Book Reviews

Roger Corman: An Unauthorized Life
By Beverly Gray
Thunder's Mouth Press, 2004
ISBN: 1560255552
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Rating: 5 of 5

A New Biography
About Blood-Sucking Vampires, Flesh-Eating Cockroaches, Driller Killers and, Of Course, Roger Corman

Reviewed by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, award-winning author of This is the Place and Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered

Those who love all things Hollywood, Kitsch and Nostalgic are going to love Beverly Gray's biography of Roger Corman. She has a knack for anecdote and has chosen a subject well suited to her talents. It is a fun book. Fascinating. Even sorta educational if you happen to collect trivia. Here are some examples:

Did you know that, in addition to 400 feature films, Corman adapted eight of Edgar Allen Poe's stories to the screen?

That he mentored the likes of Frances Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese?

That he tutored Jack Nicholson and Sylvester Stallone?

That he used the royal "we" along with a vibrant voice that mesmerized his fans and enemies alike?

Gray's biography--fun as it is-- is more than a story about a man who is arguably one of Hollywood's most idiosyncratic moguls. It is a chronicle that parallels that of The Great Depression, World War II, the growth of the film industry and Los Angeles itself. We meet again celebrities we haven't thought about in years like the adorable dimpled Jon Davison, the memorable Vincent Price and even run across pop culture icons like Frank Gorshin.

Occasionally Roger Corman is burdened with glitz-town detail that only a dedicated film buff might adore but these moments are rare. Like a super hero, Corman--now 75 and still going--is resilient because he is not a cookie-cutter character. The same can be said for screenwriter cum UCLA instructor and journalist Beverly Gray. The two seem admirably paired in that way. Gray uses her multi-experiences and talents to tell the story of a man of many parts.

Editor's Note: Aside from making films like "Little Shop of Horrors" (which featured the first on screen look at Jack Nicholson) in 5 days on next to no money, Roger Corman also brought quality films to the United States, such as Ingmar Bergman's classic "Cries and Whispers" which was released by Corman's New World Pictures back in the 1980s. Corman anticipated the death of film so instead of calling his company New World Films he picked the generic "Pictures" which he felt would stand the test of time...

The Magic Hour
By James Crowley

Cedar Fort, Inc., 2003
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 1555177131
Young Adults of all ages
Contact Reviewer:
Rating: 5 of 5

Halloween and the Hereafter
Provide Unusual Premise for Novel

Reviewed by Carolyn Howard-Johnson, award-winning author of This is the Place and Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered

Halloween and Mexico's Day of the Dead celebration tend to skew what death means for many who view it as a new beginning. At the same time, what fun all this stuff is! My grandson calls anything spooky “oooo-eee, oooheee” and likens it all to Stephen King.

Now he may have a new author connection. James Crowley has written a novel about the mysterious bond shared by identical twins. The acknowledgment of this extraordinary link and ability to communicate without verbalizing has been recognized and admired through virtually all cultures through all times, is perhaps even older than our Halloween traditions that go back at least to the Celts and maybe beyond. The Magic Hour explores the possibility that this bond between birth mates may remain unbroken even in death.

Crowley presents a compelling story of a nine-year-old boy who discovers he can still communicate with his identical twin even after his brother has passed away. This same young boy learns of the ancient practices surrounding the Halloween tradition and embarks on a quest to find out if the spirits of the deceased really do return to visit their loved ones on the night of All Hallow's Eve.

The author draws upon various ancient beliefs, superstitions and folk tales to give this work depth and texture. Using the old northern European folk tale The Erlking adeptly adapted to the 21st Century casts a broad shadow of fear over the young minds in the story and becomes a catalyst that leads to key plot turns.

As Dickensesque as this book is, it is much more than a mere moral fable. Crowley weaves the themes of love, "brother, parental, romantic" together, embroiders these with his own illustrations and they become a work of imagination with an unexpected ending...Boo!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Author
THIS IS THE PLACE, has won eight awards
and HARKENING has won three.
Watch for Carolyn's new

to be released in August at
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