Saturday, March 26, 2016

My Review of Ira Levin's "Son of Rosemary"


 

After getting my hands on the original "Rosemary's Baby", I was fascinated to see where Mr. Levin would take the characters after having left them untouched for almost 30 years. I was not disappointed.

This story takes up 34 years after the conclusion of the first novel. We find Rosemary waking up from a coma she had fallen into some 28 years earlier. Her last memories were of still living in the Bramford, and glancing at her son Andy who had recently celebrated his sixth birthday. From the other side of the walls, she could hear the coven chanting as usual then blackness.

She awakens in the year 1999, to learn that the coven had put her into a long-term care facility under the name of Rosemary Fountain (the last name of one of cults members). Realizing the coven had put her into a coma as they had her friend Hutch, she is outraged and fearful for what had become of her son Andy, whose father is Satan himself. 

She soon learns that Andy, has become a respected man of influence who is loved and reknowned around the world. Thanks to her own celebrity status as Rip Van Rosemary, the woman who woke up from a 28 year coma, she uses a television interview to reach out to Andy and let him know she's alive and well.

After a tearful reunion, she learns that the coven had told Andy she had died in an effort to raise him in their ways. But as Rosemary had hoped at the end of the first novel, his human half made him rebellious and he has been using his 'influences' to thwart his father's plans and machinations. Or so Andy says.

The story continues with Rosemary being both relieved and skeptical of her son's motives and actions, along with the God's Children organization he has formed to make changes towards peace and tolerance throughout the world. Yet in spite of all the good she sees he has done, something still does not feel right. Especially in those moments when his horns peek out (literally) and his eyes turn from hazel to "Tiger". Still she does her best to aid his more noble efforts, not realizing that they are both being manipulated to bring about the end of man on New Year's Eve at the stroke of midnight, when almost everyone in the world will light special candles provided by the God's Children network.

Many have criticized this book because of how the story ends...

****Warning Spoiler Alert--Do not read further unless you want to know what happens****

Satan reveals himself to have been in Rosemary and Andy's midst all the time. He even crucifies his son for rebelling against his plans thanks to his mother's influence. Yet at the moment of Satan's apparent triumph, Andy manages to send his mother back in time to before his birth and arrange her life in such a way that she and Guy (her husband) do not wind up moving to the Bramford, thus escaping the coven's trap.

The complaint with this angle is that Rosemary wakes up from this prolonged nightmare (i. e. "It was all a dream...").  Yet we are given definite hints that it wasn't and that a part of Rosemary does realize what her son had actually done and that her fondest wish that his human half won out in the end.

Like the first book there is not a lot of gore or outright horror, as seen in other Son of Satan works such as the "Omen" series. Instead, Mr. Levin sticks to the spirit of his original work and plays a psychological game with the readers and Rosemary, leaving us wondering until the end if Andy can be trusted or not. 

A brilliant effort by the man who also gave us "The Stepford Wives". 

Monday, March 21, 2016

My Review Of Daphne Du Maurier's "The Doll: The Lost Short Stories"



After reading Miss Du Maurier's classic "Rebecca" I set out to find more of her works, in particular I wanted to read some of her short works.  In "The Doll: THe Lost Short Stories" I found a treasure of tales which left me both fascinated and a bit disconcerted.  

One might easily wonder at how I reconcile those two emotions, but I can safely say I learned from the author herself.  In this collection of early works, we get to see the sharp insight Miss Du Maurier had to the minds of people.  Each story contained in this tome, involve people making bad choices in love and relationships, yet still pursuing objects of affection who are most definitely wrong for them.  Those they pursue are either disturbed, toxic, or playing games with the affections of others. 

Yet, Miss Du Maurier keeps our interest in each tale, as the reader finds themselves reflecting on their own relationships and behavior, or those of family and friends who they've watched go down similar paths.  Each story left me disconcerted in one way or another, which only served to demonstrate the keen insight of the author and the mastery of her craft.  To evoke such feeling and thoughts in the reader is truly a work of genius.  

I certainly look forward to reading more of her works, especially "The Birds" which the great Alfred Hitchcock brought to the screen starring the wonderful Miss Tippi Hedren. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

My Review of "Rosemary's Baby" the Novel...


