A hostile stranger is hunting Dr. Show’s ramshackle travelling circus across 1960s America. His target: the ringmaster himself. Struggling to elude the menace, Dr. Show scraps his ambitious itinerary; ticket sales plummet, and nothing but disaster looms. The troupe’s unravelling hopes fall on their latest and most promising recruit, Webern Bell, a sixteen-year-old stunted hunchback devoted obsessively to perfecting the surreal clown performances that come to him in his dreams. But as they travel through a landscape of abandoned amusement parks and rural ghost towns, Webern’s bizarre past starts to pursue him, as well.
Along the way we meet Nepenthe, the seductive Lizard Girl; Brunhilde, a shell-shocked bearded lady; Marzipan, a world-weary chimp; a cabal of drunken, backstabbing clowns; Webern’s uncanny sisters, witchy dogcatchers who speak only in rhymes; and his childhood friend, Wags, who may or may not be imaginary, and whose motives are far more sinister than they seem.
“Chandler Klang Smith is clearly a writer of promise, with an eloquent and poetic imagination and a feel for language that more than matches it.” —Strange Horizons
“Smith’s first novel captures the uncertainty and surreal qualities of circus life in gorgeous prose. Her characters represent archetypes of the ‘circus freak’ as well as very real people with deep-rooted feelings and motivations. Part dark fantasy, part magical realism in the style of James Blaylock and Tim Powers, Smith’s tale deserves exposure to a crossover audience.” —Library Journal
“Smith’s debut showcases a cornucopia of memorably weird personalities in a handful of vivid moments. . . . All of this is utterly fantastic and wonderful.” —Publishers Weekly
“Chandler Klang Smith is one of the most exciting new novelists I have read in some time. Her precise, lyrical voice should enchant a good many readers. Goldenland Past Dark is an impressive debut that signals the beginning of a long and fruitful career.” —Nicholas Christopher, author of Veronica and The Bestiary
“Like a Max Fleischer cartoon or a Charlie Chaplin film, Goldenland Past Dark sneaks in real, unsettling weirdness and lingering melancholy behind a facade of zany fun. In this vivid, highly original debut, Chandler Klang Smith proves herself to be an imaginative force to be reckoned with. Step inside this circus tent: you’ll be glad you did.” —Christopher Miller, author of The Cardboard Universe and Sudden Noises from Inanimate Objects
“Chandler Klang Smith’s debut is filled with fascinating freaks and language that evokes the magic of a night under the big top.” —Lev AC Rosen, author of All Men of Genius