I haven’t been posting much about books here lately. I’ve been very busy. Not only do I read, I also write and I also produce ebooks for other writers. Not that I’m reading less, but I have less time to natter on about it.
In no particular order, some books I’ve read lately that you might find fun and/or interesting to read, too.
The Moses MacGuire series by Josh Stallings.
When I first started reading about Moses I wasn’t sure I’d like him. He’s a burnt out strip club bouncer with a prison record and few socially redeeming qualities. He grew on me. Bad boys tend to do that. Stallings writes gritty, unapologetic thrillers with nasty bad guys, nasty crimes and a lot of surprising twists. As soon as I finished reading Beautiful, Naked & Dead, I immediately read Out There Bad. Pretty soon there’ll be a new Moses story, One More Body. I’m looking forward to it.
Moses McGuire a suicidal strip club bouncer is out to avenge the death of one of his girls. From his East L.A. home, through the legal brothels of Nevada and finally to a battle with the mob in the mountains above Palo Alto, it is a sex soaked, rage driven, road trip from hell.
“Out There Bad is the follow up novel to the critically claimed Beautiful, Naked & Dead. Armenian mobsters, Russian strippers, human traffickers, Mexican assassins, they all want Moses dead. Hell most days, even Moses wants Moses dead, but he’ll have to put his dark thoughts on hold. Somewhere between Moscow and LA a young girl has disappeared. The hunt for her will take Moses deep into the heart of Mexico. He will be taught once again that that which does not kill you, often leaves you scarred for life.”
On the paranormal side, two stories from two of my favorite authors: Ben Aaronovitch and J.F. Lewis. Aaronovitch writes the Peter Grant series about a London cop who ends up apprenticed to a wizard. Sort of Harry Potter meets Sherlock Holmes, but funnier. The latest is Whispers Underground where Peter has to solve a magical murder with a most mundane motive. Then we have J.F. Lewis who writes the wildly funny Void City novels featuring Eric the vampire and a screwball cast of creatures. A Corpse of Mistaken Identity is not a Void City novel, it’s a novella featuring a zaomancer (a very special resurrectionist). I really hope everybody runs out and buys this to encourage Lewis to write more about the zaomancers.
If someone dies an unnatural death, an untimely death, and you have to have them back, no matter what the cost… Marlo Morne can help, but there are rules, time is an important factor, and there are always clients who want those rules to be broken on their behalf.
For a change of pace from murder, magic and mayhem, I read a Regency romance, The Taming of Lady Kate, by G. G. Vandagriff, the second in her series: Three Rogues and Their Ladies. Written with wit and style and plenty of big sigh romance.
Back to murder and mayhem, but this time in sci-fi, Riding Fourth, by M. H. Mead. Let us call it carpooling run amok. This short story (available free right now!) is a teaser for a new novel, Taking the Highway, coming in December. Can’t hardly wait.
That’s not all I’ve read, but I have to get back to work. Ebooks don’t format themselves, you know.
Last night, in the throes of a sinus medication induced wildness, I posted my predictions for The Walking Dead, episode 6, which will air next week on AMC. I wasn’t the only one with predictions. After the show and its partner, Talking Dead, were over, message boards went crazy with fans opining that both Lori and Carol are alive.
First of all, do I think that Lori is alive? Do I think that Carl didn’t shoot her and Carol saved her? Hell, yes, to all of those. And the path I took to reach to those conclusions is ridiculous.
The group of survivors we follow on The Walking Dead have survived the walker apocalypse for nearly a year. They are experienced, they are united, they have become family. They never give up on each other. They chopped Hershel’s leg off to keep the virus from taking him. They searched the woods for Sophia long after it became clear that they weren’t going to find her. Suddenly, they find Carol’s scarf on the floor and eh, she’s dead. The next week, they are digging Carol’s grave.
Maybe they think that Carol’s remains were mashed up with the remains of the eaten T-Dog. That would kind of fit, actually, since even Rick seems to suddenly be SO STUPID that he thinks a single walker ate Lori. Every bit of Lori, bones and clothes and all. Nom nom nom.