I've waited to get my hands on this novel for some time and it was certainly worth the wait.
Keeping in mind that this book was written and set in 1967, this novel is tame in some respects compared to the gore and horror many authors and movies unleash on today's readers. But they are able to do so thanks to the efforts of Mr. Levin and other authors who broke ground and explored these mysteries and possibilities.

Rosemary Wodehouse and her husband Guy find themselves searching for a new home in New York City, so Guy can pursue his acting career on the stage, and soon find themselves with the opportunity to rent an apartment in the old Victorian building called "The Bramford" which has seen its share of notorious characters including a Devil worshipper who claimed to have summoned Satan himself some decades ago.

But now, considered a respectable/historic structure, Guy and Rosemary take a chance after seeing the apartment who's last elderly tenant who slipped into a coma and never recovered. The young couple soon get to meet other residents of the Bramford, including their odd next door neighbors the Castavets, an elderly and rather eccentric couple who take an unusual shine to them.

Shortly afterwards, things begin to happen. Guy is getting more roles and his star begins to rise in the theater world as well as drawing attention from Hollywood. Shortly after that, Rosemary finds herself pregnant after a very unusual dream where most of the other residents of the Bramford, including her new doctor, are wearing dark robes and chanting while Guy makes love to her... or was it him?

Most folks know the full story so I won't go any farther, but I will say Mr. Levin does a very good job of creating an atmosphere of suspicion and isolation, while still surrounded by the city of New York.

The ending actually took me by surprise because of the ray of hope that still burned in spite of the darkness that Rosemary finds herself surrounded by.

I look forward to finding the sequel "Son of Rosemary" to see what he did with it.

I also highly recommend this book to anyone who has even a passing fancy regarding the supernatural and black magic. Even though it may not hold a lot of surprises, the story does have a lot to keep the reader busy.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

My Review Of Ira Levin's Classic Novel "The Stepford Wives"


A few days ago, I managed to finally locate a copy of this book at my local used book store and immediately snatched it up.  Having seen both the original 1975 movie starring Katharine Ross, as well as the more recent Nicole Kidman version, I was eager to read the actual book that made the term Stepford Wives part of our everyday lexicon.

I'm going to assume that most people reading this blog already knows the story and how it ends.  If you haven't seen either movie I strongly recommend the 1975 version which is much closer to the book, and not read the rest of this entry until you have because it contains huge SPOILERS!

For those who are continuing to read this post you have been warned...

Mr. Levin once again presents us with an idyllic setting and situation, namely the homey little town of Stepford with its picturesque white picket fences and home town charms.  We meet Joanna Eberhart who has just moved here with her husband Walter and their two children Pete and Kim.  

We quickly learn that Joanna is a modern thinking woman of her time (early 1970's) and is a freelance photographer who has made good money selling her photos to various magazines.  Walter is a successful lawyer who wanted to move from the city and raise his family out in this charming place.

Through Joanna we are introduced to the various residents of Stepford whose female population seems to have a strong leaning towards housework.  On her first night Joanna spots her next-door neighbor who is putting out the garbage.  While this is not unusual in and of itself, the fact that the woman, who is backlit from the light from her open door, appears to be wearing nothing at all.  Even when she returns inside her house, Joanna can clearly see her neighbor's perfect curvy silhouette in the window as the woman continues to do the dishes still naked.  

We soon learn that most of the wives of Stepford are pretty much dedicated to being good housekeepers and making their husbands happy in every sense of the word.

Feeling out of step with the female 'crowd' Joanna is delighted to make friends with two other women who have only recently moved to Stepford; Charmaine and Bobbie.  Charmaine is a dedicated tennis player who has a clay court in her yard, while Bobbie is a strong woman with definite reservations about how the women of Stepford behave, vowing never to be like them.

After a weekend away with her husband, Charmaine proceeds to neglect Bobbie and Joanna who pay her a surprise visit to find she is having her tennis court ripped up to be replaced by a putting green for her husband.  Charmaine has also taken up housework with a vengeance and appears more full-figured than either Joanna or Bobbie remember.  Yet even more chilling are Charmaine's words when she is asked why, "Ed's a pretty wonderful guy, and I've been lazy and selfish..."  Such phrases like this are echoed repeatedly throughout the book by other wives as well.

As in his work "Rosemary's Baby" Mr. Levin uses the supporting cast of characters to present reasonable arguments that Joanna and Bobbie are just letting their imaginations run away with them.   He plants the seeds of doubt liberally, but never enough to be fully convincing.  Especially when Bobbie falls to the same fate as Charmaine, leaving Joanna more alone and afraid than ever before.

