Sunday, July 19, 2009

This is Thriller!

So a couple of people have asked me if the previous post, WRITING AT NIGHT, was based on true events. While I have imagined eyes outside the sunroom - no - this has never actually happened to me and I pray to God it never does. I don't think my heart would re-start. I'll take it as a compliment though that it was rooted enough in reality. In fact it was a little exercise set by a friend after attending the Cleary Horror Seminar. I left it to the last moment, of course, so it was rushed and hammy but, hey, it was fun.

Speaking of Cleary, I had a constructive four hours of cleaning my office on Friday (internet connection was down and this job had been on the TO DO list for about three months so the universe gave me no choice) and I discovered notes from that seminar including books and films to follow up.

If you're in the market for an old fashioned fright then look into The Penny Dreadfuls. Apparently, when tracing the history of suspense novels and stories, much is owed to these nineteenth century British publications which, according to good old Wikipedia, usually contained "lurid serial stories appearing in parts over a number of weeks, each part costing a penny".
As it goes the stories were mostly reprints or rewrites of Gothic thrillers such as The Monk or The Castle of Otranto, as well as new stories about famous criminals. Some of the most famous of these penny part stories were The String of Pearls: A Romance (which introduced Sweeney Todd), The Mysteries of London (inspired by the French serial, The Mysteries of Paris) and Varney the Vampire. I SO have to get my hands on that one. The library doesn't have it but good old Amazon does so come on down Mr Postman.

Also recommended by Mr Cleary was Polidori's The Vampyre. I can't get that at the library so I am purchasing a collection instead which sounds dead fascinating: Three Gothic Novels: The Castle of Otranto, Vathek, The Vampyre.

(On the vampire sideline for a second, I am slowly and steadily getting access (don't ask) to Season 2 of True Blood and, now that we have a new flash telly, the blood sucking, nipple biting, swamp stalking action is only going to be all the more gruesome and delicious. Already buff chests will fill the 40 inch screen and I'll have to have a flat lemonade and a cool bath afterwards.)

Then Cleary recommended looking at the story of Ed Gein (27 August 27 1906 – 26 July 1984) whose murderous ways inspired characters such as Norman Bates in 'Psycho', Jame Gumb from 'The Silence of the Lambs', and Leatherface from 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre'. Hmmm, I think I'll leave Mr Gein's story alone for now although it is interesting to see how screenwriters lift the stories from the daily news and transform them into screen nightmares.

The final Cleary recommendation, for those on a scary slope, was the script for the film, Don't Look Now. That movie was REALLY creepy. Don't think I could watch it again but apparently the author, Alan Scott, is a master so, while I haven't tracked down the document yet, I'll give it a red hot go (tips welcome!).

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