This is where Talking Dead comes into play. There were weird moments on the show, last night. Director Greg Nicotero was forced to explain to us that it wasn’t Lori’s wedding ring that Rick found on the floor beside the puddle of her blood. It was the bullet that Carl shot into her head to keep her from becoming a walker. Oooooohhhh. Thank you for explaining, Greg. That was kind of embarrassing for all of us, but especially YOU. It’s crappy television making when you are so caught up in what you know about the scene as director (Rick is picking up a bullet) that it doesn’t occur to you that the people you are trying to entertain won’t be able to see what you are showing them. To me, it’s a clue that the show has stopped giving a particular damn about being coherent entertainment.
After that, the talk on Talking Dead got kind of high pitched and unnatural, and it climaxed with host Chris Hardwick making a comment about empty graves that left everyone else strangely quiet, considering it’s a talk show.
So, what gives? If it’s simply that Lori and Carol are alive, the show has grown clumsy. I don’t think that most of us guessed that Sophia was in the barn until the last moment. I do think that most of us think that at least Carol is alive. If Lori is alive, Carol is a helluva doctor, saving a life with nothing at her disposal, not even her scarf. Did the survivors bury two bodies? Three bodies? Any bodies at all? Did Carol chop off T-Dog’s head and somehow save HIM? I’m confused as hell, and it’s not fair that we don’t know how many bodies there are. Right there, The Walking Dead is cheating the viewers by withholding information that most stories would have given us so we could be informed participants in the fun.
If they aren’t alive, if the team at The Walking Dead just wants to make viewers think that Lori and Carol are alive, The Walking Dead has stopped being a drama and started being a magic show. What was appealing about the show in the first place was that you had to suspend your disbelief long enough to believe in the zombie apocalypse, and that was it. It didn’t need to jerk us around with Talking Dead as its lovely assistant. These are adults watching this show, not a bunch of kids at a birthday party.
I hope that the show treads carefully next week. Very carefully. What happens in that episode could very well determine not only the fate of Lori and Carol, but maybe the fate of the show itself.
Okay. I admit it. I am procrastinating. I’m supposed to be cleaning up a scanned manuscript that I ran through OCR conversion. Not a fun job, and given that it’s for my own book, not an especially urgent job either. Buckle down and work, I order myself, but then…
My sister went to an auction and purchased a vintage cigar box filled with beads. She sent the box to me. Some beads were in bags, but most of those bags were so degraded they’d split apart. So most of the beads were loose in the box.
To some that might be awful. It is heaven to me. I love sorting beads and discovering treasures.
This is nothing new. I’ve been a bead artist, jewelry maker and hoarder for a long, long time. I have a huge stash. Not just of beads either. I also collect findings, buttons, cabochons, and vintage jewelry–much of it broken. I have drawers full of components. Shiny bits to use…someday.
Along with the old components, I have my regular bead stash: seed beads, Delicas, bugles, cubes, pillows, pressed glass, lampwork, stone, wood, vintage Lucite, Czech, Japanese, German, crystals, pearls, sequins, and more in almost every color you can think of and a vast array of shapes.
For those of the beady persuasion, you know exactly what I’m talking about, don’t you? It’s shiny, it sparkles, it’s pretty, it’s odd–it might be fixable, usable, repurposed into something gloriously new. Beads and bead hoards are all about potential. They are the stuff from which dreams are made.
Beading is a good hobby for a writer. My preferred beading techniques are peyote and brick stitch using Delicas or 15/0 seed beads. (off-loom weaving techniques using very small beads and hair-thin needles). Beading requires patience. Things get done one bead at a time, much as books get written one word at a time. It can’t be rushed. Repetitive motions are very good for thinking. With the hands soothingly occupied (except when a needle is jammed accidentally into flesh or a sliver of Nymo works it way under my nail bed) my mind is free to wander. Some of my best story ideas come when I’m playing with beads.
They’re also a great way to procrastinate. Hey, I’m allowed. That big pile of seed beads and bugles and miniature glass pearls won’t get sorted by themselves.
You might think that chihuahuas and nursing homes would be a poor mix. Like beer and milk. Some people think that chihuahuas don’t mix well with anything. Some people think that chihuahuas are nasty little fuckers that yip and bite.
