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BY CEJ    



"Books are uniquely portable magic"
- Stephen King

     Wasn't it James M. Cain, author of DOUBLE INDEMNITY, MILDRED PIERCE and THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, who, when asked his opinion about what Hollywood had done to one of his books, said "They haven't done anything to my book; it's right there on the shelf; they paid me and that's the end of it"? As such there are books and there are movies, and (technically anyway) never the twain shall meet, right? But hey, be for real, they do, … and often. And on occasion the meeting can be like two cars speeding in such formatic opposite directions that it's perhaps inevitable that the one proverbial “unstoppable force” will eventually meet up with the equally clichéd “immovable object” and … .  Well, yeah, inertia (and literary adaptations) can sometimes be a stone cold bitch!

     But that's only in that Stephen King,  Marvel / D.C. kind of way which news outlets love to hype - y'know, where a film version of a bestseller ignites the social media rendition of a moonshine fued. There are, however, countless other book / film (let's call them) "crossovers" which share a "when mediums meet" synergy every bit as harmonious as any Sinatra / Fitzgerald duet. Cue "Night And Day".

     Some are essay books by authors normally associated with fiction and film. Ray Bradbury’s ZEN IN THE ART OF WRITING, Stephen King’s DANSE MACABRE and Elmore Leonard’s ON WRITING are some of our personal faves along those lines. There are novels by filmmakers (Spielberg and Roddenberry have a couple of those), and those where a filmmaker has lent his or her name to a publishing endeavor (remember those nifty Alfred Hitchcock paperback collections?). There are of course screenplay to book novelizations. You've got compendiums like Mark Scott Zicree’s legendary THE TWILIGHT ZONE COMPANION, biographies by and about Bob Hope, Ismail Merchant, David Lean and others; and numerous other volumes lining the shelves of libraries, book stores and film fans' homes which run the gamut of  topics from “Saturday Morning T.V”, and “The Pulps” to “Hollywood Goes To War”, "Classic Cars In Film" and everything in between.

      All of this to say it is that broad net which we cast into the book-going Salton Sea in this - our GullCottage literary review department "Portable Magic".  Next up …

     A look at Staci Layne Wilson and her new novel




by CEJ
(posted 6/7/18)

THE TRAGEDY MAN (Horror / Thriller)

Author: Staci Layne Wilson
Publisher: Excessive Nuance
Publication Date: May 31, 2018
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
Language: English
Text-to-Speech: Enabled  
X-Ray: Not Enabled  
Word Wise: Enabled
Lending: Enabled
Screen Reader: Supported  
Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled  
E-Book Vers. Read by Andy Garrison

GullCottage Rating
(**** on a scale of 1 - 5)


     Staci Layne Wilson is an award-winning filmmaker (CABARET OF THE DEAD, PSYCHO THERAPY, THE NIGHT PLAYS TRICKS) and an Amazon #1 bestselling author (with SO L.A. - A HOLLYWOOD MEMOIR, CITY OF DEVILS, 50 YEARS OF GHOST MOVIES and others to her credit). She wrote, produced and hosted three entertainment talk shows: THIS WEEK IN MOVIES, INSIDE HORROR, and DREAD CENTRAL LIVE. As a film historian and author she's been featured on the BBC, Bravo, Reelz Channel, MTV, CNN, Yahoo Movies and SyFy. She's the daughter of Don Wilson - founder of THE VENTURES rock band, and Nancy "Buni" Bacon - editor of the original CONFIDENTIAL MAGAZINE, book author, movie starlet and 60s era pin up fave. And she's currently in the process of completing a feature length documentary on THE VENTURES: a film which features all new interviews with a who's who of past and present music industry giants who sight the legendary instrumental rock ensemble as a major influence. 

     Her latest novel THE TRAGEDY MAN is available to order via Amazon @

     More on Staci Layne Wilson @   and via IMDB @

    Author Staci Layne Wilson  

THE TRAGEDY MAN - Release blurb:

     When his boss was murdered, Cary Bouchard’s life began.

     For years, timid Cary toiled away in a cold cubicle. He had dreams, but not the courage to pursue them. That is, until he lost his job and found his fortune in a most unexpected way.

     Nothing could have prepared Cary for how his life changes: love, money, and fame come to him all too easily. Soon he’s on TV, signing autographs for legions of fans, in love with a beautiful woman, and buying a Manhattan penthouse. Cary’s newfound confidence and cachet elevates him higher and higher.

     But what goes up, must come down. Someone is out for blood. When unspeakable horrors and death start to befall everyone around Cary, everything slips from his grasp. His girlfriend, his fame, and finally… his sanity. All gone. A broken man, Cary has nothing to lose as he faces complete oblivion head-on. He does everything he must do in order to uncover the truth about the murder that led to his great fortune. But even if he does, will anyone believe him? And can he even trust himself?


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     A gleefully disturbing literary grimoire, Staci Layne Wilson’s “meta modern” / classic horror hybrid THE TRAGEDY MAN emerges as a damned clever shell game thriller wherein three notions compete as "possibilities” in one of the most mind-f**kingly clever genre exercises since the grand days of 'ol Rod Serling’s THE TWILIGHT ZONE. When wannabe “Great American novelist” Cary Bouchard "slums it”, signs a contract with Old Scratch Press, then becomes an overnight sensation with the release of two Stephen King-esque novels, our first (obvious) assumption is that this is another Faustian / SCREWTAPE LETTERS-like supernatural thriller. But then there's mounting evidence of a more naturalistic PSYCHO II / JENNIFER 8 psychological game of cat & mouse wherein a crazed individual may be “gaslighting” our protagonist into appearing guilty of a series of sex murders. And the third possibility? - that of a Stevenson-inspired JEKYLL / HYDE scenario where Cary - as appalled as everyone else at these horrific murders going on - may somehow be mentally blocking out the fact that he himself is the twisted killer.

