Lake Thirteen

Ah, Lake Thirteen.

Lake Thirteen is one of my personal favorites of all my books.

Are authors not supposed to have favorites of their own books, like parents aren’t supposed to have favorites amongst their children (untrue in my experience, for the record; I’ve certainly observed enough to note which children are favored by their “impartial” parents)? Oh, well, too bad so sad. Every book I’ve written means something to me in some way, and sometimes I do remember others more fondly.

I love Lake Thirteen primarily because I love what it reminds me of–and it was also one of the easiest books I’ve ever written. It literally just flowed out of me, almost from the very beginning (although the opening of the book was very different in my original version than what saw print; I got some excellent advice from my editor about where the proper place to start the book was, and she was 100% correct in her assessment, thereby earning my eternal gratitude and respect) and so, simply for the ease of writing it would be a fond memory…but I was inspired to write this book by a trip I took, which just goes to show how sometimes books can organically create themselves in your mind. The trip was one of the most fun times I’ve ever had, and it was also a time when I got waaaaaaay out of my comfort zone…which just goes to show sometimes it pays to get outside your comfort zone.

How I eventually wound up writing for Bold Strokes Books is a story for another time, but suffice it to say that one of the things I found most interesting, once I’d moved there, was how the business tried to foster a sense of camaraderie between the staff as well as amongst the authors. It was the kind of mentality you don’t usually find in publishing–one that focused on we’re all in this together so let’s be supportive of each other, which I found to be highly refreshing for a change. They also hosted group events all over the country to which we were all invited and welcomed to attend; being reticent and shy and one who never does well when he is in an environment where he doesn’t know anyone, I always said no to these things. But eventually I felt guilty about always saying no, and said yes to a week-long retreat in the Adirondack mountains of upstate New York, nearly two hours’ drive north of Albany, at the Garnet Hill Lodge.

I committed, agreed to go, and bought my plane ticket…and then started having the second thoughts and doubts that are trademarks of my life. I don’t know anyone very well…I’m going to be the only male there…

But once I got to the airport, I relaxed. Ali Vali was on both of my flights, and once we reached Albany, we retrieved our rental cars and headed north in a convoy. As I made my turn onto the road that would lead me to the camp and up the side of the mountain, I noted that the road was THIRTEENTH LAKE ROAD. Well, I thought to myself, that would make a great book title, Lake Thirteen.

“Are you listening to me, Scotty?

My mom’s voice was so loud, I almost dropped my cell phone. I looked up. She was smiling at me in the space between the two front seats of the rental Subaru Forester, but her eyes meant business.

“Seriously,” she went on, her smile never wavering, “if you’re going to spend the whole week staring at your phone or fiddling with it, I’ll just take it away from you now.” She held out her right hand, palm up. “I’m not joking.”

I looked at the screen of my phone and sighed before slipping it into my shorts pocket. I smiled back at her. “There, happy?”

“It’s only a week,” she said before turning back around. “You’ll live, trust me.”

Easy for you to say, I thought, turning to look out the window. It was still raining. It was raining when our flight from Chicago landed in Albany and hadn’t let up for even a minute as we headed north. I pressed my forehead against the rain-spattered glass as the GPS gave my dad another direction and he headed up an off-ramp.

“It’s only about another half hour,” my dad said as he came to a stop at the top of the ramp, turning on his left-turn signal. He looked at me in the rearview mirror. “You’re not still nervous, are you?”

I bit my lower lip and didn’t respond.

“I think you’re worrying for nothing,” Mom said. “Nancy and Jerry and Lynda and David raised their kids right, just like we did with you.”

Easy for you to say, I thought, looking out the back window at the two other rental cars following us. You’re not gay, and you didn’t just come out to them all in an e-mail.

We’d been taking these joint family vacations my entire life—I couldn’t remember a summer when our three families hadn’t taken one of these trips together. When we were kids, we’d shared a cousin-like camaraderie and looked forward to seeing each other every summer. But now that we were teens, we were like five strangers with a shared past. The last few years, it seemed to take a few days before everyone stopped sulking about having to come and decided to make the best of the situation. By the end of the week, the old bonds would be strongly and firmly in place again, and there would be sad good-byes at the airport. For about a week or so after, there would be a lot of texting and e-mailing. Once we settled back into our real lives and routines again, the contact became rarer.  Within a month it died down again to an occasional comment on Facebook.

 I was an only child, so it always seemed like I looked forward to the reunion more than the other four.

This year was different, though. This year, I’d dreaded coming, hadn’t wanted to leave our nice suburb of Chicago and spend a week with four almost-strangers my own age.

All I knew about their lives was gleaned from Facebook, which was hardly the best source for personal information.

One would never know from looking at my Facebook page, for example, that I was gay.

That first night at the Lodge, we all went down to North River, the nearest town, for a wonderful meal…and then came the big thrill of the evening: ghost hunting in a very old cemetery–one of the turn off roads was named CEMETERY ROAD, so we felt pretty confident there was a cemetery, and we were right. Maybe it was just us and we’d hyped ourselves up too much, but the cemetery was really spooky–there was also a low fog close to the ground that helped the atmosphere–and I felt myself drawn to a particular tombstone: ALBERT LINCOLN, who’d died at sixteen. “How sad, he was only sixteen. I wonder how he died?” I said out loud–and while I have never believed in the paranormal completely (too many questions that will never be answered) the strangest thing happened as soon as I finished speaking. I felt this overwhelming sense of sadness and melancholy, almost like my entire subconscious let out a sigh of incredible sadness. All the hair on my arms stood up, I got a cold chill–it was a muggy night–and I made sure to show this to some of my fellow ghost hunters to witness.

It was so weird, and I felt pretty confident that night I would have nightmares.

I couldn’t stop thinking about poor Albert, dead at sixteen (if he had died a decade later, I would have assumed is was the Spanish flu epidemic, but his tombstone read 1908 not 1918)…after we were finished and went back to the lodge, we watched Rosemary’s Baby on the DVD player in the lounge…and then I had to walk back to my cabin, a short walk down the road through the woods by myself. It was pitch black, and of course I could hear all kinds of weird noises coming from the woods as I walked, absolutely terrified, until I finally saw the light on the door where my room was. I happily escaped inside, and went around closing all the blinds and curtains because it was ink-black outside and if I ever looked over and saw someone or something in the window, I would have dropped dead on the spot.

I opened my laptop and wrote It seemed like a good idea at the time, and then started writing, doing an entire chapter about five teenagers staying at a rustic lodge in the Adirondacks who go ghost-hunting in a cemetery on the mountain only to stir up ghostly forces from a long-ago tragedy.