To be perfectly honestly with you, the worst dog bite I’ve ever had was bestowed upon me by a chihuahua. A lot of them are nasty little fuckers. If YOU only left the house in a purse, if YOU were cold all the damned time, if YOU lived in a land of giant feet, you’d be a nasty little fucker, too. My chihuahua is the Ellen Degeneris of chihuahuas. He’s not the prettiest but he seems like the prettiest because he’s funny and he’s so damned glad to see ya’.
I take my chihuahua to the nursing home now and then to visit my mother. She asks me to bring him. Sometimes she begs me to bring him. In spite of being desperate to see my chihuahua, my mother can barely remember his name. Not because she is in the throes of forgetting everything…the honest truth is she barely remembers anyone’s name because her head is so full of herself. Few toddlers are as selfish as certain old ladies, and that’s the damned truth. I know that my mother likes my chihuahua, but she REALLY likes the brief fame that a visit from my chihuahua brings her.
We sit in the lobby because having a little dog visit you at the nursing home is no good unless everybody can see the little dog visit you at the nursing home. At first it’s just us and Old Lady Who Obsessively Moves Furniture. I try to ignore her. She jabbers about the furniture and the fact that the furniture is misplaced. She throws her weight desperately against a sofa, which doesn’t budge. I finally get concerned that she is going to hurt herself and I move the damned sofa (which is on castors and slides through the lobby like a breeze over ice). That satisfies her, and she sits down on the sofa she just made me move and pets the cute little dog.
I don’t know if the aroma of dog gets into the recycled air or what, but people always start to show up when I bring the chihuahua to the nursing home. The first one to hobble in this time is Woman My Mother Argues With In The Dining Room Because They Both Want To Open Little Old Willy’s Creamer For Him. They haven’t spoken to each other outside of arguing over Willy’s creamer all week. Today, there is peace. My mother’s rival takes a chair and asks us repeatedly how it is that people can hurt cute little dogs like this cute little dog. We all agree that some people suck. Several times.
Next in is The Preacher. I’m not sure why he lives in the nursing home. He is one of the few residents who can walk unassisted. He’s so mentally sharp that I thought he was another visitor the first five times I saw him. Maybe his family is tired of hearing him preach and they kicked him out. I would get tired of having a fundamentalist preacher for a relative really quick. Maybe he’s actually an atheist and he just THINKS he’s a fundamentalist preacher and that’s why he’s in the nursing home.
Nobody likes The Preacher much. He is always dourly judging everybody. Apparently he threw a big ol’ “This is SATANISM!” downer monkey-wrench into the facility’s Halloween party, an event so tame that most two year olds would have bitched that it was boring.
My chihuahua, recognizing that the mouthpiece of Christ has arrived, gets on his hind legs and dances around. The Preacher claps his hands and dances with my chihuahua, weirdly risking eternal damnation to dance with a little dog.
We embark on a lively group discussion where everyone wonders whether my chihuahua could cure asthma, diabetic neuropathy, and corns. Chihuahuas actually have been said to have healing powers. It has always been a chihuahua sales pitch. It started back when all dogs had to be good for something. Chihuahuas weren’t good for herding cattle or…well they weren’t good for anything that people have historically wanted dogs to do. So they became magical.
The conversation stops when an old lady who looks like she lost a gang brawl wanders in. Black eyes, face yellow and blue with bruises and swollen tight; a line of stitches railroad tracks across on her forehead.
“She’s mean,” my mother informs me, like nobody else in the room can hear. Maybe they can’t. We have had to talk awfully loudly to carry on our conversation. I’m not willing to chance being overheard. I wonder to myself if Mean Beaten Up Old Lady really IS mean and if somebody waited until she was asleep and beat the shit out of her with a walker. She is STUNNINGLY beaten up.
Mean Beaten Up Old Lady sits down and says, “I have a question. Does anybody think I should see a doctor?”
“You already seen a doctor,” yells Furniture Mover, and taps her own forehead to indicate the stitches.
Mean Beaten Up Old Lady touches a hand to the stitches and is obviously surprised to find them there. “Oh. I guess I did see a doctor. I fell. On my face. LOOK! It’s a little DOG!”
So my chihuahua gets in Mean Beaten Up Old Lady’s lap and licks her hurt, fallen-on face. No miraculous healing takes place, unfortunately. I don’t think the lady is mean. I don’t know what gives. My mom tells me later that her source of gossip maybe wasn’t so reliable and maybe the lady isn’t so mean, after all.
