1. Hollywood North out loud (two chapters, anyhow)
Back in June, I was invited by Chizine Publications to a ChiSeries event in Ottawa, where I read from my novel, HOLLYWOOD NORTH: A SIX REELER. The novel takes my 2014 novella (see Story Gallery) and blows it up, dropping the reader into the front row of an old movie house, a cavalcade of characters flickering across the dusty screen. It’s a cross-genre tale with a decidedly coming-of-age fantasy and horror bent, where first love, unexplained mysteries (Oak Island Money Pit, anyone?), and warped, small-town nostalgia percolate throughout. Cameo appearances abound. Frankie Laine, Queen Elizabeth II, The Three Stooges, Rod Serling, Rusty from Rin Tin Tin, Vincent Price, Burt Lancaster, The Hardy Boys, Gene Tierney, Jimmy Cagney, Aimee Semple McPherson, Sonny Liston, and many more. You’ll laugh! You’ll cry! You’ll have a sudden yearning to visit Trenton, Ontario, where the novel is set!
I should have more news about the novel soon, so watch this space. Meanwhile, for a taste of where the story goes, here’s my ChiSeries reading, featuring a mash-up of two early chapters:
2. My unliterary literary influences
At a current average of every twenty-seven months, I’ll be asked to name my literary influences. Typically, the question pops up after the small talk has run its course and brains are scrambling to fill dead air.
Now I could easily list my favorite authors—mainstream, genre, Stratemeyer Syndicate, and so-called literary fiction. And some day I will. But if I’m being honest, my most notable “literary” influences were comic books, TV Guide, MAD magazine, Screen Thrills Illustrated, and The Realist. I apologize for this, especially to those who naively expected more of me. And I understand fully, at this point, if you choose to exit this site without reading another word of mine. Anywhere. Ever.
Still here? Good. Chances are, you’re familiar with the influences I’ve mentioned above. Okay, maybe not Screen Thrills Illustrated or The Realist. While I won’t get into the former this time around, the latter is what inspired this entry. All issues of The Realist are now archived online.
The natural successor to MAD magazine, The Realist and its founder/editor Paul Krassner took satire and counter-culture criticism to a jarring new extreme. Strangely, I bought my first copy on a train from Trenton (Ontario) to Montreal in 1963, which is in itself a mystery. I mean, how did family-friendly CNR come to sell this blatantly subversive and sexually explicit magazine? Not that I cared, then or now. I loved it from the start, whether I fully grasped the contents and references or not. For a portrait of the underground movement of the ’60s and ’70s, you won’t do better than The Realist. The good news is, every issue is now available for free online, trigger warnings be damned. Your Realist indoctrination begins here.
3. Am I the only person who didn’t already know about Flin Flon?
While doing a bit of research, I stumbled across the fact that the city of Flin Flon, Manitoba is named after a character from a 1905 science fiction novel—prospector Josiah Flintabbatey Flonatin, the hero of The Sunless City by J.E. Preston Muddock. (No, I’d never heard of the book, either.)
Accounts vary, but the gist of the story is that Flin Flon was founded in 1915 by Thomas Creighton, a real-life prospector and fan of the novel. If you’ve got three minutes, this 1978 short from the National Film Board of Canada will fill you in on the improbable details.
I can think of only one other place named after a fictional character and that’s Tarzana, CA. If you can add to the list, let me know.