the manuscript with a two-inch pencil nub while straight-jacketed and chained to a wall? I'm going to guess yes.

If you like terror and horror, buy this book. Now.

If not, recommend it to your friends who do.

As an aside, I couldn't help but notice a similarity between the beast depicted on the two different covers of The Dead Parade and the infamous Zuni Fetish Warrior from Karen Black's magnum acting opus Trilogy of Terror. I have a life-sized statue of the Zuni doll from said film sitting in my office behind me right now, staring at my back. It glares at me malevolently, and when I'm not looking at it, I hear it creeping closer. I'm pretty sure that my copy of The Dead Parade has brought the previously inanimate doll to life. If you read James Roy Daley's The Dead Parade you will understand exactly why. I wonder if this was a conscious nod by Daley to "The" Trilogy? I hope so. He certainly earned a place on the podium directly adjacent.


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