WHITE HOT THRILLS!

PITCH BLACK DEEDS!

NEW! The Noir-inspired MURDER IN MONTAGUE FALLS, now available on Amazon for Kindle and print, features my occult teen novella THE DEVIL'S DELINQUENTS, as well as stories by Russ Colchamiro and Patrick Thomas.

And check out my "twisted" Dark Fiction short story collection EVERYONE IS A MOON, my Dark Comedy novel DEAD SIZE ("a fantastic blend of detective story, dark comedy, and waking daydream”), and my "fascinating" and "riveting" True Crime-inspired Young Adult novella UGLYVILLE.  

Also available, Dark Park Publishing’s “amazing” Sci-Fi Horror anthology WHAT HAS TWO HEADS, TEN EYES, AND TERRIFYING TABLE MANNERS?, edited by yours truly.

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The Details in THE DEVIL’S DELINQUENTS

Posted By on November 28, 2019

I grew up on Long Island, New York in the 1980s/90s, a time when—despite all the picture-perfect middle-class suburban trappings—there was no shortage of salacious scandals and horrifying crimes being committed.

I’d heard about the infamous Northport cult killing a few years before reading the popular book based on the incident, SAY YOU LOVE SATAN. On June 19, 1984, three teens were involved in the murder of their friend while high on hallucinogenic drugs. The victim was stabbed repeatedly as the main perpetrator purportedly commanded him to “Say you love Satan.”

The murder sparked national news coverage because of the gruesome torture of the victim and the alleged occult aspects. The crime also happened during a period when there was growing public concern over the influence on young people from Satanic references in heavy metal music. Adding fuel to this fire was the fact the Northport killer was wearing an AC/DC t-shirt when arrested, and was a fan of such occult-themed bands as Judas Priest and Black Sabbath.

A few years later I watched PARADISE LOST: THE CHILD MURDERS AT ROBIN HOOD HILLS, a documentary about the West Memphis Three, another trio of teens accused of brutal murder, in this case of three young boys, in May 1993. During the trial, the prosecution contended the teens killed the children as part of a Satanic ritual, continuing the so-called Satanic Panic of the era.

I noticed similarities between the Northport and West Memphis murders. Most glaringly, the teens who carried out these heinous acts—they were, simply put, pretty dumb. The ringleader in each case seemed to have a marginally higher intellect than his accomplices, though he was in near equal degree more arrogant, if not delusional. His friends were clearly several notches down on the IQ scale. 

This is what had inspired me to pen a screenplay about three teenaged boys who plan to sacrifice someone in honor of the devil. They are less than competent in the execution of said plan, and the whole debacle becomes a tragicomedy of errors. This script, titled BOYS’ RITES, ultimately was never made into a film, but it did generate some buzz while being shopped around Hollywood.

When author (and old high school friend) Russ Colchamiro asked me to contribute a story for the Noir-inspired anthology MURDER IN MONTAGUE FALLS, I immediately thought of BOYS’ RITES. While it was not written as a Noir piece, I believed I could shape it into one à la NIGHTMARE ALLEY or SUNSET BOULEVARD. So I adapted the screenplay into a novella, changing one of the three teens—the ringleader—into a girl, transforming the character into something of a femme fatale.

And that’s how THE DEVIL’S DELINQUENTS was born (not of a jackal as previously claimed), indeed emulating many of the “dark film” motifs of classic Noir.

THE DEVIL’S DELINQUENTS appears in the noir-inspired anthology MURDER IN MONTAGUE FALLS, now available on Amazon in both print and Kindle editions.

Recycled Writing

Posted By on March 11, 2019

After finishing my latest novella, part of an anthology of teen-led Noir stories to be published later this year, I realized it is the final work that I have adapted from one of my original, unproduced screenplays.

In another lifetime, I made a modest living penning for-hire scripts. In between jobs I wrote several feature-length scripts on spec, none of which were ever made into a film. Instead of letting them exist in perpetual limbo, I opted to give them another chance at life as prose works.

Here are all the stories that I’ve adapted from my screenplays:

DEAD SIZE (original script title LAST STAND OF THE LILLIES)

The narrative for this Dark Fiction novel follows the script pretty closely, with a couple of new subplots woven in. Different drafts of the script had three alternate endings. I chose the 1st draft version for the book. It’s the least commercial of the endings, but I always felt it fit the story best in both tone and theme.

