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The Grin of the Dark

3.35 of 5 stars 3.35  ·  rating details  ·  348 ratings  ·  52 reviews
A former professor offers film critic Simon the chance of a lifetime—to write a book on one of the greatest long-lost comedians of the silent-film era, Tubby Thackeray.Simon is determined to find out the truth behind the jolly fat man’s disappearance from film—and from the world.

Tubby’s work carries the unmistakable stamp of the macabre. People literally laughed themselves
...more
ebook, 400 pages
Published July 8th 2008 by Tor Books (first published 2007)
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(showing 1-30 of 861)
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Grayson Queen
I made it 42 pages into this book so i can't say how the story is but the writing is atrocious. I though I was reading something from a teenage author I(you know the ones publishers print as a gimmick and then eventually realized they've been plagiarizing). When I was in high school i wrote like Ramsey Campbell. Here's and example:

...Why am I trying to piece this together when I should be watching? I hurry into the communal lounge and switch on the video player.

A tape is nesting in it. When I ej
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Isidore
One of Campbell's finest novels. His usual devices are present: an uncertainty of what is real and what is not, half-glimpsed horrors in everyday settings, an almost paranoiac sense that every encounter with another person will be unpleasant; but this novel uses those devices to conjure up a vision of Azathoth, Lovecraft's blind "idiot god", an aspect of Lovecraft's mythos which most writers avoid because its horrors are too philosophically complex for hackwork, and too abstract for comprehensio ...more
Richard Wright
As ever, Campbell's fiction is not about in-your-face scares, but growing disquiet, the slow build rather than the instant pay off. It starts gently, creeping along, making strange suggestions to you, carefully piling oddity onto oddity until you finish. It left me feeling off-kilter, although the downside is that the nebulous shapes Campbell creates at the edge of your vision never quite take form. The first person account that is the story doesn't benefit from this, because as things progress, ...more
Tim Pendry

'The Grin in the Dark' is less a horror tale than a novel of unease. From that perspective, the three pages of closely set third part endorsements give the wrong impression on this occasion.

The tale uses the conceit (known to us from Japanese horror) of a creative medium - the cinema shorts of a disturbing lost silent comedian - that infects the minds of others.

There are strong elements of the gothic, the occult and Kingian coulrophobia and the whole novel leaves us with a lingering sense of dis
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Simon
Campbell is one of the long established masters of the genre although he is less well known and widely appreciated than other long established authors. Although widely respected by other writers in the field, he is never going to enjoy the popularity of others, such as King, because his characters are not as easy to relate to, his narrative style sometimes jars and his plot lines often fail to wrap up conclusively. He employs a graduated build up of unease that some readers might not have the pa ...more
Amanda
I just could not get into this book. I tried so hard to like it, and a few times I thought I might almost be into it, but then I'd turn the page and there in front of me was yet another page of arguments the main character has with some person on a message board. The constant back and forth of the "message board posts" made me want to beat my head against a wall. Think about logging into your favorite message board and seeing post after post (think about 300 pages of it in this case)of the same ...more
Elizabeth
Normally I find the whole slowly-losing-one's-sanity-while-unexplainable-things-start-happening plot to be really compelling and interesting in horror novels. And since I've enjoyed some of Ramsey Campbell's short stories, I thought I would really like this book. But the main character is hard to sympathize with from the very beginning (honestly, he's absolutely annoying). The book is also written in a way to make you feel like you too are slowly losing your sanity, which --- while a testament t ...more
Harry Kane
Nauseatingly disjointed dreamy plot which made me feel increasingly insane, during a 10h plane flight in which I read it. Not that I liked the feeling, but I bow to the writers who manages all this with just an arsenal of hints, insinuations, and the swiftly degenerating personality of the protagonist. Like a Martin Amis on ketamine. I felt aftershocks for days.
Mark
You'll never look at the internet again after this book.

You know when you're on that forum and there's always one idiot, one argumentative sod? Well beware cause they might turn out to be worse than you think!

