Everyone Dies Famous in a Small Town is one of the creepist and most melancholy little books I’ve read in a long time. The ‘little’ isn’t meant to be a slight, the book is actually printed in a miniature digest size, so it’s both physically diminutive and eye-catching.
The plot concerns Mika, a teenage girl who lives in a backwoods area of California where the main venues of entertainment take the form of drug abuse and sex. Mika’s also a diagnosed schizophrenic who self-medicates with Meth. When Mika witnesses strange ghost children swimming in the river, and her friends start dying the question becomes: is it real or all in her mind?
The story is an odd mix, it contains shades of White’s trademark “extreme horror” aesthetic, but it’s also a realistic look at drug abuse, while also being a folktale inspired ghost story and, in the later half, a love story. The blending of genres is ambitious but is also very successful. If anything the tale is a bit heavy on the sex, but it does serve the story and adds to the feelings of unease the reader experiences.
In the book’s devastating but exceedingly well-written final pages it becomes clear that White is a writer completely in control of craft. When he wants to churn the reader’s gut or mimic his character’s dialect, his style is purposefully low but he’s also a someone who can conjure a great lyricism in his words when he wants it.
At 160 small pages, the book is a lightning fast read that’s most definitely not “feel good” but is more than worth a look for readers who are looking for a touch of darkness.
Highly recommended. Available from the publisher, Thunderstorm Books.