Greetings all done, my chihuahua sits in the center of the floor and everybody admires him and talks about how great chihuahuas are. Except for someone’s sister’s chihuahua. That was a mean little dog. Except for someone’s mother’s chihuahua. That was a mean little dog, too. Actually, nobody has anything good to say about any chihuahuas except for this chihuahua right here. This chihuahua right here crouches like a Sphinx and wags his tail like mad.
I got into an argument with my cable service provider and ended up cancelling TV before the new season of The Walking Dead began. This bummed me out until I discovered I could buy episodes from Amazon and watch them on my Kindle Fire. Well… Well. After how disappointed I was in the last season, I was hesitant about watching this season. Marina kept talking about it and I am forever the optimist, so I’ve been keeping up.
And not digging it. Not at all.
Rule Number One (and the only rule that counts): Don’t be a bore.
Sorry, TWD, but this season is a wretched bore.
You writers have made an elementary mistake. You’ve mistaken situation for plot. I don’t care how interesting any particular situation might be, it can only hold a reader’s or viewer’s interest for so long. The zombies are a situation. Once you’ve killed a few thousand and had them kill a few dozen characters, nobody cares. They just aren’t that interesting.
What makes any story interesting is the drama. Drama comes from the characters. Boy, have you guys dropped the ball regarding TWD characters. Your second elementary mistakes lies in narrowing the individual stories to the situation. The characters are flat because the only thing they do is react to the zombies. Fine, we get it. Zombies bad. Kill or be killed. You’ve reduced the characters to survival mode, but survive for what? I wouldn’t want any of those sad sacks to attend my Christmas party. Last season you had some interesting conflicts playing out. Glenn and Maggie’s romance. Shane’s struggle with madness. Herschel’s hope for a cure. This season? Stick them in a prison. Big whoop. I had hopes for Andrea and Michon. But all Andrea is doing is playing mouthpiece and Michon just wanders around looking sullen. And the governor? Come on! Haven’t we seen this villain in just about every bad movie ever produced? The guy’s picture should be in the dictionary next to “Stereotype.”
I have a suggestion for you (that is, if you’re hoping for another season–if your real goal is to kill everybody off and the season finale will be a gray screen with THE END IS OVER, then ignore this post). If you want to salvage TWD, watch Faith.
Faith is a Korean fantasy-historical series. It has time travel and a mystic warrior and a king and queen and sword fights and martial arts and an annoying twit of a heroine and absurd sub-titles and gorgeous production values and wonderful costumes. Mostly what it has are incredible characters.
Every night for the past week I’ve been watching Faith on hulu.com. It’s riveting. I am caught up in the story. I am invested. Why? The characters.
As I said, the heroine is an annoying twit. She screams and whines and overacts and screws up and accidentally stabs people. She shouldn’t be likeable. Except… she wants to go home. She was kidnapped from the future and she doesn’t belong in ancient Korea. It frightens her. She doesn’t understand the culture. That’s kind of her strength, too. The other characters don’t understand her either and they either over- or under-estimate her. Annoying or not, she’s never boring.
And the hero? This is a guy with a story. What he wants is to honorably fulfill his obligations so he can retire peacefully. He’s suicidal, too, and you’d think that would make him a downer, but it’s a cultural thing and it doesn’t mean he’s depressed. It means that’s a reasonable option for him, which actually heightens suspense and causes genuine conflict between him and the heroine. Plus, he keeps making promises he is honor-bound to keep, so he’s in conflict with himself, too.
You want a villain? Watch a few episodes and meet Excellency Gi Cheo. That guy is evil. He’s also charming and sly and funny, and he tries to hide a huge weakness. He doesn’t just want power. He wants everything! If he can’t get it through the people, he’ll kill them all and get new people. If he can’t it through the king, then he’ll get a new king. And if heaven tells him no? Well, he’ll figure out a way to remake god. He’s fascinating to watch.
Faith knows how to use female characters. Strong, active female characters with their own stories, desires, goals and conflicts. A queen and a court lady and female warriors and an assassin and a drug dealer. The writers on this show aren’t afraid to give the females stories and big dreams and interesting things to do.