Two days after reading and I'm still caught up in the book and its terrifying conclusion. The man is a master!
Sheila
Dec 21, 2008 Sheila rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers that enjoy immensely descriptive depictions
Recommended to Sheila by: the library display shelf
As a fan of all types of horror, the cover caught my eye in the local library. A few of the forty-word sentences had to be read twice, but I enjoyed the British descriptions immensely. I could almost feel myself "in" the experience that the author was depicting, which is no less than I expect from any good horror tale. The hallucinations experienced by the main character throughout the book are quite detailed. This author has written about 12 other books and I was left wanting to read more of hi ...more
Ava
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Belinda
I am slowly introducing myself to Ramsey Campbell in my quest for good horror fiction. I have heard so many good things about him and somehow, he just had never made it into my reading. I did manage to find a few old paperbacks and read "The Doll That Ate It's Mother" and really enjoyed it. My enterprising boyfriend and computer hound found me many, many rare Campbells for my nook and I started this one first. I did not even know what it was about, but I loved the title and cover art so I though ...more
Jo
The novel revolves around a disgraced magazine writer attempting his coup de grace by writing a book about a former silent comedian. As he begins his research strange things start to happen and the reader is left wondering if the hero is losing his mind or if these events are really occurring. Enjoyable enough but not the best book I've ever read. By the time I got to the end I got the feeling that the author is not really a fan of the internet which he seems to blame for what happened to his he ...more
BookNerdsBrainDump
Short Take: So much potential.


Ramsey Campbell is one of those horror authors that horror fans seem to really love, but I just can’t get in to. I tried Incarnate a couple of years ago after seeing rave reviews from some other bloggers I admire, and I thought that it was OK, but not spectacular. I figured that Campbell just wasn’t for me, and moved on.

Then I read a “Best Horror Novels of the Millenium” list, and there he was at #7, with The Grin of the Dark. Since I’d already read most of what was
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Julia Zee
All right, so it's a horror novel with a clown on the cover. The basic description might not give you extravagant hopes for its originality. But Campbell has ways of making the genre his own, not least his first-person narrative style, which attracts you and then disorients the hell out of you with more and more frequent temporal lapses, split-second hauntings and verbal breakdown. Furthermore, Tubby Thackeray is not just any clown but a silent-movie jokester, and the distanced, deadpan descript ...more
Brian
Ramsey Campbell's prose takes more concentration than I can usually give it (professional hazard; it's the main reason I don't read much fiction anymore). That's not a knock on Mr. Campbell in general, or The Grin of the Dark specifically, but please keep it in mind for the rest of this brief review.

Campbell has written a lot of books over the years, and it seems like he's going back to the well once too often with this one. There's a lost old movie from the early days of cinema, and those who t
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MacabreGoblin
I loved the detective feel of this book, especially considering the subject was film. It sucked me right in. Campbell's writing is so descriptive and clever that I managed not to be bothered by the fact he wrote this in present tense, which is usually really irritating for me. For a good length of the book I was wondering where the horror was really going to show itself, but I began to realize that it had been whittling away at me right from the beginning. Campbell has a way of taking seemingly ...more
Corielle
Wow, was this bad! The back of the book makes Ramsey Campbell (whom I've never even heard of) sound like some sort of British Stephen King. Maybe I just caught him on a bad day, but I thought Campbell's writing was atrocious. That's a double shame, really, because this could have been one hell of a story.

The Grin in the Dark focuses on Simon Lester, a rather washed up film critic who has suddenly been given a miraculous opportunity to publish his film school thesis as a proper book, assuming he
...more
Chris Cangiano
Down on his luck film critic Simon Lester takes on a job from a University Press to write a book reintroducing silent film star Tubby Thackery to the world. It appears that Thackery's movies and live appearances were noted to cause hysteria in his audiences and it appears that all traces of his work have been expunged. As the immensity of the task settles upon him and the stakes of his potential failure loom large, Simon appears to be cracking under the pressure . . . or is he? Perhaps Thackery' ...more
Chris
The plot seemed promising, but it wound up being a combination of "The Ring" and Stephen King's "It." The prose is ridiculously dense at times, and the chapters where the narrator is hallucinating (pretty much the entire second half of the book) gave me a headache in my eye, they were so muddled. I wanted to like this one, but it just didn't work for me.
Tapley
Hated it. Was bored out of my mind, and thoroughly annoyed at the whole experience of reading it. If I had to pin it down, I would say that a complete lack of sympathetic characters is what made this book such a poor choice for me.
Linda
A bit long and sometimes I lost track of what the author was saying.