And I knew I was going to write that book someday, and it was going to be called Lake Thirteen.

I’ve always loved ghost stories; they are my favorites (if pressed to name a favorite novel, it would probably be The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson); I’ve always been drawn to stories about past tragedies and souls being tethered by the violent emotions felt before dying–and the quest for the truth to be known so that they can finally rest in peace. This was the driving force behind Lake Thirteen, with my main character Scotty’s (how many books have I written where I named the main character Scotty? I really need to stop doing that) visit to the cemetery leading him to a connection with a tombstone similar to the one I felt. The rest of the week, as we explored the area and the woods, I took tons of pictures everywhere to use to help with setting and place. It really was a marvelous week–I think all I did all week long was laugh and laugh and laugh more–and I was sorry to see it end.

And eventually, I did write the book. I did open it with It seemed like a good idea at the time with the teens all sitting around in the lodge bored–three families take a trip together every year, Scotty has recently come out and he doesn’t know what his friends from the other family will say or how they will react. My editor wrote back and said, This isn’t where you should start the story. Remember how the directions we were all given were bad and everyone was getting lost on the mountain trying to find the lodge? Open with them on their way, and that way you can get all the backstory in.

It was an easy fix, and it made the book a gazillion times better. It remains a personal favorite of my own stuff, and I even named the characters after some of my ghost-hunting buddies.

A few years later, at another similar event in Palm Springs, we went to visit the not-quite ghost town of Bombay Beach on the Salton Sea–I still haven’t written that book yet.

Say You Love Me

I am up amazingly early for a Sunday morning, but that’s okay. I have a lot of things to do today; I didn’t get as much done yesterday as I could have, but I am not allowing the things that derailed me from my productivity. I did get things done yesterday–laundry needs folding this morning, and there are dishes to put away and so forth–and I also was able to get some writing done yesterday, which was marvelous and lovely. The Scotty book is still kind of a sloppy mess, and I am not really sure what to do with Chapter Three quite yet–or how to write it–but I am going to try the old “start writing and see what happens” trick with it today. I also went over another project I am working on, and realized that it was much easier to fix than I had originally thought, quite frankly. So, once I get my coffee swilled down this morning and this posted, I am going to get cleaned up and dive into the writing. I think spending the entire morning writing should help get some things crossed off the list and should move me ahead somewhat.

I just checked Margaret Orr’s Twitter for updates on storms. One of the systems in the Atlantic has increased its possibility of getting organized, but most likely not until it’s north of the Bahamas, which has me thinking it’ll keep moving north in the ocean. The one in the Caribbean Sea also has increased its percentage of forming, but it’s most likely going to stay in the south and menace Mexico and the Yucatán. No word thus far on the other system in the Atlantic, but I only saw one tweet before reporting back. Oops, my bad; I misread her tweet and didn’t take as good a look at the map she shared before I came back here. The other system is the one north of the Bahamas with a low degree of development possibility; the one with a 70% likelihood of anything happening looks like it’s heading for Puerto Rice and/or Florida, and thus into the Gulf of Mexico.

Oh, and embiggening the map, there’s another system forming off the Cape Verde Islands. So, there will be a lot of storm tracking in the coming weeks. Our favorite September past-time in New Orleans. Hopefully, we won’t have to evacuate at any time in the coming weeks…and come to think of it, the freezer is a little on the full side, so maybe I should try working on getting that emptied out over the next few weeks–cooking things that are in there, at the very least, without refilling it until times are a little more settled. I’d hate to have to throw everything in there away again. That would completely suck.

Today marks seventeen year since that frantic morning we tried to be organized in our panic to leave while we still could; that day is etched in my memory even if the details are sketchy in my head. (To be fair, the memories and details were already difficult to remember in the days immediately thereafter, as I watched out lives wash away.) It looks like it may be a sunny day today without rain, at least it’s clear out there this morning. I also feel like I slept very well this morning, so we’ll see how the rest of it goes. I am going to have to make a to-do list, of course, and then make sure that everything that needs to be on it is, in fact, on it.

Last night, after we finished our work for the day, Paul and I settled in and binged W. Kamau Bell’s docuseries We Need to Talk About Cosby on HBO MAX. It was interesting, maybe one of the most interesting “artist vs. the art” conversations I’ve ever seen illustrated out in this manner. It’s certainly one of the most complex, and we as a society have had a lot of these discussions over the past decade…but it’s very easy to dismiss Roman Polanski’s art (I make the distinction of “art before the child rape” and “art after the child rape” with him, which clears both Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown for me, and I know it’s probably a deeply problematic differentiation) and contributions than it is to write off Bill Cosby’s and the cultural and societal change his career had on the country as a whole, not to mention, as the documentary pointed out, how The Cosby Show was dedicated to showing, every week, Black excellence on our television screens in a way that was rarely ever seen before–if at all. (We’ve been bingeing documentary series lately like they are going out of style, probably because they’re easier to follow for my exhausted and overheating brain at the end of the day than a series.)

Obviously, my heart goes out to his victims, but while my sympathies lie with them entirely, the question of the art–which meant so much to the Black community–does remain. I don’t know the answer to that question–whether it’s Cosby or Polanski or any of the other abusers who created great art. I see the points on both sides of the discussion/argument/debate. But if the point of a documentary is to get the viewer to reflect on the questions raised, Bell’s docuseries certainly succeeded. Highly recommended.

And on that note, I think I am going to head into the spice mines for now. Have a lovely Sunday, everyone, and I will check in with you again tomorrow.

(She’s a) Very Lovely Woman

Saturday morning and it looks kind of gray outside the windows this morning as I look out at the world blearily and drink my first cup of coffee. I slept very well last night–which is always welcome–but woke up feeling a bit groggy this morning. I am sure the caffeine will work–it generally does–but as I glance around at the chaos of my office/kitchen my inclination is to pour the coffee out and go back to bed and sleep the rest of the day away, hoping magical elves or something else will show up whilst I sleep to finish organizing and arranging this mess into something resembling workable order. On the other hand, I don’t think that’s going to happen, so I am going to need to wake up, buckle up, and put my nose to the proverbial grindstone. I’ve got to contain this mess–and do it properly, no more sweeping things under proverbial rugs to get mess out of sight–and I’ve got to work on the book today and I need to run some errands. I also have to go to the gym today, so I will most likely follow football championship games today by periodically looking on-line to check scores only. Paul is going into his office this afternoon to do some work as well, and I need to update my to-do list and…yes, it’s a very busy day for a Gregalicious.

