Cemetery Dance Publications
Ebook Edition, $4.99
Review by Wayne C. Rogers
Most fans of Mick Garris will primarily know him as a Hollywood director and screenwriter for the both the big screen and for television (Sleepwalkers, The Stand, The Shining, Riding the Bullet, Desperation, and now Bag of Bones). What’s generally not known is that Mr. Garris is also a novelist and a short story writer (My Life in the Cinema). His first novel, Development Hell, was published in 2006 by Cemetery Dance Publications in both a signed limited edition and a trade hardcover. The trade hardcover is not difficult to find with a little searching, especially at a reasonable price. The e-book is now up for sale at Cemetery Dance Publications.
Okay, but what kind of fiction writer is Mick?
Like Lady Hollywood herself, Mick Garris enjoys using a multitude of heavily-laced adjectives, adverbs, and metaphors to describe the city of dreams, fame, and fortune in all of its grant flamboyance, sparkling beauty, and vile ugliness. To say that Development Hell is a Hollywood novel is an understatement. This is a book designed to blow you away with an insider’s satirical look at the city of angels (and stars). It’s one man’s journey through the light and darkness of Hollywood with bits of horror thrown in, lots and lots of hot sex, and a strong, hard look at the side of a town most people never see. Strange as it may seem, there’s also a spiritual quality about this novel I think was entirely unintentional. I mean that in a good way because some of the things the protagonist goes through will have you thinking about the afterlife in new and unusual ways.
The story deals with a new hotshot director in tinsel town (we never know his actual name) who’s first movie flopped because of studio interference, but now has a new idea for a film which involves a mutant female baby that a Mexican lady leaves him with (think of the movie, It’s Alive). One thing quickly leads to another and the film about the baby comes to halt, followed by a rather perverted bonding between the child and director. If that isn’t enough, the lead character soon learns that for a price, he can be with the film goddess of his dreams, Jean Harlow. She’s still alive and hasn’t aged a bit, though there’s something slightly off kilter about her and the scars along her neck.
Then, through a series of strange experiences, the director creates his film masterpiece by committing suicide before the camera, thinking it will finally be the end of his woes and put his name on the map, but it’s really just the beginning. God, or the Universe, has a rather bizarre sense of humor, and a person doesn’t escape their karma by setting fire to their bodies. No, it just doesn’t work that way. The spirit of the director still has a lot to learn, and this will be forced upon him as he takes over the bodies of different people in the film industry, hoping to still make it as a top director. The thing is no one really cares. If there’s not a huge Box Office gross attached, it’s nothing but dust in the wind, empty of promise and rewards and recognition. In the end, what goes around comes around, and karma must fulfill its unique destiny whether the spirit wants it or not.
Development Hell is certainly a one-of-a-kind novel. I have never read anything like it before, and I don’t think anyone else has, either. The author goes all out with this story, taking each twist and turn to the extreme and never letting up. I found myself shocked, repulsed, surprised, turned on, questioning the meaning of life, laughing so hard that I sprayed Diet Coke over everyone sitting across from me at the lunch table, and always curious as to what would happened next. Mick knows how to tell a story that’s in your face and isn’t afraid to get down and dirty with the descriptions. He will delight and horrify you in the same sentence, but never bore you.
While not for everyone, I found this novel about Hollywood and one’s man quest for acceptance and acknowledgment to be riveting, compelling, and humorous. I mean this very talented author has one warped sense of humor and you simply can’t stop yourself from laughing at loud at the some of the scenes in the novel. And, if you’re a reader who enjoys a lot of gratuitous sex between men and women, men and men, women and women, and perverted little creatures hungry for love, then you’ll want to get a copy of this book.
Thankfully, this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Mick Garris as a novelist. He’s busily working on his next book, which I’m sure will be as life-changing as his first one. This is a writer who can do it all, and he pulls no punches in his storytelling. Wild, exciting, and over-the-top, Development Hell is a novel you don’t want to miss.