Know why viewers hated Lori? Because you bounced her around like an irritating puppet. What did she want? What was in her heart? Every time you worked up an interesting conflict for her, you solved it with a zombie attack.
So do yourselves and the fans of TWD a favor and watch Faith. pay attention to the characters. You’ll learn something.
I’m hoping people have noticed that my Zombie Reports have been a lot about The Walking Dead, lately. If you have noticed and you are annoyed, give me a break. Season 3 of The Walking Dead is the biggest zombie news since Florida immersed itself in zombie-making bath salts. So, here’s my Official Unofficial Recap of Episode 2, Season 3 of The Walking Dead!
(Those of you who both have DISH TV and don’t understand the word “recap,” you’ve been warned.)
The show picked up right where Episode 1 ended. Rick and his people are trying to save the life of One-Legged Hershel, formerly known as Two-Legged Hersel before Rick cut off his zombie spit infected leg with an ax.
The surviving prisoners we met at the tail end of Episode 1 are duly impressed by Rick’s act of savage ax necessity for all of three seconds. These prisoners are under the impression that they are Bad Asses, in spite of the fact that they’ve waited ten months for the guard who locked them into the cafeteria at the beginning of the walker apocalypse to return for them, something that even a lone, terrified four year old wouldn’t wait for after about a day. The prisoners continue to show us their stupids by ignoring zombie killing instructions, which results in a comically gory scene where they shank zombies in the guts instead of bashing in their skulls. I will not be surprised if prisoners in prisons all over the country start boycotting the show, since The Walking Dead has even less use for prisoner characters than it has for black characters. Although two new black prisoner characters ARE dead before we reach the thirty minute mark.
More about Hershel’s bloody stump. Blah blah, they don’t want him to die because they’ll miss him and because they’ll have to kill him when he rises from the dead and falls over because he only has one leg. Then Carl does something MIND BOGGLING. HE WANDERS OFF ON HIS OWN ADVENTURE. First he wouldn’t stay in the house, now he won’t stay in the cell. These people need to cut off one of Carl’s legs.
Carol suddenly has an emergency, and it’s a great time to have it, right in the middle of a real emergency (man with cut off leg maybe dying and becoming a zombie). Carol’s emergency is Lori is pregnant. Well, yes, yes she is. She has been for a while. We are worried about this right now because apparently Lori is overdue to have her Nerf Ball-sized baby, and Carol wants to practice cutting women open in case Hershel isn’t there to do it. Carol enlists Glenn to help her obtain a corpse to practice on. I’m surprised they even bothered killing their medical school specimen, frankly. If it’s practice Carol wants, what better practice could there be than performing the operation on a writhing, clawing, moaning female body? Lori isn’t likely to stay corpse-like still for a C-Section without anesthesia. While Carol practices, someone or someTHING watches her from the woods outside of the fence. I hope it’s a malpractice lawyer.
Back in the prison, Hershel stops breathing. This means he’s dead and this means he’s going to turn into a zombie. Lori performs CPR on him anyway. We are treated to a moment where we don’t know if zombie Hershel is ripping out Lori’s tongue or if confused, no-blood Hershel thinks Lori is his deceased wife. Turns out he was confused, and it’s a little anticlimactic. Lori is fine, nobody ripped out her tongue and nobody rips her a new one for endangering herself, her baby, and everybody else.
The last scene of the episode is Lori trying to get back with Rick because there are no lawyers left (except maybe the malpractice lawyer watching Carol from the woods). Rick’s zombie-like response leaves us to wonder if he has held onto his life but lost his soul. Because, my God, who WOULDN’T jump all over, “Let’s be a couple, again. What the heck, it’s not like we can’t get DIVORCED.”
If you watched The Talking Dead after the show, you saw the BIGGEST spoiler that has been ever been spoiled by a show connected with a show where people don’t want spoilers EVER. I’m not going to blow it here, because it was almost as big as showing us Sophia coming out of the barn the week before Sophia came out of the barn. Umm..AMC? Don’t spoil your popular show by trying to boost the ratings of your silly show. It’s about like leaving Hershel to die because you need to learn to cut people open in case Hershel dies.
