Tyler’s Third Act

By Mick Garris

Cemetery Dance Publications

Signed, Limited Edition, 2013, $35.00, 79pp 

Review by Wayne C. Rogers

Few fans, or people working in the horror genre, won’t recognize the name of Mick Garris when they read it in print or hear it spoken.  Mick has been involved in the horror genre for well over thirty years, making such theatrical films and television movies as Critters 2, Psycho IV, Sleepwalkers, The Stand, The Shining, Desperation and Bag of Bones, and producing the famous Showtime series, Masters of Horror.  Mick has done numerous interviews on the Internet website, Fear Net, with the greats of the Hollywood horror industry—Wes Craven, Joe Dante, Tobe Hooper, Sam Raimi, George Romero, John Carpenter, and Frank Darabont.  But that’s not enough for this unusually creative gentleman who has a strong passion for everything horror.  He also writes, having seen his fiction My Life in the Cinema, Development Hell, and Snow Shadows published in very attractive hardcover editions.

Cemetery Dance Publishers has just come out with Mick Garris’ second novella, Tyler’s Third Act, which is illustrated by William Stout.

Beware this novella is a short one, but that it packs a tremendous punch, the kind of punch that knocks the wind out of you.

I kid you not.

Tyler Sparrow is a Staff Writer and Producer of a reality show, Dating Daddy.  Don’t ask, and I won’t tell.  Though it’s not the work he wants to be doing, Tyler is finally making some decent money and living the good life in Hollywood.  No one knows who he is, but that doesn’t bother him, either.  Being anonymous is fine with him.

Then, the Writer’s Strike of 2007 through 2008 does him in.  When you’re not working for a year, you’d be surprised how fast your funds dwindle down to basically nothing.  After the strike is finally over, Tyler discovers his show has been cancelled.   He tries to find work as a writer in other areas of the industry, but there’s little to be had with all the changes taking place in La-La Land and the shift in the financial market.  Few projects are getting green lit unless a major star is attached.  Even the creators of successful series can’t seem to get anything off the ground.

Letting his home go for a fraction of what he paid for it, Tyler moves into a two-bedroom apartment overlooking the Los Angeles River in Sherman Oaks.  Of course, there are no rivers in Los Angeles…only cement trenches that overflow with water when it occasionally rains throughout the year.  It sounds cozier and prettier than it actually is.

Not knowing what else to do, Tyler decides to start a new video website with something rather unusual and unique for viewers to watch…something they’d be willing to shell out the big bucks to see, until the final gory conclusion is reached.

Frustrated and tired with life, Tyler plans on cutting off parts of his body (a finger at first) to entice the viewers to sign up and to show him the money.  The first segment goes even better than imagined as viewers flock to their computers to watch the out-of-work writer hack off his little finger.  The question then arises of what to cut off next.  Should it be a hand, an arm, or maybe a foot?  The viewers don’t care as long as it’s something interesting and bloody.

Of course, the money is now rolling in.  The hits to his website are mounting up in greater numbers each night.  Everything, however, suddenly takes a drastic turn as a woman unexpectedly enters Tyler’s life.  She understands exactly where he’s at because she’s been there too and has removed several parts of her own body.  Her job, as she sees it, is to help Tyler accomplish his goals and to make sure he doesn’t get cold feet under any circumstances.

Fortunately, Tyler Sparrow is game for anything.

Simply place the sharp saw in his hand and watch.

Now, Mick Garris is probably one of the nicest guys in the Hollywood industry.  He’s on par with the late Richard Matheson.  The man always has a kind word to say and is polite to the ninth degree.  Still, I have to wonder about what’s in the darker regions of his mind.  I mean only Mick could come up with a tale as macabre as this one, using the entertainment industry as a back drop.  It makes me want to count the fingers on both of his hands to see if he’s been up to no good.

You know, when I think of the infamous Norman Bates from the late Robert Bloch’s novel, Psycho, I don’t see the face of Anthony Perkins.  No, no, no.  I see the face of Mick Garris with a bright smile on his face and a twinkle of merriment in his eyes and a shovel sticking out from behind his back.  You see, only someone like Norman could actually come up with a story this visceral and gore-inducing.  A story that shocks you to core, yet leaves you feeling numb and drained.  Is it any wonder that Mick directed Anthony Perkins in Psycho IV?

All kidding aside, this unsettling novella is written with the style and grace and skill of a literary author from the thirties and forties.  Mick Garris is not only a writer, he’s a damn great writer who should be working on more books and stories.  He has the director’s eye for explicit detail and strong character development, knowing how to snag the reader in the first few pages of a story, digging that long-bladed knife in so deep that the reader won’t even think twice about running to the bathroom or making a sandwich.  No, sir, the reader is forced to continue with the story to its inexplicable conclusion.  Each sentence is structured with the precise words needed to convey the author’s primary thoughts, written with a sheer elegance that literally captures you off guard, considering the poignant subject matter.

Would I like to read another novella by Mick Garris?

Damn right I would.

Would I want to have dinner with him on a lonely Saturday night with the wind howling outside and his wife out doing other things?

Hell, no.

Would you like to know why?

I’ll tell you.

Behind that twinkle of merriment in his dark eyes is a subtle warning to be very cautious around this talented individual.  To do otherwise is to court disaster and to possibly find yourself cut up into little pieces like a plate full of chicken wings, being offered to the viewers on the Internet who have tuned in to have some rather ghastly fun.   No, sir, you’re not going to see my fingers and toes on that plate with the guests happily munching along.

About Russ Thompson

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