I finished reading Murder Most Fowl by Donna Andrews last night–charming, as always, delightful and witty and funny–and decided, since I was talking about how much I preferred Miss Marple to Hercule Poirot the other day, that I should revisit one of the Marple stories. I have a hardcover copy of A Caribbean Mystery–I don’t recall where it came from–but it has some sentimental value for me in that it was the first Marple novel of Christie’s I had read all those many moons ago when I was a child, holing up in my room on Saturdays with a book and a bag of Bar-B-Q Fritos. (My first Poirot was actually Halloween Party, which I also have a hardcover copy of and again, do not recall where I got it or how long I have had it; I read most Christies in paperbacks purchased at the Bolingbrook Zayre’s off their wire paperback racks) In those first few pages of the book, it spelled out exactly what I loved about the Marple stories–about how living in a small village actually exposes one to almost every kind of human behavior there is in a smaller ecosystem, and the great irony that the smallness and rural aspects of the small community are all too frequently seen as provincial and inexperienced in the world (why Grace Metalious’ Peyton Place was so shocking when it was originally published some seventy years ago; that placid, idyllic on the surface looking village/small town/rural community has a lot more going on than one would think at first glance). This is an excellent set-up, really, for the story Christie is writing about this fictional resort on a fictional West Indies island; her nephew, the successful novelist Raymond West, has paid for this trip for her to get some sun and recover from an illness…and when she originally protested about the expense and “who will watch out for my home in St. Mary Mead”–this response (which I hadn’t remembered) hit me right between the eyes:

Raymond had dealt with everything. A friend who was writing a book wanted a quiet place in the country. “He’ll look after the house all right. He’s very house proud. He’s a queer. I mean–“

He had paused, slightly embarrassed–but surely even dear old Aunt Jane had must have heard of queers.

Now, what is one to make of that? It was a jolt, certainly. It put me in mind of something I came across on Twitter the other day, written by Wil Wheaton, in which he had answered at a con somewhere a question regarding the current debate of “can you separate the art from the artist?” This is something I’ve pondered about quite a bit–most recently, the feeling of guilt I experienced in rewatching Chinatown, knowing now what I–we all–know about Roman Polanski. I enjoyed Chinatown every time I’ve seen it, and I was now watching–rewatching–through a different lens than I had before; I was watching in terms of my own Cynical 70’s Film Festival, to see how a 70’s film that actually harkened back to old-style crime/hard-boiled/noir styles, but with a more modern (at the time) sensibility fit into that 70’s cynicism and darkness about humanity and human behavior. But the discomfort kept popping up, particularly because Polanski himself appears in the film…and I eventually decided not to rewatch another favorite, Rosemary’s Baby, because of it.

I am not going to consign Agatha Christie to the trash heap of history; she was an extraordinary writer, and one of the most influential in the field in which I myself write. Nor do I think a simple throwaway line or two in a book originally published in 1964 is enough to dismiss Christie and her canon as homophobic and never revisit her work. In fact, given the time period in which the book was written, I am surprised the two sentences weren’t, frankly, much worse. Reading the sentences didn’t offend or outrage me; it was just a surprise, primarily because I didn’t remember them at all in a book I’ve read multiple times over the years–and I think when this hardcover came into my possession (I won’t swear to it, but I think I got it during one of my many eBay buying frenzies after Hurricane Katrina, when I felt it necessary to get copies of books with some sentimental value to me) I did actually read it again because I didn’t remember the plot–and this either went right past me or I noticed and didn’t think much of it.

Revisiting this book and viewing it through a modern lens is going to be interesting. And like I said, the reference could easily have been worse–but seeing queer used in this way reminds me of how it used to be used. The younger generations are reclaiming the word, and I myself have been advocating for it as a generic term for the non-straight community for eons…but I also can see why there are people of my generation/the one before me/the one after me who object to its use and why.

But I would a thousand times rather see the word queer used in an Agatha Christie novel than faggot. And I also remember the sympathetic depiction of a lesbian couple in my favorite Marple, A Murder is Announced.

Interesting thoughts on a Saturday morning. The sun has come out now and it’s not quite so gray outside; the second cup of coffee is certainly hitting the spot right now and the grogginess is beginning to leave from not only my head but from my body. I still don’t want to straighten up this mess, but there’s no choice, really, and I want to get some good work on the book done today and tomorrow. I need to go to the gym either today or tomorrow as well; perhaps later this afternoon once I get some writing/cleaning/organizing completed. I cannot be completely lazy this weekend, much as I would like to be; I have to get things done, and the more things I get done now the fewer things I will have to do later this month (I am not, for example, going to want to write on Christmas). But once a procrastinator, always a procrastinator.

And now it occurs to me that perhaps I am procrastinating here, so I am going to bring this to a close. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader, and will talk to you soon.

The Beach

Tuesday!

Yesterday was not nearly as productive as it could have been. Generally, on mornings when I have to get up at six, will invariably have a cappuccino at home while I wake up, and then make another to take with me, which I sip at all morning. This gets me through the day pretty well, and through into my evening when I go home and write or edit or read or do chores. So, Constant Reader, you can only imagine my horror when I got to the office and my travel mug was not in its side holder on my back pack. (It turned out to be in the in the car–it fell out of its pocket when I got my backpack out of the car yesterday morning when I arrived at the office…) So yes, I ran out of steam yesterday afternoon, and was very tired by the time I got home from work. In other words, last night all I managed to do was a load of dishes, and quite frankly, this morning I’m not even sure what I watched last night, other than the final episode of It’s a Sin with Paul; turned out he did want to finish watching. Oh yes, now I remember; I watched this week’s episodes of Allen v. Farrow and John Oliver’s show. Allen V. Farrow continues to be a harrowing watch; this week’s episode was about the custody battle–which ended with Allen getting a massive bitchslap by both the court and the judge; in other words, the judge believed Mia to be a fit mother and Dylan a credible witness, and Allen didn’t prove himself to be a fit parent–in fact, his visitation rights with the two other children he shared with Farrow were limited by the court and had to be supervised. If the goal was to punish Farrow, it failed massively–other than making her miserable for a period of time. Interestingly enough, one of the main takeaways from the show is being blown away by how beautiful Mia still is, today. I never understood the desire to have so many children–not, of course, that my understanding was ever needed or necessary or required; my mentality was always “I don’t get the need for so many kids, but if it makes her happy, more power to her and she is adopting kids, which is terrific.” I don’t think Farrow has worked much since the break-up with Allen; her career was mostly starring in his movies after they became a couple…the real shame is I’d like to watch some of those films now (I’ve never seen many Allen films, not being a fan) but I’m not sure if I should. It’s another one of those Roman Polanski things–ironically, one of my favorite Polanski films also stars Farrow, Rosemary’s Baby–I think, but some of those Allen/Farrow films are considered classics.

