Reviews, articles, rants & ramblings on the darker side of the media fringe

Biography: AUTHORS

Kermode Uncut: William Peter Blatty


R.I.P. William Peter Blatty

It’s been quite some time since I’ve bothered to write for the blog, partially through my busy work schedules, family commitments and in all honesty lack of interest…and I know I’m late as the news has been known for almost 12 hours now, however, it is with a heavy heart that I am compelled to write the following post.

friedkin_blatty_the_exorcist_1973William Peter Blatty, the author whose best-selling book The Exorcist was both a milestone in horror fiction and a turning point in his own career, died on Thursday in Bethesda, Md. He was 89. The cause was multiple myeloma, his wife, Julie Blatty, said.

The Exorcist, the story of a 12-year-old girl possessed by the Devil, was published in 1971 and sold more than 13 million copies. The movie version, made in 1973, starring Linda Blair and directed by Blatty’s longtime friend, William Friedkin, was a massive commercial success, breaking box-office records at many theaters and becoming the highest-grossing film to date for Warner Bros. studios. It earned Mr. Blatty, who wrote the screenplay, an Academy Award. (It was also the first horror movie nominated for the best-picture Oscar.)

The Exorcist marked a radical shift in Mr. Blatty’s career, which was already well established in another genre: He was one of Hollywood’s leading comedy writers having collaborated with the director Blake Edwards on the screenplays for four films, beginning in 1964 with A Shot in the Dark, the second movie (after The Pink Panther) starring Peter Sellers as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau and, in some critics’ view, the best. His other Edwards films were the comedy What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? (1966); the musical comedy-drama Darling Lili (1970); and Gunn (1967), based on the television detective series Peter Gunn. He also wrote the scripts for comedies starring Danny Kaye, Warren Beatty and Zero Mostel.

The phenomenal success of The Exorcist essentially signaled the end of Mr. Blatty’s comedy career, making him for all practical purposes the foremost writer in a new hybrid genre: theological horror. It was a mantle he was never entirely comfortable wearing.

When he declined his publisher’s entreaties for a sequel to The Exorcist and instead delivered an elegiac memoir about his mother, I’ll Tell Them I Remember You, published in 1973, Mr. Blatty felt the first cinch of the horror-writing straitjacket.

“My publisher took it because I wanted to do it,” he was quoted as saying in “Faces of Fear” (1985), a collection of interviews with horror writers by Douglas E. Winter. “But the bookstores were really hostile. The sad truth is that nobody wants me to write comedy,” he said in another interview. “ ‘The Exorcist’ not only ended that career; it expunged all memory of its existence.”

Mr. Blatty gave various accounts of what led him to try his hand at horror. He sometimes said the market for his comedy had waned in the late 1960s, and he was ready to move on. At other times, he said that his mother’s sudden death in 1967 had led to a renewed commitment to his Roman Catholic faith, and to a soul searching about life’s ultimate questions, including the presence of evil in the world.

In every account, he said the idea for The Exorcist was planted in 1949, when he was a student at the Jesuit-affiliated Georgetown University in Washington and read an account in The Washington Post of an exorcism under the headline “Priest Frees Mt. Rainier Boy Reported Held in Devil’s Grip.” The incident, widely discussed at the time among Georgetown students and faculty members, came back to Mr. Blatty 20 years later as the basis for a book about something not getting much press in the fractured, murky landscape of late-1960s America: the battle between Good and Evil.

He began writing what he thought would be a modest-selling thriller about a girl, a demon and a pair of Catholic priests. About halfway through, he later said, he sensed he had something more. “I knew it was going to be a success,” he told People magazine. “I couldn’t wait to finish it and become famous.”

William Peter Blatty was born on Jan. 7, 1928, in Manhattan to Peter and Mary Blatty, immigrants from Lebanon. His father left home when he was 6, and his mother supported the two of them by selling quince jelly on the streets, yielding a wobbly income that precipitated 28 changes of address during a childhood he once described as “comfortably destitute.”

