[For the previous countdown post, click here.]
9. “Guignoir” (1991)
By Partridge’s own admission, this story (where dark crime shades off into horror, and the author’s love of monster culture is on full display) is the one where he really hit his creative stride. The narrator Frank and his twin brother Larry are roustabouts at their father’s traveling carnival, who also don the masks of Frankenstein’s Monster and the Wolf Man to work the Castle of Horrors attraction. But the ultimate draw of the carnival is the Death Car, formerly owned by Hank Caul, notorious author of a “stab ‘n’ skin murder spree” in Fiddler, California (the very town in which the opportunistic carnival has now pegged its tents). Caul and his legendary vehicle are involved a new round of bloodshed, as a slew of deadly betrayals between the carnies and the townsfolk transpire. “Guignoir” thematizes the telling of stories–fabrications designed to captivate an audience of “gawkers”–and this tale’s rapid-fire plot twists and scenes of utter viciousness (all related by an increasingly unreliable narrator) are guaranteed to leave the reader slack-jawed.