Not bad, but nowhere near as good as 'The Long Lost'.

If you like to be freaked out by fat, grinning faces and clowns, then give it a go.
Shane
It's very rare for me to get a really creepy feeling from a novel these days but this one did just that for me. All the way through it gives you a feeling that there's a lot more to life than just what's on the surface, and that it wouldn't take very much at all to draw it to the surface. Clowns, of course, are automatically creepy but here we have a very intelligent reworking of the creepy old clown story. Tubby Thackeray is actually a comedian working in the silent black and white film era, wh ...more
Justin Steele
Ramsey Campbell is a name all horror readers should be familiar with. The Liverpool native has written at least thirty novels, and had hundreds of short stories to his name. I've long been a fan of Campbell's short fiction, but until now I have yet to delve into any of his longer works.

The Grin of the Dark is one of his more recent novels, being published in 2007. Now, looking at the cover alone it's easy to see how I came to choose this one. Clowns have long been a source of horror. Ask anyone
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Craig Nickerson
The Grin of the Dark should have been Ramsey Campbell's masterpiece. In it there are all the significant elements that crop up throughout his work, the fine line between a laugh and a scream, the influence of malevolent personalities over those of the weak, the disintegration of the mind, the dread to be found in the dreary day to day, and the erosion of language and meaning all with an undertone of cosmic, Lovecraftian horror. Unfortunately, the novel isn't satisfying enough to rank amongst Cam ...more
Andy
This is the fourth Campbell novel I've read and there's a 17 year gap between this novel and the most recently published novel I'd read by him (Midnight Sun (1990)). I would put it below Ancient Images and The Hungry Moon, but well above Midnight Sun. There's definitely differences in his writing style then versus now. This novel can be very "hallucinogenic" at times, and it's a little more focused on interpersonal relationships than I prefer. At times I thought Campbell overplayed his hand with ...more
Damian Pearce
Nov 16, 2012 Damian Pearce rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who fear clowns who don't mind suffering insomnia for a couple of years
Recommended to Damian by: http://www.mania.com/top-20-greatest-...
I enjoyed this immensely. The subject of the story has been one I always thought ripe for horror. There's something about clowns that gets some people scared, some say irrationally - but at least people who don't have that fear can understand why they'd be afraid. Everything about a clown is concealed, their identity, height and weight and who knows what they could have down those baggy trousers? Well, for me silent films are in the same category. Like most people I can't lip read so I always wo ...more
Sarah
I couldn't get through it. Like other commenters before me mentioned, Campbell gives a play-by-play of EVERYTHING. It was so much packed in unnecessary detail that it made it difficult to pull out what was relevant, and I frequently found myself sort of confused about where he was or why at any given moment. Important details just sort of got muddled in with things like turning on his computer or walking across the room to press a specific button on the VCR.

I can see how for some people that mi
...more
Paul Williams
For me this is Campbell's best book. I love the way he holds so much back and lets your imagination crawl into the gaps. For anyone who has watched old silent movies and felt a slightly creepy feeling about them - especially the hypermanic comedies - this book is a treasure.
His potent blend of wonky research story, disturbing silent movie star, the madness of laughter, an unreliable narrator, "something vast from the back end of time", porn and the internet is completely original.
The ending didn
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Graeme Dunlop
There is a vast -- and growing -- sense of unease as the book progresses. Some darkly disturbing imagery but I must admit, when I finished I was left wondering, "what the **** just happened?"
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John Ramsey Campbell is a British writer considered by a number of critics to be one of the great masters of horror fiction. T. E. D. Klein has written that "Campbell reigns supreme in the field today," while S. T. Joshi has said that "future generations will regard him as the leading horror writer of our generation, every bit the equal of Lovecraft or Blackwood."
More about Ramsey Campbell...
The Hungry Moon Alone With the Horrors: The Great Short Fiction, 1961-1991 Cold Print Ancient Images The Doll Who Ate His Mother

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