Absolute perfection. Though it’s now out-of-print and difficult to find, Shadow Play by Marvin Werlin is exemplary of the finest gothic romance has to offer. It interacts with a long history of classical and contemporary gothic plots, playfully poking fun at overdone tropes and—as a premise—showcasing full-on gothic obsession.
Here’s the setup: a damsel is assigned to help Max Deveraux, a famous movie producer, pen his memoirs. When she arrives, she discovers the producer’s mansion is a glorious ode to old movies, with a façade carefully crafted to look identical to Manderley. Inside is no different, with every room arranged in the likeness of iconic film set design.
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Movie novelizations rarely possess literary merit, and yet it’s common to see them sell at high prices on eBay. The Clue novelization by Michael McDowell (1950-1999) is particularly pricy, with bidding wars often exceeding $150. The high demand is likely a combination of the film’s enduring legacy and curiosity to see what a horror master like McDowell would do with a novelization. Add in the scarcity of supply and I understand why fans are constantly seeking it out. I certainly was.
When I at last got my hands on a copy, I decided to not just read it but literally transcribe every word. The archivist in me felt it was important to save a digital copy should the book ever disappear completely to the dusty shelves of rare book collectors. This transcription process was one of my most cherished reading experiences. There are few ways to be more intimate with a book than to retype every word. It requires slower reading and allows for discovery of technique you would not normally notice, such as stylized word repetition, clever usage of punctuation, and white space.
Read more “Michael McDowell – Clue (1985)”