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“Midnight Under the Big Top” will take you on a ride of terror and suspense, with twists and turns that will keep you guessing until the end.

If you find circus imagery and clowns delightfully disturbing, Midnight Under the Big Top should be at the top of your summer reading list. Each spine-tingling tale in this anthology stimulates the reader’s darkest fears with unsettling twists and gripping suspense. Some of these stories are infused with a generous dose of nostalgia and flooded with vivid imagery that will evoke memories of childhood fears.

Circuses have always been a place of mixed feelings. Clowns, who have been a staple of circuses for generations, are a perfect example of this ambiguity. Once beloved children’s entertainers, their association with something sinister and foreboding has grown over time, both in reality and in fiction.

Serial killer John Wayne Gacy, who entertained at children’s birthday parties as his clown alter ego Pogo while he filled the crawl space beneath his house with the bodies of his victims, epitomizes the dark side of clowns. Stephen King’s iconic Pennywise is a fictitious example of the way the image of the clown has evolved into something more sinister.

The first featured story in Midnight Under the Big Top is Stephen King’s “Night of the Tiger,” with other notable authors like Joe Hill, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Neil Gaiman, and Tananarive Due.

Originally published in 1978 in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, “Night of the Tiger” takes readers on a captivating journey into the life of a circus roustabout who encounters odd and eerie events involving a ferocious tiger, enigmatic stranger, and lion tamer with anger management problems. The story stimulates the reader’s imagination and keeps them hooked until the end.

 “Twittering from the Circus of the Dead” by Joe Hill is a standout in the first part of the book.

Told in the form of tweets, this satirical dark comedy has a unique and entertaining quality to it.

Kelley Armstrong’s “Girl in the Carnival Gown” is a story about the creepiest and most unsettling characters that stands out for its ending. Rather than being a shock, the twist is unexpected yet satisfying as there are subtle clues hinted at throughout the story.

Tannarive Due’s multi-layered “Herd Immunity” is a brilliant piece that is more than a post-apocalyptic zombie tale. 

Richard Chizmar’s “The Carnival” is original and engaging, and Billy Chizmar’s “Mr. Bones’ Wild Ride” is brief but lives up to its title.

Midnight Under the Big Top also includes poetry intermissions between the brief bursts of terror, including poetry by Norman Prentiss, G.O. Clark, Marge Simon, Barry Boston, and more.

The entire book is a treasure trove of the macabre, featuring classic and contemporary masters of horror and fantasy fiction.

Midnight Under the Big Top contains a wide variety of circus-themed horror stories.

Midnight Under the Big Top

Each one is suspenseful, luring in the reader, hitting us with grotesque imagery that could be just part of the show —  or is it? Whether you are a fan of clowns, zombies, shapeshifters, or just good old-fashioned horror, you will find something to enjoy in this book.

Something sinister does lurk beneath the Big Top, and each tale has a unique twist. 

Midnight Under the Big Top also includes Dandy, a short novel by New York Times bestselling author Josh Malerman that follows the story of two social misfits: Dandelion “Dandy” Andrews and Susan.

Malerman creates suspense as we follow both characters as he shifts perspectives. Dandelion puts all his energy into building an elaborate haunt underneath the county fair. However, the reader is led to believe that Dandelion’s house of horrors is neither for business nor pleasure but something far more sinister.

Susan is a young woman who has always felt invisible. She knew Dandelion in high school and felt sorry for him. However, all she wants to do is have some fun at the county fair. What will happen when Susan inevitably enters Dandy’s house of horrors?

The book also includes excellent eye-catching artwork by Glenn Chadbourne and a cover by Ben Baldwin, which are appropriately creepy enough to dazzle the eye of anyone with a macabre sensibility.

If you are looking for a book that will make you scream, laugh, and cry, then Midnight Under the Big Top is the book for you. 

Midnight Under the Big Top, edited by Brian James Freeman, is available for pre-order from Cemetery Dance Publications.

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