The church figured prominently in his life. His mother was a churchgoing Catholic, and he was educated at prominent Jesuit-run schools that admitted him on full scholarships: the Brooklyn Preparatory School, now closed, where he was the 1946 class valedictorian, and Georgetown, from which he graduated in 1950.

After serving in the Air Force, Mr. Blatty worked for the United States Information Agency in Beirut. He returned to the United States for a public relations job in Los Angeles, where he hoped to begin his career as a writer.

He had already published his first book — a memoir, “Which Way to Mecca, Jack?” — but was still working in public relations in 1961 when he appeared as a contestant on a TV Game show hosted by Groucho Marx. He and a fellow contestant won $10,000. His winnings freed him to quit his day job and become a full-time writer. He never had a regular job again.

Mr. Blatty lived in Bethesda. In addition to his wife, the former Julie Witbrodt, whom he married in 1983, he is survived by their son, Paul William Blatty; three daughters, Christine Charles, Mary Joanne Blatty and Jennifer Blatty; and two sons, Michael and William Peter Jr., from earlier marriages; seven grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. Another son, Peter Vincent Blatty, died in 2006; his death was the subject of Mr. Blatty’s 2015 book, “Finding Peter.”

His work after The Exorcist included several more theologically themed works of horror, including The Ninth Configuration in 1978 (a reworking of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Killer Kane,” from 1966) — and Legion in 1983. Both books were made into movies, directed as well as written by Mr. Blatty; the film version of Legion was released in 1990 as The Exorcist III.

Mr. Blatty became reconciled over the years to the overwhelming dominance The Exorcist — most recently adapted into a 2016 TV mini-series — would have on his reputation as a writer. (He also maintained a sense of humor about it, as reflected in the name of a comic novel about Hollywood he published in 1996: “Demons Five, Exorcists Nothing.”) He knew, he told several interviewers, that it would be what people remembered him for. But one thing bothered him.

Many moviegoers, including the president of Warner Bros., had interpreted the movie’s climax — in which the younger of the two priests (played by Jason Miller) goads the demon into leaving the girl to take up residence inside him instead, then jumps to his death — as a win for the demon.

That was not how Mr. Blatty meant it. For years he pleaded his case to Mr. Friedkin, a longtime friend. In 2000, Mr. Friedkin relented, issuing a re-edited director’s cut of the film that made the triumph of Good over Evil more explicit.

With the same purpose in mind, Mr. Blatty rewrote parts of the original book, even adding a chapter, for a 40th-anniversary edition of The Exorcist published in 2011. It was essential to him, he told The Times-Picayune of New Orleans in 2000, that people understand the point of The Exorcist: “That God exists and the universe itself will have a happy ending.”


Mike Mignola

Mike-Mignola_HellboyMike Mignola was born September 16, 1960 in Berkeley, California and grew up in nearby Oakland. His fascination with ghosts and monsters began at an early age (he doesn’t remember why) and reading Dracula at age 13 introduced him to Victorian literature and folklore from which he has never recovered.

In 1982, hoping to find a way to draw monsters for a living, he moved to New York City and began working for Marvel Comics—First as a (very terrible, according to the man himself) inker and then as an artist on comics like Rocket Raccoon, Alpha Flight, and The Hulk. 

Hellboy_graphic-novelBy the late 80’s he had begun to develop his signature style (Thin lines, clunky shapes and lots of black) and moved onto higher profile commercial projects like Cosmic Odyssey (1988) and Gotham by Gaslight (1989) for DC Comics, and the not so commercial Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser (1990) for Marvel. In 1992 he drew the comic book adaptation of the film Bram Stoker’s Dracula for Topps Comics.