In other welcome news, I discovered yesterday that I now weigh 203 pounds; the lowest since around 2011/2012, and just three pounds away from my goal weight. I managed to get down to around 212 last year or the year before, as a process, from the 225 I had ballooned up to about a decade or so ago; I set 200 as my goal weight for the year, but I’d be stuck at 212 for so long I didn’t think I was ever going to break through. A few weeks ago I was delighted to see I’d managed to break through that plateau and had dropped to 208; someone gave me a compliment yesterday which drove me to the scale in the (unused) nurse’s office and to my delight, I discovered that I had somehow dropped another five pounds–whether it’s the working out, the change in diet (which was neither extreme nor dramatic), or the walking to the gym and back and always using the stairs at the office, I am not sure–but it has happened, and it is most pleasing to our eyes. I also made some progress on my emails yesterday, which was a very pleasant development.

This weekend is the virtual Saints and Sinners Festival; I taped a panel about mystery and romance with four amazing writers (Carrie Smith, Carsen Taite, J. M. Redmann, and Cheryl Head), which I think is scheduled to air on Sunday, March 14th, at 3 pm CDT; I am not really sure where, so I will have to find out and post it later. I know that after its original air date it will be available for viewing on the Tennessee Williams Festival’s Youtube channel. I was woefully unprepared, but I also had a group of very smart, savvy, and talented women to give me great answers to simple questions and it was a lovely experience for me–I’m not so sure it was for them, but I didn’t see any eye-rolling on screen to my inane questions so they are also incredibly professional as well.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here either, but I also have an essay in the upcoming book from Mystery Writers of America Presents, How to Write a Mystery, edited by Lee Child and Laurie R. King. I know, right? I still have to pinch myself whenever I think about it. I got an ARC recently, and the book looks simply beautiful. And how awesome to be in a collection with some of the top writers in the field? I can now cross “be in an MWA anthology” off my bucket list–but “get selected for an MWA anthology through the blind read process” remains on the list. My essay is called “Writing the Talk” and is about dialogue, and it owes a heavy debt to editor Laurie R. King, who whipped it (and me) into publishable shape after a couple of rewrites and revisions.

And yes, there will be more about that later. 🙂

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. May your Tuesday be bright and fun and wonderful.

Fine Line

Saturday rolling into our lives and taking no prisoners!

I slept really well last night, which was a good thing. Yesterday wasn’t a good day–suffice it to say I got through it–and after I finished my work-at-home duties I went to the gym, which was lovely (and my muscles are feeling it this morning, which is perfectly fine with me). Paul will be going in to the office later this morning and most likely will be gone for the rest of the dy, leaving me home alone. It occurred to me the other day that this year’s Festival widowhood is different; usually I don’t get off work most nights until eight or so, so I only have a few hours home alone in the evenings before he gets home. Me finishing work every day by five stretches the entire evening out in front of me alone; I think that might be part of the doldrums. It’s noticeable in a non-pandemic year, but this year those lonely evenings are taking a bit of a toll on me. Paul has always been my favorite person to spend time with, and always will be; his absence is always noticeable.

I asked for a two week extension on my deadline for the book, and they actually gave me a month. The weight of that deadline stress lifting off my shoulders was considerable; that means I can try to spend this weekend getting caught up on everything else that has been piling up (and dear God, has it ever been piling up) while also working on the book without the great stress of “oh my GOD it’s due on Monday!”) as well as working on cleaning. Cleaning for some reason is calming and relaxing to me–plus being occupied with my hands frees up my mind to be creative (Agatha Christie said, in my favorite writer quote of all time, “my house is never so clean as when I am on deadline”). I’m also becoming less attached to my books, which are sprawling everywhere and taking up so much room it isn’t even funny. My goal is by June to have cleared out, through donating to the Latter Library’s weekend book sales, most of the piles of books. Should we ever have the means or find a place to live that will provide me with an actual room to serve as my office–so I can have walls and walls of bookshelves–I should have no problem whatsoever with filling those shelves. It’s a long time project, of course, and will require, in many instances, the purchasing or repurposing of boxes, but the truth is the only books I should be holding onto are research ones–and even those can be replaced with ebooks as needed; and let’s face it, ebooks are much easier to use than hard copies because you can search for key phrases and words, etc. much easier than flipping to the index and so forth.

The pandemic, of course, has had a lot to do with the weird, eerie, dream-like existence of the last year; and these additional stressors in my life have, like the Katrina aftermath, affected my short term memory. This entire last year–our office officially shut down services on March 16th last year–is kind of blurry to me; I don’t remember when this happened or when that happened and so forth; I thought, for example, we had closed down earlier than March 16th and opened up for limited services much later than we actually did. I have no recollection of my birthday in August. This is also kind of understandable, as there were none of the usual markers of the year that generally mark the passing of time: no Southern Decadence condom outreach, no Halloween, no Jazz Fest, no Bouchercon, no board meeting in New York in January. I miss those things; I miss my annual events and seeing everyone that I usually see and the social interactions…and given my general misanthropist attitude, that is saying a lot. I miss my friends, I miss my co-workers, I miss the way things used to be. (I do not, however, miss the past administration in the least.) And that’s okay; that’s normal, and I really need to get to a place and point in life where I stop beating myself up for, you know, having the same feelings and experiences everyone has.

I’ve been doing a lot of unpacking in my mind over the last few weeks of issues–and yes, pain–from my past as well as reexamining things that happened. I’ve always been hesitant to write about my past–I’ve always been uncomfortable about writing my memories or a memoir or anything like that, simply because none of the people I’ve known and/or interacted with over the years ever gave me permission to write about them, or tell my version of their stories, which is also why I generally don’t talk about people I know or interactions with them or so forth on here. What constitutes an invasion of privacy in these cases? I really don’t want to find out the hard way. But I am going to start, I think, writing personal essays that will most likely never see the light of day–or maybe, I don’t know. But writing about things has always been the easiest and best way for me to process and deal with them, and while I may not want to pull off the scabs in public here on my blog…I don’t know, maybe someday I could pull together a collection of them. I know when I was using the discography of the Pet Shop Boys for my blog titles last year I kept thinking that not only do their songs have great titles, but those titles would also make great titles for essays, as well as great starting points and inspirations for the essays themselves. Do I have anything interesting to say, anything deep or profound? As Eve Harrington said as she accepted the Sarah Siddons Award for a role written originally for Margo Channing, “everything wise and witty has long since been said–by minds more mature and talents far greater than mine.”