The Walking Dead returns tonight with a shiny new episode. Many fans can’t wait, so I’m going to satisfy their curiosity with my Official The Walking Dead Predictions, which are based on nothing official other than I officially want to make them.
Prediction #1- Rick is highly displeased to discover that there is virtually no food in the prison. The surviving prisoners raided the grain stores early in the Walker Apocalypse and cooked it all up in their homemade still. Having a lot of product and very few customers, they are delighted to meet Hershel, who immediately trades them Maggie in exchange for a mason jar full of hootch. Maggie, tired of Glenn telling her that he’s inspecting her for scratches when she thinks he wants to get jiggy, does not object.
Prediction #2- Daryl returns to his convict roots and hooks up with an inmate named “Big Arrow.” Carol, realizing finally that her relationship with a gay man was her way of repressing her own sexuality, disappears while looking for the women’s wing. Her friends, fed up with searching for members of the Peletier family, do not go looking for her.
Prediction #3- T-Dog will say very little, if anything. He IS the black guy and is lucky to still be on the show at all.
Prediction #4- Rick will spend the episode gnawing on Hershel’s amputated leg and screaming, “Fuck off! I’m tired of taking care of you!” at everyone.
Prediction #5- Andrea and Michonne will have three minutes of airtime this week rather than two.
Prediction #6- Lori Grimes, terrified that the new life in her womb is actually new death in her womb, takes a renewed interest in her son, Carl. Carl is mortified by being forced to wear diapers in front of his love interest, Beth Greene. In attempt to look more mature, Carl paints a mustache on his upper lip and insists that everyone refer to him as “Dirty Sanchez.”
The season opener left us with one of the most memorable lines in television history…”Holy Shit.” Hopefully my predictions will prove to be true and this episode will be equally memorable.
Anybody else got any predictions?
FX’s American Horror Story: Asylum starts like a lot of horror movies. A couple enters an abandoned old asylum to have sex and we know that VERY BAD THINGS are going to happen to them. YAY! Except, as a person who didn’t see the first season, as a person who was virtually harassed into watching the premiere of the second season, it was hardly the kind of surprise storytelling I’d been told to expect.
I felt my eyes closing, I felt myself drifting off to the Land of Couch Nap and…it got better. We go back to 1964 and meet Kit. Kit is married to a black woman, and he pretends she’s his maid to avoid persecution. Kit wants to end the lie and tell everyone. Kit loves his wife. So do we. She’s hot and adorable. It’s a good little period scene about a time that is thankfully over (unless you’re gay), but nothing shocking happens. Until a UFO comes and the aliens stick things up Kit’s ass…I’ll admit that I was suddenly fairly surprised.
The next setting: Briarcliff Manor in its heyday as an asylum for the criminally insane. Eager lesbian reporter Lana Winters is there pretending that she cares about the asylum’s thriving bakery. What she really wants is an interview with Bloody Face, the Leatherface wanna-be who is moving in that day. Lana’s little ladder climbing white lie pisses off Sister Jude, who runs the asylum like Julie Andrews on crack would have run a daycare.
Jessica Lange’s Sister Jude is easily 75% of what makes the show worth watching. Forgive me for not having spent most of my life being obsessed with you, Jessica. You are insanely good in this show.
I liked the baby-killing pinhead. I liked the other freaky inmates of the asylum. I liked the asylum itself. I LOVED the smart way the show takes advantage of the very horrifically real Ghosts of Mental Health Care Past.
What nerved me?
The “We Went To Screw In A Haunted Asylum And Bad Shit Happened To Us” story line. I suppose it HAS to be there…or does it?
The fact that there are so many crazy things happening that it becomes amusing…in addition to the UFO, there’s a monster that a mad scientist doctor seems to have brought with him when he took the job at Briarcliff. Anybody remember David Lynch and his show Twin Peaks? Even David Lynch waited a few years before he went TOTALLY over the top.
However, the show was good clean nasty fun, and I give it Four Anal Probes Up Kit’s Ass!
I’ll be watching next week, for sure.