In 1993 Mike moved to Dark Horse comics and created Hellboy – A half-demon occult detective who may or may not be the Beast of the Apocalypse. While the first story line (Seed of Destruction 1994) was co-written by John Byrne, Mike has continued writing the series himself. There are, at this moment, 13 HELLBOY graphic novel collections (with more on the way), several spin-off titles (BPRD, Lobster Johnson, Abe Sapien and Witchfinder), 3 anthologies of prose stories, several novels, 2 animated films and 2 live action films staring Ron Perlman. Hellboy has earns numerous comic industry awards and is published in a great many countries.

mignola_bprd-hell-on-earthMike also created the award-winning comic book The Amazing Screw-On Head and has co-written two novels (Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire and Joe Golem and the Drowning City) with best selling author Christopher Golden.

Mike worked (very briefly) with Francis Ford Coppola on his film Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), was a production designer on the Disney film Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) and was visual consultant to director Guillermo del Toro on Blade II (2002), Hellboy (2004) and Hellboy 2: The Golden Army (2008).

Mignola_rocket_groot_cover_colorMike considers The Magician and the Snake the best thing he has ever done. Though scripted and drawn by him the 6 page story was actually plotted by his daughter Katie (at the time 7 years old) and earned both of them Eisner Awards for best short story.

He lives somewhere in Southern California with his wife, daughter, a lot of books and a cat. He is one of the few comic artists that I buy work unseen based on his participation (the others are Berni Wrightson, Liberatore and Eric Powell) I suggest you purchase some of his work immediately.


René Goscinny

Asterix_ReneGoscinny_BannerRené Goscinny (14 August 1926 – 5 November 1977) was an award-winning French comics editor and writer, who is best known for the comic-book Astérix, which he created with illustrator Albert Uderzo.

Goscinny was born in Paris in 1926, to a family of Jewish immigrants from Poland. The Gościnnys moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina, two years after René’s birth, as  Stanisław had obtained there. He spent a happy childhood in Buenos Aires, and studied in the French schools. He started drawing very early on, inspired by the illustrated stories which he enjoyed reading.

Goscinny_Match CoverIn December 1943, the year after he graduated from school, 17 year old Goscinny’s father died, forcing him to find a job. The next year, he got his first job, as an assistant accountant in a tire recovery factory, and when he was laid off the following year, he became a junior illustrator in an advertising agency.

Goscinny, along with his mother, left Argentina and went to New York in 1945, to join their uncle Boris. To avoid service in the US military, he travelled to France to join the French Army in 1946. He served at Aubagne, in the 141st Alpine Infantry Battalion. Promoted to senior corporal, he became the appointed illustrator of the regiment and drew illustrations and posters for the army.

The following year, he illustrated the book The Girl with The Eyes of Gold and returned to New York. By 1948, he started working in a small studio where he met and became friends with future Mad alumni Will Elder, Jack Davis and Harvey Kurtzman. Goscinny then became art director at Kunen Publishers where he wrote four books for children. Around this time he met Joseph Gillain, better known as Jijé, and Maurice de Bevere aka Morris, the cartoonist and author of the series Lucky Luke (which Goscinny would write from 1955 to his death in 1977).

Asterix_Goscinny and UderzoAlso, he met Georges Troisfontaines, chief of the World Press agency, who convinced Goscinny to return to Paris and work for his agency as the head of Paris office in 1951. Here, he met Albert Uderzo, with whom he started a longtime cooperation. They started out with some work for Bonnes Soirées, a female magazine for which Goscinny wrote Sylvie. Goscinny and Uderzo also launched the series Jehan Pistolet and Luc Junior in La Libre Junior.

In 1955, Goscinny, accompanied by Jean-Michel Charlier, Albert Uderzo and Jean Hébrad, founded the syndicate Edipress/Edifrance. The syndicate launched publications like Clairon for the factory union and Pistolin for a chocolate company. Goscinny and Uderzo cooperated on the series Bill Blanchartin Jeannot, Pistolet in Pistolin and Benjamin et Benjamine in the magazine of the same name. Under the pseudonym Agostini, Goscinny wrote Le Petit Nicolas for Jean-Jacques Sempé in Le Moustique and later Sud-Ouest and Pilote.

