The Pizza Deliveryman’s Tale: Ronan Barbour
Reviewed By Ben Walker
Pizza horror rose to prominence like a soft doughy base back in the late 2010s, thanks to the saucy anthology Tales from the Crust and related side servings such as the 30 Minutes or Less books, and the movie Slice starring Chance the Rapper. Since those savoury (or less-than-savoury) bites, there was a bit of a lull in this bizarre subgenre, and now here’s The Pizza Deliveryman’s Tale, which throws way too many ingredients into the mix, potentially to the ire of pizza purists and horror fans alike.
For a start, there’s the cover which screams Pere Noel more than Papa John. Then the back cover description bounces more ideas around than a writer’s room at 3am. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much based on all of this, and I can’t say that my expectations ever got any higher. This was mostly thanks to a prologue which feels just as cluttered and contradictory as the blurb. If the first few pages offer anything vital then it was lost on me, as they felt like an effort to get through, as was the book itself.
After that cluttered introduction, we’re walked through Dylan’s first day as a pizza delivery driver, and follow him through chapter after chapter where he talks about what happens on the job. Despite a seemingly supernatural GPS, it’s all pretty humdrum stuff, taking its sweet old time getting to the horror, and never really engaging you with anything close to a plot along the way. It’s a slice of life, not a slice of frights, and the build-up to anything scary or disturbing is obscured behind way too many layers of ho-hum melodrama.
There are occasional bursts of urgency to the plot, but they’re either blurted out too fast to leave an impact, or they’re written in a way that makes it hard to fully grasp what you’re meant to be focussing on. It’s not exactly a stream of consciousness narrative, but it does feel like you’re being shown around the main character’s head too much, listening to minutiae which, confusingly, slow things down, no matter how urgent you’re told things are. The first ten chapters are all like this, and as you’re made to witness countless pizza deliveries where very little happens, it’s hard to find the will to continue. Characters are introduced with no context, or get dropped into locations which might as well be featureless voids, leaving you unsure exactly where you – or they – are.
What seems like the book’s saving grace is the dialogue, which sometimes has a nice rhythm to it, but then you start wondering why you’re hearing a lot of these conversations. So many of them do nothing to serve the plot, or help you get to grips with the characters. It’s naturalistic banter, sure, but after a while it becomes tedious filler. It’s like listening in on other people’s gossip and then walking away – engaging for a short time, but ultimately forgettable.
There’s also an unpleasant sexual undercurrent, one that’s sleazy to the point of cartoonish at times, and at other times just plain creepy and gross. A few of the pizza delivery scenes read like watered-down versions of Penthouse reader’s stories, with naughty customers showing a flash of pubes behind a gown or coming to the door naked – and all of this was bad enough, but there’s also a sex scene where Dylan basically whines until he gets some from an uninterested partner who’s told him no more than a few times. From there I basically checked out. Nothing puts me off a book like bad sex scenes, and these were insultingly bad. Dylan comes across as a selfish prick throughout, and following him through yet more mundane encounters after seeing him complain his way into someone’s pants felt like way too much of a chore.
And as for that vampiric Santa? Don’t count on seeing them until the sexually violent, blood-soaked ending, which leaves a bad taste in the mouth in more ways than one, and drags on for way too long, leading to an epilogue which is as drawn out and unrewarding as everything which preceded it. This isn’t pizza horror after all – it’s a slow, unpleasant thriller which fails to deliver on its premise or its promises.
The Pizza Deliveryman’s Tale
Can a phone be haunted?
That is the question for Dylan Murray, an aspiring actor who gets a part-time job as pizza delivery driver in the beautiful affluent Los Angeles neighborhood of Grantwood. All seems easy sailing until mysterious voices on his smartphone begin to interrupt his GPS, one of which, ‘The Demon Voice,’ deliberately misdirects him away from his route and into areas of danger.
As his encounters with the quirky and sometimes bizarre residents of Grantwood continue, a mysterious thief known only as The Cat Burglar makes nationwide headlines for a string of high-end estate robberies in the area. Is it a matter of time before the malevolent voice interrupting his GPS leads him to the wrong place at the wrong time?
One thing is certain: behind one of these doors awaits Vampire Santa, and you will not like his presence…
Ben got a taste for terror after sneaking downstairs to watch The Thing from behind the sofa at age 9. He’s a big fan of extreme & bizarre horror and well as more psychological frights, and most things in between. When he’s not reading, he’s writing, and when he’s not writing he’s on Twitter @BensNotWriting or reviewing books on his YouTube channel, BLURB.