I really need to watch All About Eve again.

So, we will see. Once I finish slurping down my morning coffee and get my gears in order this morning, mayhap I’ll start writing an essay. I am going to spend some time with the manuscript for #shedeservedit–I’ll have the cover art soon, and I can’t wait to share it, y’all–and clean, clean, clean and organize, organize, organize.

I also started watching Allen v. Farrow last night on HBO Max. It’s very well done. I’m very curious to see the rest of it. I never followed the story that closely back in the day–but it was one of those things you couldn’t help but be aware of and everyone had an opinion. I’ve never been a particular fan of Woody Allen, and haven’t seen many of his films–of the ones I’ve seen, my favorite is Bullets over Broadway–nor do I have much inclination to go back and watch them now. I recognize this is yet another one of those “art v. artist” things; and perhaps the distinctions I make in other cases (I won’t watch anything made by Roman Polanski after his crime, but will rewatch both Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown–justifying those as being before he turned to criminal assault against minors, but apparently he was horrible to Faye Dunaway during the production….at the same time Dunaway is also notoriously difficult, so who is at fault in that instance?) are rationalizations to excuse myself. I won’t read Orson Scott Card nor Dan Simmons anymore, and really–there are so many books I want to read that I will never have time to read that cutting bigots out of my reading schedule isn’t an issue. I suppose the same goes for film–I’ll never have the time to watch every movie that I want to watch, so cutting out films made by predators or abusers or bigots really shouldn’t be an issue.

The art v. the artist! That could be an essay!

And on that note, I am heading into the spice mines. Have a lovely Saturday, Constant Reader.

Broken Promise

And here we are on Friday yet again. The nights this weekend are a return to the frigid climes of earlier this week, but the days promise highs in the 50s, at least, and it’s supposed to get back up into the 70’s next week…or so it said the last time I checked. I generally tend not to look at weather forecasts more than a few days out, primarily because New Orleans weather is completely unpredictable and defies expectations all the time. It feels chilly this morning–I’ve not checked the temperature yet–but the space heater is on, as always, and I am shivering a bit under my layers and considering going to get a blanket. The HVAC guys were here yesterday, but there’s still no heat and there’s also no sign of them outside this morning. Which is fine; I can huddle under blankets as I do my work-from-home duties this morning. Okay, I checked, and it’s thirty-five with a high of 48 predicted. Yikes! Sometimes, methinks, it’s better not to know some things.

The forecast for next week looks much better. It’s simply a matter of getting through this last blast over this weekend.

We finished watching season two of Mr. Mercedes last night, and it was…well, it was a bit disappointing. The season wound up diverging significantly from the book it was based on (End of Watch, the concluding book of Stephen King’s Bill Hodges trilogy), and while the middle of the season was compelling and impossible to turn away from, the last two episodes, for me and Paul at least, significantly went off the rails. The third season starts airing on March 4, based on the second book of the trilogy, and we’ll watch because we really like the characters–and I think Book 2 was my favorite of the trilogy–but now It’s a Sin has dropped and so has something else we wanted to watch as well, but right now I can’t think of what that other show might be. Oh, yes, The Luminaries with Eva Green.

I also watched, while making condom packs yesterday, the original film version of The Amityville Horror, which fits into both the Cynical 70’s Film Festival as well as the Halloween Horror Film Festival. I actually saw this movie in the theater when it was released all those years ago, and just like then, I found it unimpressive, not particularly scary, and farfetched. I had read the book, of course–I think I bought it off the wire racks at the Safeway in Emporia on 6th Street–but the book wasn’t very well written and the story–theoretically something that actually happened–wasn’t convincing and, I thought, pretty poorly written (and I wasn’t a particularly discerning reader back then, either). It was, however, a phenomenon; a huge bestseller and the movie also made a ton of money, spawning numerous cheesy sequels (none of which I watched). Horror made a big comeback as a genre in the 1970’s; it could even be seen as a “golden age”–there was a glut of films and movies in that decade, and the demand didn’t taper off until the late 1980’s/early 1990’s. Amityville was a big part of that–following The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby and Carrie; it was the decade when both Stephen King and Peter Straub’s careers are writers took off, and there were a lot of books published….a LOT. (I do highly recommend Grady Hendrix definitive Paperbacks from Hell–it will trigger a lot of memories for you if this was a period when you were actually alive…it certainly did for me.) But the movie is still bad, after all these years–James Brolin was certainly handsome, coming off his years on Marcus Welby and before he spent the 80’s managing Arthur Hailey’s Hotel on ABC. (Although I couldn’t help thinking, “wow, of someone would have told me back then Brolin would marry Barbra Streisand and live happily ever after and his son Josh would become a major star, I would have laughed and laughed and laughed.”) Margot Kidder plays his wife, Kathy, and this is the best, I think, she’s ever looked on film–they are a handsome couple and have some chemistry together, even though both performances eventually descend into one note, repeated over and over again. Rod Steiger also has a supporting role to which he brings all his Method bombast in a role that doesn’t really make a lot of sense, nor does what happens to him. The movie’s end, like the book’s, explains nothing other than the family abandoned the house and never returned. (Of course, the house has changed hands with people living in it for decades and none of them have experienced anything the Lutzes claim to have. Even cynical teenager me, when reading the book, thought, oh, you bought a house you couldn’t afford and dreamed up a crazy story to try to get out of the mortgage..the movie only convinced me further that I was correct in my theory. I looked it up on line, and the lawyer for the kid who murdered his family in the house later admitted he and the Lutzes, “over many bottles of wine”, came up with the story…to not only get them out of the mortgage but to try to get his client a new trial. The Lutzes still claim it all really happened. *insert ‘sure Jan’ GIF here*)

I think I bought another copy of the book several years ago–still in print all these years later!–to reread and see if it was as bad, if not worse, than I remembered. I have yet to get around to it…but watching the movie made me think I need to reconsider that urge to reread it.

But the 1970’s were, as I have said before, a weird decade of transition and change. Conspiracy theories were running rampant everywhere about everything–the JFK assassination in particular was talked about and theorized about a lot–but this was also the decade of the Bermuda Triangle, when UFO’s really became a topic of discussion, when The Late Great Planet Earth truly began shifting certain sects of Christianity into doomsday prophecy and end-times philosophy, and of course, we cannot forget the existential threat of Communism that had some people seeing Russian agents everywhere and there was the ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation.