In 1956, Goscinny began a collaboration with the magazine Tintin. He worked on Signor Spaghetti, Monsieur TricPrudence Petitpas, Globul le Martien, AlphonseStrapontin and Modeste et Pompon. An early creation with Uderzo, Oumpah-pah, was also adapted for serial publication inTintin from 1958-1962. In addition, Goscinny appeared in the magazines Paris-Flirt (Lili Manequin with Will) and Vaillant (Boniface et Anatole with Jordom, Pipsi with Godard).

Asterix_GoscinnyIn 1959, the Édifrance/Édipresse syndicate started the comics magazine Pilote. Goscinny became one of the most productive writers for the magazine. In the magazine’s first issue, he launched his most famous creation Astérix, with Uderzo. This series was an instant hit and is now known worldwide. Goscinny also restarted the series Le Petit Nicolas and Jehan Pistolet, now called Jehan Soupolet. Goscinny also began Jacquot le Mousse and Tromblon et Bottaclou with Godard.

The magazine was bought out in 1960, and Goscinny became editor-in-chief. He also began new series like Les Divagations de Monsieur Sait-ToutLa Potachologie IllustréeLes Dingodossiers, and La Forêt de Chênebeau. He launched Calife Haroun El Poussah in Record, a series that was later continued in Pilote as Iznogoud.

Goscinny died at 51, in Paris of cardiac arrest on 5 November 1977, during a stress test at his doctor’s office. He was buried in the Jewish Cemetery of Nice. In accordance with his will, most of his money was transferred to the chief rabbinate of France.


Jay McInerney Jr.

Jay McInerney_book bannerJohn Barrett McInerney Jr. (born January 13, 1955) is an American author. His novels include Bright Lights Big City; Ransom; Story of My Life; Brightness Falls; and The Last of the Savages. He edited The Penguin Book of New American Voices, wrote the screenplay for the 1988 film adaptation of Bright Lights, Big City, and co-wrote the screenplay for the television film Gia, which starred Angelina Jolie. He was the wine columnist for House & Garden magazine, and his essays on wine have been collected in Bacchus & Me (2000) and A Hedonist in the Cellar (2006).

Jay McInerneyMcInerney was born in Hartford, Connecticut, studied writing with Raymond Carver, and once worked as a fact-checker at The New Yorker. He achieved fame with his first published novel Bright Lights, Big City. Published in 1984, the novel was unique at the time for its depiction of cocaine culture in second-person narrative. The title is taken from a 1961 blues song by Jimmy Reed. The novel established McInerney’s reputation as part of a new generation of writers. Labelled the ‘literary brat pack’ in a 1987 article in the Village Voice, McInerney, Bret Easton Ellis and Tama Janowitz were presented as the new face of literature: young, iconoclastic and fresh. Five novels followed in rapid succession: Ransom, Story of My Life, Brightness Falls, The Last of the Savages and Model Behavior.

Tama Janowitz_Jay McInerney_Bret Easton EllisAfter the success of Bright Lights, Big City, publishers started looking for similar works about young people in urban settings. Ellis’s Less Than Zero, published in 1985, was promoted as following McInerney’s example. McInerney, Ellis and Janowitz were based in New York City and their lives there were regular literary themes, chronicled by New York media.

Bright Lights, Big City_posterEllis used McInerney’s character, Alison Poole (Story of My Life), in his novels American Psycho and Glamorama. McInerney revealed that the character of Alison Poole is based upon his former girlfriend, Rielle Hunter, then known as Lisa Druck. He described the character as “cocaine addled,” and “sexually voracious” but also treated her with some sympathy.

Bright Lights Big City_promo stillMcInerney also has a cameo role in Ellis’s Lunar Park, attending the Halloween party Bret hosts at his house. It was later revealed that McInerney was not pleased with his representation in the novel. Throughout his career McInerney has struggled against the strong, almost indelible, image of himself as both the author and protagonist of Bright Lights, Big City.

