$19.95 CAD

Only Pretty Damned

Niall Howell 978-1-988732-53-4 | 256 Pages April, 2019 Accolades!, Ebook, Fiction, Mystery & Thriller, Nunatak First Fiction Series

Also available as an ebook from

About this book

  • Shortlisted for the Sixth Annual Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Prize - Literary Fiction Category!

Niall Howell's Only Pretty Damned is a taut noir that takes you behind the big top, revealing rough and tumble characters, murderous plots, and crooked schemes designed to keep Rowland’s World Class Circus afloat for another season. When Toby, former trapeze artist turned disgruntled clown, begins seeing Gloria, a young and beautiful dancer longing for a bigger role under the spotlight, his hardboiled past resurfaces. Can he live without Genevieve, his ex-trapeze partner and lover? What ruthless actions will he take to regain his position as the headlining act? And will Toby’s past repeat itself as he tries to untangle the ropes that bind him and take a leap to roaring applause? 


"Told in the Hitchcockian tradition of the Film Noir, we follow Toby on a bizarre and dark trail of his life as a circus act. This character driven spectacle lets us peek behind the literal curtain of the theatre of the strange. Deception and desire drive the action in this unique who-done it-thriller. The suspense is visceral until the end."

~ Micheline Maylor, author of Little Wildheart

“A captivating, engrossing, gothic noir that whisks the reader away and makes them feel as if they’re on the road with an old time travelling circus. The characters are complex, the prose rich, and riveting darkness abounds as the plot unfolds. A stellar debut from Niall Howell."

~ A.J. Devlin, author of Cobra Clutch

"Only Pretty Damned is a stark, powerful noir, steeped in the stifling heat of the American South and building slowly, inexorably, to a boil." full review

~ Robert J. Wiersema, Quill & Quire

"Howell has penned a slow-burning piece of crime fiction, where Rowland’s grimy circus serves as a microcosm of the world at large—a place where unlikable characters are groomed to make a killing, whether inside the tent or out.

~ Booklist

"Niall Howell crafts a convincingly gritty big-top underworld full of shady entertainers and unscrupulous grifters."

~ Sheldon Birnie, The Winnipeg Free Press

"This is a gritty novel that takes noir seriously." full review

~ Margaret Cannon, The Globe and Mail

"[S]olid from the first sentence—and this from someone who loathes the circus."

~ Andrew Wilmot, SubTerrain

"[Howell] captured me from the first sentence and never fully let me go." full review

~ Cosy Up With Kathy blog

"Only Pretty Damned is a character-driven noir that throws the reader into the backstage crises of a traveling circus. Amidst the tension, the backstabbing, and the long-held resentments of performers toward one another, the reader is brought into Toby's taut and colorful world. You can almost smell the popcorn emanating from the crowds watching." full review

~ Matthew Fowler, Mystery Scene

"[T]his deftly scripted and thoroughly reader engaging story showcases the writer's genuine flair for originality, memorable characters, and more plot twists and turns than a carnival roller coaster." full review

~ Midwest Book Review

"Only Pretty Damned announces the arrival of a formidable new talent in Canadian literature."

~ Mike Thorn, FreeFall Magazine