Although there are times, too, when I think about the 1970’s as the last gasp of American naiveté and innocence. The one-two punch of Vietnam and Watergate made everyone start distrusting the government…and HIV/AIDS was just around the corner.

Hmmm. Some pretty heavy thoughts on a shiveringly cold Friday morning in New Orleans.

And now back to the spice mines. Stay warm, everyone, and stay safe.

The Way I Loved You

I feel so much better that I’m almost afraid to trust it, frankly.

Last night I fell back into the Internet wormhole about the protective forts built to safeguard New Orleans years ago–there are more of them than you might think, and sadly, most of them are either unsafe to visit or hard-near-impossible to reach (Fort St. Philip particularly; only accessible by helicopter or boat). I’m thinking of debuting my fictional interest in Fort St. Philip in a short story–the idea came to me last night, and while it’s not fully formed, it’s there–but while making notes (as I did madly yesterday, and not just about Fort St. Philip but about the other forts protecting the city) it started coming together for me. We’ll see–I still have to work on the revisions of “The Snow Globe” and I still need to finish writing “A Dirge in the Dark”–and I am not entirely certain how one would define the story in the first place.

I slept really well again last night, which was lovely I am apparently adapting (at long last) to this “get up early” schedule, which is, while emotionally an unappealing thought, rather satisfying. I am hoping to be really productive today–have to go to the gym tonight after work–and then back to the story. We got caught up last night on this week’s episode of The Undoing, which I am finding more and more interesting with each episode–although my initial suspicion was the plot twist at the end of this week’s episode.

I’m feeling better now than I have in a very long time. I’m not entirely certain why that is–perhaps I am finally getting used to life in a pandemic? And while I am not entirely on board with the idea that I am used to life in a pandemic–it’s not something I think any of should have to get used to, intellectually–it is what it is, and I of all people need to get out of this weird stasis feeling I’ve had since March and get back to working on my writing and getting this apartment back under control. I also would like to get back into my reading groove; I’ve not read anything in novel form in quite some time and I really do need to get back into reading again. Reading always inspires me and helps get me into my writing groove, and The Hot Rock, cleverly written and intricately plotted, should prove inspiring.

I have several other books on hand that I am interested in getting to read soon–which I will not do until I am finished with The Hot Rock–including a reread of The Bad Seed, which I’ve not read since I was a teenager, in addition to an old Fletcher Knebel story, Night of Camp David, and I do want to reread Shirley Jackson’s Life Among the Savages–and of course, there are short stories everywhere.

The LSU-Alabama game this weekend is in question because of COVID positivity amongst the LSU team; if the game is cancelled, it’s just going to be cancelled, as LSU is out of bye weeks and has already had to reschedule the Florida game, and there simply is no more time in this abbreviated schedule to reschedule this game. I am not saying this wouldn’t be an enormous relief for LSU fans, but the way they team is playing, and the way Alabama is playing this year–well, it would be an extremely excruciatingly painful experience for the team and fans. It’s already questionable whether I would inflict such pain on myself by watching–the collapse of the LSU program this season has already been horrific enough to witness–but what kind of fan would I be if I gave up on them? I never gave up on the Saints–even in 2005–so it would be wrong for me to bail on this benighted season.

Yesterday, the preview trailer for the Hulu series adaptation of The Hardy Boys dropped, and as expected, right on cue, all the “fan pages” I belong to on Facebook went insane. IN-fucking-sane. (However I always find the collective outrage of fevered fan boys and girls most amusing.) My personal favorite was the person who stated that he “hates adaptations that don’t follow the book(s) strictly”–which made me laugh out loud.

Um…has any book ever been filmed and adhered strictly to the original text? Outside of Rosemary’s Baby and a handful of others….yeah, he must not watch a lot of adaptations.

I really need to write a Scotty book about kids’ series fans.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines.

Change

I stretched yesterday.

I don’t mean that in a metaphorical sense, either; I mean, I literally cleared a space off on our cluttered floor and gave my ossified muscles a good, old-fashioned stretch, going through exercises memorized as a teenager from warm-ups for various sports, but enhanced and modified for my Gymnastics classes. I was always flexible, you see–and the one thing no one ever tells people about flexibility is that it isn’t something you have to be born with–you can actually work on it, gradually becoming more and more flexible and pliant the more you work on stretching those muscles. Sure, they will tighten up again after a while, but the next time you stretch you’ll be able to go a little bit further than you did the last time.

Yesterday’s stretching felt good; so good, in fact, that I will probably do so again today.

And now I will talk about stretching in the metaphorical sense.

I am signing two book contracts today; one for Bury Me in Shadows and the other for the Kansas book, whose title (for now) is #shedeservedit. Both are books that I have been working on for an eternity now it seems; the pandemic and it’s bizarre effect on time doesn’t help with that mentality, of course. Both books are stretches for me, in that neither is a series book (sorry, Scotty and Chanse fans) but rather stand alones. I don’t know how they will be marketed, but Bury Me in Shadows has a college student as the main character and #shedeservedit is about high school. Part of the reason I finally went ahead and pitched the books is because I can’t seem to discipline myself to get them finished; the pressure and stress of a deadline, which I’ve been trying to avoid for the last few years, apparently is needed in these troubled times in order for me to get the work done. Both have required me to stretch as a writer–taking me into themes and plots that ordinarily I would avoid, and forcing me to go further and deeper into the characters themselves in order for the stories to work. Whether I have managed to succeed with either book remains to be seen, I guess. Signing the contracts is scary, of course; I am a bundle of jangly nerves this morning as I sip my coffee and get ready to face what has already developed into a challenging day before I even got to the computer.

I watched Chinatown yesterday as part of the Cynical 70’s Film Festival, and it really is quite a marvelous film–the costumes! The sets! The cars! The cinematography! Also a very twisty and sometimes confusing plot; with strong performances all around from the cast, particularly Jack Nicholson in the lead; Faye Dunaway is also gorgeous, if a little mannered and stiff; and John Huston just oozes evil from every pore as Noah Cross. It was a great homage to the classic noir films of the 40’s and 50’s; I was also a little amused at the conceit of the private eye having an office with a secretary and two operatives–obviously, Jack Gittes was quite successful as a private eye chasing adulterers around Los Angeles. Chinatown, with its focus on the systemic corruption of money and power in Los Angeles at the time, with a focus on the war over water (and seriously, given its history, why is Los Angeles not considered as corrupt a city as New Orleans and Chicago?), I enjoyed the film immensely. Dark and lush and with great attention to detail, I can see why it was a hit and achieved such critical acclaim; however, given that it is a Roman Polanski film, there was always this edge of guilt as I watched it again. I first watched it about twenty years ago and didn’t really think too much about Polanski’s status as a convicted child rapist and fugitive from American justice; same with Rosemary’s Baby, which I think, despite being from the late 1960’s would also fit in this film festival. I like both films and enjoy them both; but in modern times it has become increasingly difficult to separate the art from the artist. I did make a decision years ago never to watch a Polanski film made after his conviction and escape from justice, somehow justifying that his earlier films should be exempt from a justified boycott.