His most recent novel is titled The Good Life, published in 2006, and since April 2010 he is a wine columnist for The Wall Street Journal. In 2009 he published a book of short stories which spanned his entire career entitled How It Ended which was named one of the 10 best books of the year by Janet Maslin of The New York Times. 


Charles Addams

Charles Addams_BannerCharles Samuel “Chas” Addams (January 7, 1912 – September 29, 1988) was an American cartoonist known for his darkly humorous and macabre characters. Some of the recurring characters, who became known as The Addams Family, became the basis for two live-action television series, two animated TV series, three motion pictures and a Broadway musical.

Charles 'Chas' AddamsCharles Samuel Addams was born in Westfield, New Jersey, the son of Grace and Charles Huy Addams. His father encouraged him to draw, and Addams did cartoons for the Westfield High School student literary magazine, Weathervane. He attended Colgate University in 1929 and 1930, and the University of Pennsylvania, where a fine-arts building on campus is named for him, in 1930 and 1931. In front of the building is a sculpture of the silhouettes of Addams Family characters. He then studied at the Grand Central School of Art in New York City in 1931 and 1932.

In 1933 he joined the layout department of True Detective magazine, where he had to retouch photos of corpses that appeared in the magazine’s stories to remove the blood from them. Addams complained that “A lot of those corpses were more interesting the way they were.”

Chas Addams_ArtworkHis first drawing in The New Yorker ran on February 6, 1932 (a sketch of a window washer), and his cartoons ran regularly in the magazine from 1938, when he drew the first instance of what came to be called the Addams Family, until his death. He also created a syndicated comic strip, Out of This World, which ran in 1956. There are many collections of his work, including Drawn and Quartered (1942) and Monster Rally (1950),

During World War II, Addams served at the Signal Corps Photographic Centre in New York, where he made animated training films for the U.S. Army. In late 1942, he met his first wife, Barbara Jean Day, who purportedly resembled the cartoon Morticia Addams. The marriage ended eight years later.

He married his second wife, Barbara Barb (Estelle B. Barb), in 1954. A practicing lawyer, she “combined Morticia-like looks with diabolical legal scheming,” by which she wound up controlling the “Addams Family” television and movie franchises and persuaded her husband to give away other legal rights. They divorced in 1956.

Chas Addams_MorticiaThe Addams Family television series began after David Levy, a television producer, approached Addams with an offer to create it with a little help from the humorist. All Addams had to do was give his characters names and more characteristics for the actors to use in portrayals. The series ran on ABC for two seasons, from 1964 to 1966.

Addams was “sociable and debonair,” and described by a biographer as “A well-dressed, courtly man with silvery back-combed hair and a gentle manner, he bore no resemblance to a fiend.” Figuratively a ladykiller, Addams squired celebrities such as Greta Garbo and Jacqueline Kennedy on social occasions.

Later, he married his third and last wife, Marilyn Matthews Miller, best known as “Tee” (1926–2002), in a pet cemetery. In 1985, the Addamses moved to Sagaponack, New York, where they named their estate “The Swamp.”

Chas Addams_The Addams FamilyAddams drew more than 1,300 cartoons over the course of his life. Those that did not appear in The New Yorker were often in Collier’s and TV Guide. In 1961, Addams received, from the Mystery Writers of America, a Special Edgar Award for his body of work. His cartoons appeared in books, calendars and other merchandising. Dear Dead Days (1959) is not a collection of his cartoons (although it reprints a few from previous collections); it is a scrapbook-like compendium of vintage images (and occasional pieces of text) that appealed to Addams’s sense of the grotesque, including Victorian woodcuts, vintage medicine-show advertisements and a boyhood photograph of Francesco Lentini, who had three legs.

