A story with a great premise that never quite takes flight.

A Book About a Film

Schultz’s (Jill, 2012, etc.) novel looks at the apocrypha surrounding an infamous lost film.

In this metafictional work, a fictionalized version of the author describes a film that he claims is real, although he acknowledges that many people believe it to be an urban legend. At the same time, he attempts to publish this account with a fictional publisher. If the plot sounds tangled, that’s sort of the point, as this novel is set in the underground world of rare, lost, and legendary independent films, where the smoke and mirrors surrounding a movie can prove more deceptive than those used to make it. The film, known as The Cornfield People, among other titles, is a low-budget neo-noir shot between 1999 and 2001. It follows a journalist at a paranormal publication investigating the eponymous secret society, which is willing to go to great lengths to protect their esoteric knowledge of life and death. The book opens with a foreword explaining that this book is actually the second edition of A Book About a Film, the first having been so explosive that the publisher was forced to redact it, due to an apparent shadowy conspiracy working to keep all knowledge of the film from the public. Even so, “there are still many out there who object to this version as well, as they believe what is reported in these texts are a threat to everyone,” says the foreword’s author. Schultz then offers an annotated, scene-by-scene account of the film, along with supplementary materials; the texts become progressively more sinister as the film’s plot begins to bleed into events of the “real” world. Overall, the novel’s conceit is rather ingenious. However, the author unfortunately gets in his own way when it comes to its execution. The story’s tension is undercut by its jocular tone, and the author isn’t enough of a skilled ventriloquist to successfully mimic the array of critics and film experts whose quotes populate the text. Additionally, the film at the center of book simply isn’t persuasive enough to support all the marginalia. Although this book is fun at times, readers will be left wishing that it had just a bit more polish.

A story with a great premise that never quite takes flight.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2015

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2015

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless...

SPLIT SECOND

Two defrocked Secret Service Agents investigate the assassination of one presidential candidate and the kidnapping of another.

Baldacci (The Christmas Train, 2002, etc.) sets out with two plot strands. The first begins when something distracts Secret Service Agent Sean King and during that “split second,” presidential candidate Clyde Ritter is shot dead. King takes out the killer, but that’s not enough to save his reputation with the Secret Service. He retires and goes on to do often tedious but nonetheless always lucrative work (much like a legal thriller such as this) at a law practice. Plot two begins eight years later when another Secret Service Agent, Michelle Maxwell, lets presidential candidate John Bruno out of her sight for a few minutes at a wake for one of his close associates. He goes missing. Now Maxwell, too, gets in dutch with the SS. Though separated by time, the cases are similar and leave several questions unanswered. What distracted King at the rally? Bruno had claimed his friend’s widow called him to the funeral home. The widow (one of the few characters here to have any life) says she never called Bruno. Who set him up? Who did a chambermaid at Ritter’s hotel blackmail? And who is the man in the Buick shadowing King’s and Maxwell’s every move? King is a handsome, rich divorce, Maxwell an attractive marathon runner. Will they join forces and find each other kind of, well, appealing? But of course. The two former agents traverse the countryside, spinning endless hypotheses before the onset, at last, of a jerrybuilt conclusion that begs credibility and offers few surprises.

Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless concoction.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-53089-1

Page Count: 406

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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