UGLYVILLE

The screenplay for this Noir-inspired story contained more fantasy elements to cinematically represent the delusional mind of its 15-year-old female protagonist. The novella is written in diary form from her POV. The first person approach allowed me to present the reader almost exclusively with her skewed way of thinking. I think it’s a more immersive experience than a film would have been.

SUITABLE FOR FRAMING (excerpted from script CLEAN LIVING)

One of the very first screenplays I wrote, way back in high school(!), was an ensemble piece of alternating stories set in New York City. One of those became the basis for this short story, a dark meditation on art. It’s probably my favorite work of writing in terms of how effectively narrative and theme came together.  

THE BOY WHO CRIED ALIEN (excerpted from script HAILING SULLIVAN)

A few years ago, I wrote an offbeat Sci-Fi spec script for a production company, about a man who exposes America’s (space) alien research program. While the film never launched, I was able to salvage a portion of the screenplay—an 8-page flashback sequence—to fashion this short story.

THE LORD IS MY ROCKET

I derived this short story from the first and second acts of the feature screenplay of the same title. Of all my spec scripts, this one got the most “buzz” from Hollywood folk… albeit for a substantially revised version that transformed it from a dark comedy into a mainstream one. Since neither ultimately sold, I (of course) adapted the darker version.

THE DEVIL’S DELINQUENTS (original script title BOYS’ RITES)

This early screenplay had once been optioned by a small prodco, but once again was never made into a movie. The story of 90s “Satanic Panic” is perhaps the most faithful adaptation of one of my scripts, its sole significant change being a major male character in the screenplay becoming a femme fatale in the novella, necessitating the new title.

WTF Am I Reading?

Posted By on June 22, 2018

EVERYONE IS A MOON is my definitive collection of short stories (at least, until I write a bunch more). While I’ve categorized the book as Dark Fiction as a whole, I don’t think that label really does it justice. The pieces are eclectic, ranging from absurdist dark comedy to psychological sci-fi to full-throttle horror. Since I like my readers to have an inkling of what they’re getting themselves into, here are TV Guide-worthy descriptions of each included tale:

The Good Touch — This whimsical, irreverent story spawned from my newfound fascination with trailer parks, faith healers, and Jesus making His comeback on burnt slices of toast.

Cutting Remarks — My stab (or rather, bludgeon) at an Alfred Hitchcock Presents type of tale, one specifically inspired by a Roald Dahl short story. There is nothing a married couple can’t reconcile if they work it out together.

The Boy Who Cried Alien — I’ve always been a fan of ’50s Sci-Fi alien/monster movies (see my anthology WHAT HAS TWO HEADS, TENS EYES, AND TERRIFYING TABLE MANNERS?). This is an homage to those films, and the people who watch too many of them.

Pet — Here is your typical “boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy keeps girl’s pet” Science Fiction story. It was inspired by the sad end of classic Hollywood movie actress Marie Prevost.

In Memoriam the Ostrich — Hypocrisy is one of my favorite themes. And cannibalism. What does the Bible say about cannibalism? Turns out, pretty much nothing. Which does not make the pastor’s job in this piece easy.

The Mortality Machine — A love story of sorts that poses the question: if you say you’ll love somebody forever, can you mean it literally? If you are a genius, maybe there’s a way.

The Lord Is My Rocket — This is my satirical poke at religious zealotry, wherein the devout Christian caregiver of a developmentally disabled man vows to save his soul by taking him to a unique monastery. Moral: you can’t save everyone.

The Beholder — The first draft of this character study about a man who finds beauty in everything he encounters was written back when I was in high school. Though edited substantially since then, all versions have retained its original theme.

Mr. Gregori — In this Horror tale, a man cursed by a demon becomes infatuated with the new tenant of his apartment. Maybe she would love him in return… if only she could see, hear, or feel him.

FYVP — This is a nasty little teeth-clencher about body modification and those who get a thrill out of it, made a bit classier by the literary reference at its climax.

The Dark at the Deep End — Loosely (very loosely) based on some of my own teenage experiences, this conte cruel (“cruel tale”) chronicles a budding serial killer before he acts on his sadistic impulses. 

