• The Land of laughs •
The Land of Laughs was lit by eyes that saw the lights that no one's seen." To Thomas Abbey, lonely child of a famous movie actor, grown into a restive prep school teacher, this is one of the most memorable lines ever written. It is by Marshall France, the legendary author of children's books who wrote The Land of Laughs, Pool of Stars, Green Dog's Sorrow, and other haunting classics, hid himself away in tiny Galen, Missouri, and died of a heart attack at age 44.
This brilliantly imaginative and frightening novel is set in motion when Tom Abbey and his spirited girlfriend, Saxony Gardner, determine to write France's biography. They arrive in Galen on a slow, cloud-still summer day, both of them expectant and delighted and also a little scared of what they will find. France's enigmatic and reclusive shadow lingers on, and his lovely and mysterious daughter Anna is known to act as a fiercely protective keeper of the flame.
But to their deep surprise, Anna and Galen had been waiting for them--almost too eagerly. Slowly they begin to apprehend not only that this idyllic small Midwestern town and its inhabitants, human and animal, are not what they seem, but that the magic of Marshall France had extended far beyond the printed page.
Chilling possibilities begin to dawn on Tom and Saxony, and on the reader, who will at once revel in the grand tradition of horror stories and in the discovery of a wholly new talent.
• Reviews •
"I was wholly intrigued by these characters and their story from the beginning. By the time they were immersed in Galen, I was mezmerized. From the discovery of France's sorcery on, I constantly asked myself how the magic could be sustained for one more page. The epilogue is a masterpiece of a surprise. And the whole book is not only a hair-raising tale but is about fathers and sons, about magic and the real world, about our illusions and their necessity in establishing the real, and about how important writing and books are to people. I loved the way it started off as a romantic, dreamy yarn and ended by trapping the reader with steel jaws."--Diane Wakoski
"It is a skillfully constructed 1980-Gothic--horrid hints, sinister suspense, cataclysmic climax and all...."--Brian Taylor, St. Louis Globe Democrat
"The situation itself is fantasy--but even as I was busy telling myself it couldn't really happen, my eyes were glued open to the dark at 3 a.m. After all, Carroll's characters, all of them lovingly and skillfully established as real people, react to it just as anyone would, making the horror more horrible for dwelling side by side with such realism."--Ellen Kushner, Cleveland Plain Dealer
"...the sort of book an inveterate fiction reader hopes to escape with on a rainy day."--Pat Hilton, Los Angeles Times
"It doesn't fit neatly into any category: it's a little bit of a mystery, a little bit of a fantasy, and, by the time it's over...a whole lot of horror story.... Rarely have I read such a graceful blending of whimsy and chills. It's like danger tapping you on the shoulder even as you're smiling...and as you turn the smile changes to a scream. I couldn't put down Jonathan Carroll's The Land of Laughs until after I finished it, and after I did, I couldn't forget it."--Michele Slung, National Public Radio
"This is an intricate, challenging, ultimately chilling tale, full of startling juxtapositions and surprises."--Washington Post Book World
"A marvelous, exciting, beautifully written book, and absolutely riveting."--Ruth Rendell
"The most original first novel to appear in my generation of writers."--Pat Conroy
"A unique mixture of humour and horror. Destined to become a modern classic"--Fantasy Review
"Part horror, part fantasy, part mystery, part love story, his novels reel you in quickly and effortlessly...working a rich vein--the horror lurking on the shadowy edges of daily life"--Washington Post
"An intoxicating blend of 20th century American and evil at its most pure. A staggering debut"--Pete Crowther, Fear