Separating art from the artist is a difficult debate, with many nuances and points of view from both sides that I kind of agree with. The fact that Roman Polanski committed a crime and then fled the country to avoid punishment should have, by all rights, ended his career–yet somehow that didn’t happen. He has continued making films–even won an Oscar for Best Director, I think–and has enjoyed success and critical acclaim. Should his art be judged separately from his personal life? Am I hypocritical for refusing to read Orson Scott Card because of his vigorous anti-gay activity back in the day because it affected me directly, yet still watching pre-crime Polanski films? In all honesty, I doubt I will ever watch Chinatown again after this second viewing; I most likely won’t go back and rewatch Rosemary’s Baby either, despite its being based on a terrific Ira Levin novel and the brilliance of Ruth Gordon as Minnie Castevets, and the fact that it fits into this film festival–the cynical movies which flourished in the 1970’s actually started being made in the 1960’s, and Rosemary’s Baby is one of the best films about paranoia ever made, frankly.

Something I really need to put some more thought into, definitely.

I need to get cracking, too–I have an essay to edit, another one to write, a short story to edit and revise; and of course the manuscripts that need working on. I have bills to pay and emails to answer, and I also have to go into the office today to get some work done there, stopping at the grocery store on my way back home. We literally have no food at all in the house, sigh.

And so on that note, tis off to the spice mines with me. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader.

Holy Ground

I came across the coroner’s obituary last night.

As I typed it, I realized what a New Orleans-like thing it was to say; and it made me smile a little bit. The coroner in question wasn’t currently serving New Orleans; he had retired in 2014 after ten terms in office, and his name was Dr. Frank Minyard. He played the trumpet, and was actually a gynecologist rather than a pathologist. Was he good coroner or a bad one? A little of each, I would gather, based on the obituary by John Pope you can read by clicking here.

But he was, like so many New Orleanians used to be, quite a character. New Orleans has always been a city full of characters, which is why so many people write about New Orleans, and write about it well. Not only can you probably get away with writing anything crazy-seeming about New Orleans; chances are if you dig a little into our history here, you’ll inevitably find crazier shit than anything you could dream up on your own. I have to say I have really been enjoying reading up on our local history here.

Hurricane Sally came ashore earlier this morning, and it had continued turning enough to the east that we didn’t get much of anything here in New Orleans. The panhandles of Alabama and Florida (in particular Mobile and Pensacola) are an entirely different story; my heart sank down into my shoes (well, my slippers) on seeing footage and images from that section of the Gulf Coast. Hurricane season is so emotionally exhausting, really; all that stress and tension and worry, and then when it goes somewhere else the enormous guilt one feels about the relief that your area escaped unscathed while others are losing everything–including some lives–is horrible, just horrible. It’s oddly gray and hazy-seeming outside the windows this morning, with the crepe myrtles and the young live oaks in the yard on the other side of the fence doing their wavy dance thing they do when the wind blows; the sidewalk outside also looks wet so we must have gotten some rain as well overnight, but not enough for me to notice anything as I slept through it all. (That’s the other thing about hurricanes, particularly the ones that come ashore overnight; you go to bed wondering what you’ll wake up to find in the morning–or worse yet, disaster will rip you out of a deep sleep.)

So, yes, this morning I feel very emotionally drained; well rested, but exhausted emotionally.

And then, of course, once the danger has passed, you have to reset yourself and get back to normality–whatever the hell that is, or what passes for it, at any rate.

Yesterday’s entry in the Cynical 70’s Film Festival was The Omen, which was a huge hit back when it was released in 1976 and spawned two sequels, Omen II: Damien and The Final Conflict. I had never seen the sequels, and I think I originally rented the film–I don’t think it played at the Twin Theater in Emporia–but I did read the book (the book was written by David Seltzer, who apparently, according to the opening credits of the film, wrote the screenplay; which came first? I don’t care enough to look it up) and of course, was put in mind of it by paging through The Late Great Planet Earth, which laid the groundwork for the movie. Obviously, it’s about the anti-Christ, who is Damien Thorn; the movie opens with the Robert Thorn (played with an almost wooden-like quality by Gregory Peck) arriving at a hospital in Rome only to be told that the child his wife has given birth to has died; he worries about her mental stability and how she will handle the news–and so a priest offers a substitute baby whose mother died giving birth. (And this is the first place I called shenanigans on this rewatch; one, he is about to start a lifetime of lying to his wife and two–was there any need to tell Robert Thorn his child died? If the idea was to have the Thorns accept the anti-Christ into their home as their child, wouldn’t it simply make more sense to swap the babies, so neither of them knew? Because how could they have been so certain Thorn would accept this literal deal with the devil?) The movie is paced fairly well, and it moves right along–there’s not a lot of gore or blood and guts, but it does beggar credulity at more than one point–and perhaps I am looking at it with jaded eyes some forty years later, but both Peck and Lee Remick, who plays his wife, seem to just be phoning it in for the paycheck and there’s also the element of their age; they seem to be fairly old to just be trying to start having a child at the opening of the movie. (I think the book plays this up more, stating that Kathy Thorn has suffered innumerable miscarriages leading up to this birth and it has shaken her mental stability; kind of hard to do that on film but it certainly would have made his motivation in accepting this needless deception–again, they could have just as easily substituted the baby without having to go through this entire risky rigmarole.) After finishing, I looked for Omen II but it’s not streaming for free anywhere; I then watched The Final Conflict, which was simply terrible (outside of Sam Neill, who was terrific and charismatic as an adult Damien, saddled with an incredibly bad and far-fetched script).

