Cottonwood by Ray Clardy


The first in an ongoing series of novels set on a nameless and surreal continent, Ray Clardy’s debut novel Cottonwood follows the experiences of dwarf detective Victor Morten as he searches for a string of missing girls, ostensibly abducted by either a brutish historical figure long presumed to be dead, or the travelers of an itinerant “Show of Freaks”. Victor grapples with a past steeped in violence, his pseudoachondroplasia, and the very warped void of psychedelia within which this darkly humorous splinter-reality lies. In a conflagration of satirized Americanisms where metaphor is as important as fact, characters struggle to express themselves through their own respective veils of overwrought Gothicism, juvenile slang, and various states of alcoholic and spiritual intoxication. Intolerable pain evolves into tolerable insanity, in a nightmarish ode to the fantastical and awe-inspiring lengths to which the human mind will warp in order to survive.

Cottonwood is an explicit, manic celebration of the monsters we become to defend our ability to love, and the private honor of the individual’s quest to connect with others.