I “met” Martin Turnbull through his blog. I fell in love with his humor and enthusiasm and persistence in bringing to life his novels about the Golden Age of Hollywood. When I read his first Garden of Allah novel, The Garden on Sunset, by damned, double the pleasure, the guy can write. His characters, Marcus the screenwriter, Gwendolyn the actress, and Kathryn the reporter, enchanted me and I wanted more. I’ve been waiting, rather impatiently, for Martin to finish the second novel, The Trouble With Scarlett. Now it’s here and it doesn’t disappoint. Aside from the three main characters, what makes these novels so much fun to read is how Martin brings the period to life. It’s like being a fly on the wall at a Hollywood party. Name-dropping, gossip, machinations, scheming, struggles, feuds, glamour, fashion and places so real you can hear the music and smell the food.
I asked Martin about The Trouble With Scarlett and how it fit in with his series. This is what he had to say:
I was about 15 when Gone with the Wind was theatrically re-released and I couldn’t wait to see it. I was the kind of kid who, if I wasn’t spending my after-school hours with my face wedged in a book, I was watching old Hollywood movies on TV. I had my favorites, of course—Gene Kelly, Bette Davis, Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn, Bogie and Bacall—but generally speaking, if it was made during the golden age of Hollywood, I tuned in. But I’d never seen the movie-to-end-all-movies. And at last I was going to get to see it.
I wasn’t disappointed. From those opening chords of Tara’s Theme all the way through to the closing credits, my eyeballs were super-glued to the screen the whole time. Still half-dazed, I wandered out of the Forum Theater in downtown Melbourne promising myself that I’d read the book one day.
To help survive the exams at the end of high school, I dangled a carrot in front of myself: on the day of the French final, my last exam, I planned to ride my bike directly from school to the local book store and buy myself a copy of Gone with the Wind and, by golly, I’d spend the rest of the month reading it! That’s what happened and I passed the first few weeks of my post-high school life sprawled on my bed burrowing my way through 1000 pages.
Why a bookish teenage kid from Australia would be so thrilled about a tempestuous, willful, spoiled, determined Southern belle from halfway around the world and 100 years before is beyond me. Who’s to say what characters we are drawn to in fiction? I’m sure more than a thesis or two has been written on the subject, but my guess is that it’s probably got less to do with the outer circumstances of the character and more to do with that character’s inner life, struggles and ambitions.
At any rate, fast forward 30 years and I am now living in Los Angeles and I conceive a series of historical novels set in Hollywood during its golden age, centered around life at the (real) Garden of Allah hotel which sat on Sunset Boulevard from 1927 (the dawn of Hollywood’s golden era) to 1959 (the dusk of the Hollywood studio system.) My Garden of Allah series of novels follows the lives of a screenwriter, a gossip columnist and an actress. Gwendolyn, the actress, is from the South (in fact, she’s from Hollywood, Florida) in part because, from the get-go, I wanted her to want the role of Scarlett O’Hara so badly she’d do practically anything for it.
Fast forward another four years and the second novel in my series is released. It’s called The Trouble with Scarlett and looks at life in Hollywood from 1936 to 1939 when Hollywood—not to mention the entire country—was obsessed with all things Gone with the Wind, and especially the casting of the central role of Miss Scarlett O’Hara. The list of actresses who were considered for the role is as long as it is varied, and sometimes startling. The list ended up totaling nearly 130 names which included Lucille Ball, Clara Bow, Tallulah Bankhead, Carole Lombard, Norma Shearer, Katharine Hepburn, Miriam Hopkins, Lana Turner, Joan Crawford, Pola Negri (!!!), Paulette Goddard, and Susan Hayward. I knew that if I was going to write about life in Hollywood during the late 1930s, I couldn’t not write about the book and the movie that gripped a country in the same way it gripped the imagination of my 15-year-old self all those years and all those miles away.
Nowadays, we live in the world of monthly blockbusters, billion-dollar mega-hits, Harry Potter warlocks and Twilight witches, but back in the 1930s, enormously popular, game-changing books like Gone with the Wind came around once in a generation. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why it remains so popular—after more than 75 years, the book still sells an estimated 75,000 copies a year. Or maybe, just maybe, we don’t have to look any further that Miss Katie Scarlett O’Hara herself. Love her, hate her, admire her, loathe her, fear her or just flat out are baffled by her, there’s no denying that she provokes a reaction in just about everyone, and that’s why I thought it was worth my while to take care of the trouble with Scarlett.