Suitable for Framing — With a plot salvaged from one of my earliest unproduced screenplays, it is a commentary on art, artists, and their fans. How much you enjoy this story perhaps says something about what kind of fan you are. Not judging; just putting it out there.

10 Books that Burrowed into My Brain

Posted By on April 29, 2017


I read a lot of books, but frankly I forget about most not long after I’ve finished them. While I may well have enjoyed the reads, only a select few titles have managed to stick with me to this day, years later. Below is my Top Ten list of these. They’re not all classics, and I wouldn’t recommend them all to everyone. However, they’re the ones I remember — their plots, characters, even lines of dialogue or prose. Your mileage may vary, but I think they’re at least worth a test drive.

Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon
“Zephyr, Alabama, is an idyllic hometown for eleven-year-old Cory Mackenson — a place where monsters swim the river deep and friends are forever. Then, one cold spring morning, Cory and his father witness a car plunge into a lake — and a desperate rescue attempt brings his father face-to-face with a terrible, haunting vision of death. As Cory struggles to understand his father’s pain, his eyes are slowly opened to the forces of good and evil that surround him. From an ancient mystic who can hear the dead and bewitch the living, to a violent clan of moonshiners, Cory must confront the secrets that hide in the shadows of his hometown — for his father’s sanity and his own life hang in the balance.”

Callisto by Torsten Krol
“Odell Deefus, who’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, has one goal: to ‘try my hardest to be a good soldier against the mad dog Islamites.’ But while driving to an army enlistment office in Callisto, Kansas, his ’78 Chevy breaks down on the side of a country road, and it’s only the beginning of his troubles. When he accepts a local’s offer of shelter until the car is repaired, things go from bad to worse — worse as in murder, drug dealers, tenacious televangelists… and finding himself a prime target of the FBI, which thinks he’s a member of a terrorist sleeper cell. And none of it bodes well for his unrequited crush on Condoleezza Rice. But fear, rash judgments, and extreme reactions are simply the norm in a post-9/11 world. Odell will just have to deal with it.”

Cold Skin by Albert Sanchez Pinol
“Shortly after World War I, a troubled man accepts a solitary assignment as a ‘weather official’ on a tiny, remote island on the edges of the Antarctic. When he arrives, the predecessor he is meant to replace is missing and a deeply disturbed stranger is barricaded in a heavily fortified lighthouse. At first adversaries, the two find that their tenuous partnership may be the only way they survive the unspeakably horrific reptilian creatures that ravage the island at night, attacking the lighthouse in their organized effort to find warm-blooded food. Armed with a battery of ammunition and explosives, the weather official and his new ally must confront their increasingly murderous mentality, and, when the possibility of a kind of truce presents itself, decide what kind of island they will inhabit.”

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
“Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow. This is the improbable story of Christopher’s quest to investigate the suspicious death of a neighborhood dog.”

The Drive-In by Joe R. Lansdale
“When a group of friends decided to spend a day at the world’s largest Drive-In theater horror fest, they expected to see tons of bloody murders, rampaging madmen, and mayhem — but only on the screen. As a mysterious force traps all the patrons inside the Drive-In, the worst in humanity comes out.”

Island by Richard Laymon
“When eight people go on a cruise in the Bahamas, they plan to swim, sunbathe and relax. Getting shipwrecked is definitely not in the script. But after the yacht blows up they’re stranded on a deserted island, and there’s a maniac on the loose.”

Lamb by Christopher Moore
“The birth of Jesus has been well chronicled, as have his glorious teachings, acts, and divine sacrifice after his thirtieth birthday. But no one knows about the early life of the Son of God, the missing years — except Biff, the Messiah’s best bud, who has been resurrected to tell the story. Verily, the story Biff has to tell is a miraculous one, filled with remarkable journeys, magic, healings, kung fu, corpse reanimations, demons, and hot babes. Even the considerable wiles and devotion of the Savior’s pal may not be enough to divert Joshua from his tragic destiny. But there’s no one who loves Josh more — except maybe ‘Maggie,’ Mary of Magdala — and Biff isn’t about to let his extraordinary pal suffer and ascend without a fight.”