In 1946, Addams met science-fiction writer Ray Bradbury after having drawn an illustration for Mademoiselle magazine’s publication of Bradbury’s short story “Homecoming”, the first in a series of tales chronicling a family of Illinois vampires named the Elliotts. The pair became friends and planned to collaborate on a book of the Elliott Family’s complete history with Bradbury writing and Addams providing the illustrations, but it never materialized. Bradbury’s stories about the “Elliott Family” were anthologized in From the Dust Returned in October 2001, with a connecting narrative and an explanation of his work with Addams, and Addams’ 1946 Mademoiselle illustration used for the book’s cover jacket. Although Addams’ own characters were well-established by the time of their initial encounter, in a 2001 interview Bradbury states that “(Addams) went his way and created the Addams Family and I went my own way and created my family in this book.”

Chas Addams_Halloween MugmatesIn the Alfred Hitchcock classic North by Northwest, Cary Grant references Charles Addams in the auction scene. Discovering Eve with Mr. Vandamm and Leonard, he says, “The three of you together. Now that’s a picture only Charles Addams could draw.” Hitchcock was a friend of Addams’, not surprising considering their shared macabre sense of humor, and owned two pieces of original Addams art.

Addams died September 29, 1988, at St. Clare’s Hospital and Health Centre in New York City, having suffered a heart attack while still in his car after parking it. An ambulance took him from his apartment to the hospital, where he died in the emergency room. As he had requested, a wake was held rather than a funeral; he had wished to be remembered as a “good cartoonist.” He was cremated, and his ashes were buried in the pet cemetery of his estate “The Swamp.”

For more extensive coverage visit the Charles Addams Foundation at www.charlesaddams.com


Shane Black

Shane Black_Movie BannerShane Black (born December 16 1961) is an American actor, screenwriter and film director. He wrote the late 1980’s and early 1990’s action movie hit Lethal Weapon and made his directorial debut with the film Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. 

Shane-Black-in-PredatorShane Black was born and grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the son of Paul and Patricia Ann Black. His father was in the printing business. His family moved to to Fullerton, California during his sophomore year of high school, there he attended Sunny Hills High School.

He studied theatre at UCLA and graduated in 1983 with the intent to become an actor. While looking for a way to make some income as he struggled to find acting roles, his friend Fred Dekker encouraged Black to try his hand at screenwriting. Remembering what he learned from a dramatic writing class he took in college, he borrowed a typewriter and went to work on his first script. At age 23, Black wrote his second screenplay, Lethal Weapon, in six weeks. His agent David Greenblatt sold the screenplay in three days.

shane-black-downey-jrBlack’s first acting role came in the Arnold Schwarzenegger film Predator; since then he has acted in a further five films and in one television episode for the TV series Dark Justice. The majority of Black’s career is in screenwriting – he has written 10 produced scripts. He wrote the cult classic, The Monster Squad (1987), and was a co-writer of Lethal Weapon 2 released in 1989. Since then he made substantially more money as a screenwriter. He received $1.75 million for his screenplay The Last Boy Scout released in 1991, and $1 million for Last Action Hero released in 1993. At the height of his career he was the highest paid screenwriter in the Hollywood movie industry, making $4 million for penning The Long Kiss Goodnight. 

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang_posterHe then had a long break, penning his next movie, and directorial debut, the excellent Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005). He has since written and is currently directing Iron Man 3, which is due out in Northern Summer 2013.

Black has admitted that many of the scripts he had written for other directors, although commanding a hefty sum, were rewritten to a point where they scarcely resembled his product. This is such a common experience in Hollywood that the Writers Guild of America, West conducts an arbitration system whereby the “multiple writers who contributed to a given screenplay contend for screen credit on the resulting film.” Black used the pseudonyms Harry Lime and Holly Martins, the names of two leading characters in the film The Third Man, for certain projects.

Iron Man 3_2013 posterBlack has a recognizable writing style where he often adds comments (referred to as “Shane Blackisms”) and jokes about the situations taking place in the story. He also occasionally directs comments at studio executives and certain script readers, sometimes to ensure that they are paying attention, and sometimes to just to ‘have a go’ at someone…

In 2009 he conducted an excellent interview with The Guardian newspaper in the UK where he gave a mini-masterclass in the art of writing action films. Read it HERE