The movie does fit, however, with the Cynical 70’s Film Festival, because here we have yet another conspiracy, one in which some members of the Catholic Church have turned to Satan to try to bring about the end times as well as the birth of the Antichrist–because whereas in the 1950’s and the early 1960’s, it would have been unimaginable for such a film to be made, but also to be believable; who would have ever believed such a thing was possible? Of course, both book and film of Rosemary’s Baby set the stage for The Omen, but both were later 1960’s, when things were starting to change, times were getting more cynical, and so were people. Rosemary’s Baby changed almost everything, both in the world of novels and film, in showing that horror was both bankable and mainstream. The early 1970’s saw the publications, and enormous success, of books like Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives, William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist, Thomas Tryon’s Gothic horror masterpiece The Other, and eventually, Stephen King’s out-of-nowhere bestseller Carrie. Soon Peter Straub would publish Ghost Story and Carrie would become a hit movie, triggering a horror revival that brought both the literature and the films into the mainstream. This revival didn’t lose steam until the 1990’s, and frankly, I think horror is on the verge of another revival.

I could be wrong, of course. I certainly have been before, but I am seeing some really terrific work as well as amazing new voices–over the past year alone I’ve read some astonishing work by new-to-me writers, and I only wish I had more time to read everything I really want to. Paul Tremblay is amazing, and so is Bracken MacLeod, Christopher Golden, and Silvia Moreno-Garcia, among others; I’m seeing a lot of new and interesting looking titles being announced or reviewed almost every time I turn around.

I guess today is Wednesday? I am really not sure, living in this weird world that comes with hurricane watches, where it is very easy to lose track of dates and times and what day of the week it actually is. But a quick glance at Weather.com assures me that all the other storms out in the Atlantic basin pose no threat to Louisiana, so I guess we can relax for a little while, at least.

And on that note, tis back to the spice mines.

Picture to Burn

Thursday, Thursday, is today’s child full of woe? I used to know that rhyme when I was younger–one of those things that would pop out of my mouth and brain every now and then when I wasn’t expecting it to–and now I cannot seem to summon it from the depths of my memories. I think it was Tuesday’s child, anyway; was Thursday’s child full of grace or something like that? Possible, I suppose.

Another good night’s sleep was had yesterday evening, which is lovely. I have to go into the office today and run errands on the way in.  I’m just glad to be feeling more rested, to be honest, and then tomorrow is a work-at-home day, and then I slide into the three day weekend, which is kind of nice. I hope to finish reading  Little Fires Everywhere this weekend, start reading The Coyotes of Carthage, and perhaps dip my eyes back into the Short Story Project–I have Sara Paretsky’s short story collection glaring at me from the end table as well as the new Lawrence Block anthology, and so many others I’ve not finished reading–and of course, I want to get a lot of writing done. I want to spend some time on Bury Me in Shadows, as well as maybe get some short story writing done, which would be lovely.

One can certainly hope, can’t one?

But I’ve also learned my lesson about over-planning for the weekend; I know I need to just make a list of things to do that need to be done and not overly pressure myself to get it all done over the course of the long weekend, while recognizing that I also need to recharge my batteries and I also need to do some cleaning; perhaps even work on that damned file cabinet which I never finished working on.

Yesterday’s Cynical 70’s Film Festival choice wound up being nothing I was considering. Instead, I choose to rewatch The Exorcist, which I’ve never seen other than the “edited for television” version. The Exorcist was a phenomenon at the time, and most people still, to this day, consider it the scariest film they’ve ever seen and it regularly pops up on lists of best horror films ever made. I read the book at the height of its popularity, when I was in junior high school, and while it didn’t precisely scare me, it was lurid–we all read it for the lurid parts, like the crucifix masturbation scene and so forth; there was something sacrilegious about reading it, like actually reading it was an act of subversion. The film broke all box office records of the time and was nominated for a lot of Oscars, and the soundtrack–Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells”–always brings up mental associations with the film. It was the first outright horror film to get that many Oscar nominations, or to be nominated for any, really, other than Rosemary’s Baby, which wasn’t nominated for a lot; William Friedkin, fresh off his Oscar winning outing with The French Connection–which is also on my list–directed it. A more traditional entertainment, The Sting, wound up sweeping the Oscars that year. A few years ago, I reread the book to see how well it held up, and as an adult who is also now a writer and has been a reviewer, and has read thousands of other books in the interim, I can say it doesn’t hold up well at all–it really isn’t all that scary, either; it was a product of its time and it might not even get published were it written today. The characters were very cardboard and one-dimensional and behaved in ways that made no sense whatsoever; the focus was on the sacrilege, really, and the shock. I wondered if that would be true of the movie, as well, in its unedited version.

The acting was fine, really; Ellen Burstyn is never bad in anything, and Linda Blair was also fine; but the truth is the direction of the film doesn’t really develop the characters enough to make the viewer empathize with them, or identify with them. The scares weren’t as scary as they were; it’s hard to be scared when you know something is coming and you’ve already seen it, after all; part of the thrill of a horror film is not knowing when the scares are coming, so rewatches never have quite the same effect. I watched this time in a more analytic way, rather than as a viewer–but while others I’d seen before–Aliens comes to mind–really hold up incredibly well, The Exorcist doesn’t; I don’t feel like I got to know enough about Chris MacNeil or Father Karras enough to care about either one of them; and I found that I had more questions about them and who they were than I did when I viewed it as simply an entertainment. I think had the film been filmed more intimately, rather than from a cold distance, it would have held up a lot more; I don’t know, I am neither a filmmaker or a critic. But it didn’t trigger much of a reaction in me, and that’s rather telling. I think the problem, from a story-telling point of view, is that it couldn’t make up its mind whether it was about the MacNeils or Father Karras; although the title would tend to make you think the focus was on Father Karras; it should have been titled The Exorcism, really, and that, I think, was the end problem result for me: the book and film were really about Father Karras and his struggle with his faith, but only touched on that issue glancingly; because it also wanted to focus on how dismissive we are of spiritual issues in our modern scientific world, and wanted to show how an atheist, irreligious woman would try to get her child scientific treatment and slowly come around to the idea that in the modern world, something rooted in past superstition was the issue. Both are great stories, but for me, it failed in trying to tell both and wound up just skittering across the surface like a needle on a warped vinyl record.

Ultimately, though, The Exorcist–both book and film–are important works in both disciplines; along with Rosemary’s Baby, ushered in the 1970’s revival and rejuvenation of horror, in both film and literature, and that influence cannot be denied. Without either of those books, would Carrie have been published, or Peter Straub’s first horror novel? It was The Exorcist, after all, that first really introduced me to horror.

And I absolutely loved the television series inspired by it.

And on that note, tis time for me to return to ye old mines of spice. Have a lovely day, Constant Reader, and I’ll catch you again tomorrow.

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