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
“Awe and exhilaration — along with heartbreak and mordant wit — abound in Lolita, Nabokov’s most famous and controversial novel, which tells the story of the aging Humbert Humbert’s obsessive, devouring, and doomed passion for the nymphet Dolores Haze. Lolita is also the story of a hypercivilized European colliding with the cheerful barbarism of postwar America. Most of all, it is a meditation on love — love as outrage and hallucination, madness and transformation.”

The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh
“Following the death of a friend, the poet and pets’ mortician Dennis Barlow finds himself entering the artificial Hollywood paradise of the Whispering Glades Memorial Park. Within its golden gates, death, American-style, is wrapped up and sold like a package holiday, and Dennis gets drawn into a bizarre love triangle with Aimée Thanatogenos, a naïve Californian corpse beautician, and Mr. Joyboy, a master of the embalmer’s art. Waugh’s dark and savage satire on the Anglo-American cultural divide depicts a world where reputation, love, and death cost a very great deal.”

Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban
“Set in a remote future in a post-nuclear holocaust England (Inland), Hoban has imagined a humanity regressed to an iron-age, semi-literate state — and invented a language to represent it. Riddley is at once the Huck Finn and the Stephen Dedalus of his culture: rebel, change agent, and artist.”

Revisiting “VENT!: The Online Magazine for Disgruntled Filmmakers” (Part 2)

Posted By on July 3, 2016

A significant element of VENT!’s raison d’être (see previous post) was demonstrating that even the most lauded filmmakers had difficult, even doubtful beginnings. Below are a few true origin stories I had shared on the website about some famous auteurs. Whether you’re a filmmaker, author, musician, or other artist, there’s always hope if you’re resourceful and persistent. (Being talented probably helps too.)

  • Francis Ford Coppola, the genius behind such cinema classics as The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, began his filmmaking career a little less illustriously. In 1961, as a UCLA film student, 22-year-old Coppola wrote, produced and directed a nudie short called “The Peeper” (inspired by Russ Meyer’s The Immoral Mr. Teas). He combined it with a nudie western (made by others), plus some additional footage. The result was the 66-minute Tonight For Sure (original title: Wide Open Spaces). Coppola also shot new scenes for the nudie feature Playgirls and the Bellboy before going on to work for B-movie mogul Roger Corman.
  • Controversy monger and hyperkinetic filmmaker Oliver Stone began his auspicious career in the industry working for schlockmeisters Troma Entertainment (The Toxic Avenger, Surf Nazis Must Die, Class of Nuke ‘Em High), first as an actor in the G-rated(!) The Battle of Love’s Return (1971), and then as associate producer a year later on the initially X-rated erotic thriller Sugar Cookies.
  • Guerilla moviemaker turned Hollywood mover-shaker Robert Rodriguez partially financed his early films, including El Mariachi, by volunteering as a “lab rat” for medical experiments. One week-long session to test a speed healing drug required he endure biopsies in which small chunks of flesh were removed from both his arms.
  • Before moving to Austin, Texas to make his hit debut feature Slacker, Richard Linklater left school to work hard labor on an offshore oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • In lieu of film school, punch-happy film geek Quentin Tarantino learned his craft through working at a video store. His first job, providing him with an education of a somewhat different sort, was at a porno theater called the Pussycat Lounge.
  • Alan Rudolph, protégé of auteur Robert Altman and later director of such cryptically giddy films as Choose Me and Trouble in Mind, started off as assistant director on The Brady Bunch TV series. Among the very first projects on which he had honed his filmmaking talents (under a pseudonym) was the twisted 1973 horror feature Barn of the Naked Dead. The “plot” includes kidnapped women in chains, a psycho dressed as a ringmaster with a whip, a long-haired mutant from an H-bomb test site, as well as ridiculous dialogue, terrible sound, and bad editing.
  • Celebrated filmmaker/humorist Woody Allen was not quite the exemplary student. Before he was bounced out of New York University after having been enrolled for a total of only two semesters, he had never earned more than a grade of C- in motion picture production and an F in English. He admits to having skipped half of his classes (although he did attend the film screenings regularly). One dean told Woody he was “not good college material” and a professor of his declared he had no future in film. Years later, in lieu of academic honors and a college diploma, Allen has won major critical acclaim and three Academy Awards (and many nominations) for his work.