GARBAGE MAN By Joseph D’Lacey – Reviewed

As reviews editor for Morpheus Tales Magazine I tend to get first choice of the material that comes in for review. It also means I’m stuck with all the leftovers too!

When I get the choice I pick books I like, authors I enjoy. I don’t do this for the money, mostly I do it for the free books! I’m not a masocist, why would I pick a book I’m fairly unlikely to enjoy? That’s why I read horror, science fiction and fantasy and not romance and girlie books. I don’t have anything against rom-coms, I just prefer my entertainment served up in a bodybag, after a thorough beating!

Early last year we got a book called MEAT by Joseph D’Lacey, a debut novel from Bloody Books, a new publisher I’d never heard of. New author, new publisher, new book…. Mmm…

Unknown quantities scare me. I like to mentally prepare myself for whatever experience I’m about to have. But D’Lacey had travelled around the country in a “Meat Wagon” promoting the book, which appealed to my dark sense of humour so I thought I’d try it.

MEAT is not a subtle book, it’s refreshingly shocking, brutal, and nasty. It’s kind of like a Shaun Hutson novel, it’s dirty and wrong, but that’s why you love it. And I did! I did love it, MEAT is one of those rare books that can shock you, it sucks you in and then vomits you out before you’re ready for it.

So when Joseph D’Lacey’s second novel turned up I begged for it!

GARBAGE MAN By Joseph D’Lacey

Bloody Books

This book is absurd. It’s ridiculous. And it’s bloody marvellous!

In D’Lacey’s debut novel MEAT he teased us in, providing a stark, gritty realism to draw us into his world, and then slamming us face first into the dark, depraved heart of his brutal, unforgiving, twisted reality.

Well, he’s back!

Shreve is a small mid-England town, a normal enough town with a normal enough set of individuals populating it. Shreve is also home to one of the largest landfill sites in the UK.

The populants of the town are Shreve are a varied bunch, there’s the Smithfields, their son Donald, a young paperboy having sex with one of his married neighbours, and Aggie, the wannabe model and teenage temptress. There’s Miss Ahern the nosey neighbour and religious nut. There’s Kevin and Tamsin, the married couple on the verge of breaking up. Ray and Jenny, two students whose relationship has run it’s course and who may find happiness in the arms of that married couple. And then there’s Delilah, an Earthy goth chick. And Mason Brand, former star photographer and now caretaker of one of the strangest creatures to ever grace the printed page…

In a superbly Frankenstein-esque moment during a lightning storm several piles of rubbish from the landfill awaken into creatures. But only one of the creatures survives as Mason finds it and starts feeding it, with his own blood. The creature, made of rubbish, feeds and grows. This truly gives a new meaning to recycling, as the creature consumes everything given to it, or it can take, and uses it to heal itself, to upgrade itself. It’s like a Transformer made of rubbish and when it eventually feeds on an entire human being it starts to get the taste and realises that it shouldn’t be alone, it should be the commander of a massive army of other garbage creatures, and so it sets its army on a path of destruction that will change Shreve and the world forever.

This really shouldn’t work. It’s too ridiculous, except that it’s not. This does work, and it works well. The town of Shreve is set up very realistically, and the characters and their bad habits are all presented to us well before the actual horror starts. And when the horror does kick in it’s hard and fast and furious.

Not only does D’Lacey provide his knack for brutal realism, he creates a creature you care about almost as much as the other characters. The Garbage Man, although certainly a villain, is also something of a hero, and at the end you can’t help but feel a certain empathy with him in an almost King Kong moment.

The final ending is even harsher and more brutal than the attack of the garbage men and deserves mention as one of the spookiest endings I’ve read in a long time, one that will not only leave you pondering the sheer wretchedness of it all, but leaving you aching for more. The last few chapters show us the true power that D’Lacey can unleash.

It’s not a perfect package by any means, our ensemble cast provide little in the way of emotional involvement. The best character is Delilah and she doesn’t appear until the book is halfway through. And Aggie’s adventures in London are cut far too short, and probably could have been quite a decent book on their own.

D’Lacey’s tendency to use pertinent socio-political themes doesn’t detract from the entertainment, it enhances it. You can’t help but smile at the clear message, whilst enjoying the bloodlust and nastiness that D’Lacey uses to such great effect. A bloodlust and nastiness that is akin to Jack Ketchum’s brutality and is highly entertaining for the horror connoisseur.

Garbage Man is ridiculous, but in a good way. It is the skill and subtlety with which D’Lacey tells the story that raises this so far above beyond the ridiculous.

This is what horror should be like, no-holds-barred brutality, nastiness in an action-packed package.

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