But the most terrifying part of this story for me was the knowledge that Walter, like so many other husbands, brought his family to Stepford for the sole purpose of having a 'sexy, obedient, fantasy' version made of his wife, knowing she'd be killed after the copy was ready.  

For me, it was the enormity of this betrayal that provides the true horror for this piece.  The idea that the patriarchal sense of entitlement was more important to these men, than the lives of the women they supposedly loved is inexcusable.

At the time this book was written (1972) the women's movement was still going strong, in spite of facing huge resistance.  Yet 40 years later, feminism is still trying to make progress while being attacked with a vengeance on a number of fronts.  Wanting true equality for all, regardless of sex, gender, skin color, or whatever, should not be a crime or something one needs to fight for.  It should be a right offered to everyone.  

Instead the struggle continues, which is why this book is still extremely relevant now.  Personally I feel this book should become required reading in high school/college in the hopes of opening more minds so that the future holds more opportunities and understanding for all.


Saturday, March 5, 2016

A Failed Experiment... Or Was It?

When most people talk about an experiment failing, we all get a particular image in our heads...


But, not all experiments take place inside a cartoon or a lab.  Some experiments take place in our writing.  Time and again writers struggle to make a scene or idea work with varying results.  Sometimes we get great results, other times we have to take a step back and have a think...


In any case, it's important to realize that no matter how many times you try to write a book, scene, character, or whatever... you learn from the experience.  The piece may not work out the way you had hoped but you gained knowledge, namely what didn't work.

Recently, in an effort to jump start "The Door" (which had been languishing for months in Limbo because I couldn't come up with a clear path of where to take the story next) I introduced one of up my upcoming characters from another novel which is part of my Para-Earth Series.  Specifically, I brought in Nathaniel Stewart, a human who entered one of the numerous Para-Earths and came back a vampyre.  I had planned on unleashing him on the world in his own book "The Vampyre Blogs - Coming Home".  I was able to justify doing this because I had written a six part short story over on my other site "The Vampyre Blogs - Private Edition" where I had Nathan meet Veronica, Julie, Roy and Jason in the past.  Having mixed the characters once before, it seemed only natural that Nathan could show up again in these people's lives.  

The results were very promising.  I began coming up with new scenes and situations that really got the storyline of "The Door" moving again.  Within a few weeks I'd added almost 40,000 words to what I'd already done and the story just kept on growing.  

And that's when I realized I'd made a mistake...


The story was getting TOO big.  By 80,000 words I still wasn't even halfway to reaching the climactic battle I had planned.  In fact, I couldn't even see the finish line looming anywhere on the horizon, period.  Something had to be done. 

I kicked around the idea of breaking the book up into two installments, but the story had gotten too convoluted to risk such a move.  I could also aim for one mega-book, but the story was getting too complex even for me to follow at times.  Something or someone had to go!

After looking over the piece and seeing where Nathan had come into play I began to ask myself, could another 'existing' character serve the same purpose?  Did Nathan have to be the one dealing with this scene?  And every time I asked myself this, the answer came back the same, "Yes, someone else could fill that role.  In fact, this would beef up that character's part in the book..."

So after having gone to so much trouble introducing Nathan into the story, I removed him.


Now some people would say that I sure wasted a lot of time going down this path.  But they'd be wrong.  As I said before, I only removed Nathan,  I didn't remove the more important scenes which I'd created for him that were moving the story forward.  By removing just the scenes where he was interacting with other characters, had a lot of dialogue, and other small bit parts, I wound up losing almost 20,000 words from the first draft.  And now the story is moving forward a good pace with a tighter plotline.  

Furthermore, I've freed up "The Vampyre Blogs - Coming Home" to be released this October.  Had I kept Nathan in "The Door" I would've had to hold back on release Nathan's book.  As it is, I have a good release schedule in place for both books.  

So while the experiment of bringing in Nathan didn't work out completely, it wasn't a total failure either.  And this is something we all have to learn as writers.  We have to try different avenues to get a story to work or get past a serious case of writer's block.  In some cases we may abandon a project entirely, but certain ideas, characters, or plotlines can be resurrected in a brand new piece.  It's all a matter of trial and error.  

Remember...


And sometimes those outcomes can lead to even better stories.

So until next time, take care and keep writing.