     They say everyone has at least one or two novels in them. And, ehhh, while we personally doubt that, for the sake of arguing let's say it may be true. But even if so, not everyone has a good novel in them. The ability to conjur up a nifty idea is a gift by which some may come naturally. And the ability to translate that idea into a logical story which holds one’s attention is an even greater gift. The ability, however, to refine that raw material into a gripping read only comes with years and (most importantly) more years of experience, as a good writer is both a painter and a plumber in equal measure - with the plumber half understanding the technical aspects of the craft, and therefore knowing how long a particular aspect of a tale can be stretched until it breaks; then deciding to end a sequence or chapter right before that “breaking point” in order to make the reader really want to turn the page to the next chapter more quickly. And hey, Ms. Wilson has been doing this "writing thing" for awhile. Long enough to be damned good at it.

  (2007 / rev. 2012)

     A quick side-step regarding that "painter / plumber" thing in craft. Ethan Hawke recently related a story to late night host Stephen Colbert about advice given to him by Shakespeare’s Globe Theater artistic director and actor Mark Rylance. While well regarded in his native England for some time, Rylance has recently become better known in America because of starring roles in films such as Steven Spielberg’s BRIDGE OF SPIES and READY PLAYER ONE, and Christopher Nolan’s DUNKIRK. Anyway ...

     Slated to perform  the “To Be or Not To Be” soliloquy from HAMLET before a crowded house, and his reading to be sandwiched between other readings by legends such as Vanessa Redgrave and Paul Scofield, while Hawke had performed HAMLET numerous times before he found his nerves this time getting the better of him. And that’s when Rylance offered the technical advice to lock eyes with the audience, say the first words of the soliloquy, “And now I am alone”, and then to just go silent. Rylance, having performed HAMLET many times himself as well said, “If you remain silent after ‘I am alone', in a second or two the audience will begin to laugh; and as soon as they do, launch right into ’To be or not to be, that is the question”; when you do that the audience will have missed the famous line because they were laughing, and then they’ll  immediately lock into and onto everything you say from that point on because they don’t want to miss anything else"

     Hawke followed the advice, and it became one of his most successful performances of that soliloquy ever. That's the “plumber” part of acting - a knowledge of audience reaction and actor / audience interaction which only comes with years of experience actually being before an audience and making mistakes, having some successes, and along the way refining what works best for you and a particular audience. Of course all of it will also be dependent on the particular material you are presenting, whether that material is being presented via stage, film or the TV medium, and other considerations as well.


      As such with THE TRAGEDY MAN, and how it interacts with its audience, while the audiobook version features a deceptively soothing read by actor Andy Garrison (“deceptive” because somewhere in that mellifluous voice one can detect a diabolical wink), I’ve always been more a fan of readable text, especially with thrillers as it’s often not just the story but the manner in which said story, via that text, is laid out on the page.

     When you read Stephen King or Michael Crichton, or you remember how weirded out you were upon first reading that "strange language" in Blatty's THE EXORCIST, ... only to discover within the next couple of chapters that it was English spoken in reverse!!! ... you understand how the "nuts and bolts" aspects of how an experienced author will slide words around the physical page accounts for a sizable percentage of a story's effectiveness. In this regard Wilson keeps things lively in THE TRAGEDY MAN by now and then altering her story’s “voice” via that textual presentation.

     This comes to control the pace at which the readers eye glides across and down the page, and it encourages the reader to take timed breaths and other programmed-in-by-the-writer dramatic intervals (kind of like Hawke’s HAMLET reading) which both sucks the audience into the literary “dream state” (if you will), and carries a great deal of emotional and psychological weight during that deceptively lulling seduction. It’s the literary version of the old saying where in music "the silences speak just as loudly as the notes".


     Now, if you were to ask Ms. Wilson if that kind of "sliding the words around the page to induce particular voices" was consciously planned out, we'd bet our rent money she'd respond along the lines of, "Ehhh, I was just trying to figure out the best way to draw the reader in and creep 'em out". And that's how it should be. As writers from Stephen King to William Goldman to Ernest Hemingway have opined, it's more a natural / second nature subconscious "practice of craft" a writer comes to learn to do out of habit over time than it is an immediately recognizable "I must remember to instill this" notion - the conscious realization of which would ultimately be picked up by the reader / audience as obvious, heavy-handed and deliberate. The whole thing is not unlike how a stand-up comic subconsciously and habitually comes to rely upon a certain degree of timing and instinct-born-of-longstanding-craft to get a joke across more effectively to a particular audience than would another comedian who doesn't use, or isn't aware of, those well-learned lessons of timing, give-and-take, and audience interaction. 

     A long and winding explanatory road there, yes, we realize. But a) as many of you are aware, that's kind of what we do around here at the Cottage - to not just say "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" on something, but to dig in and dissect and explain and understand why? And b) to illustrate how in THE TRAGEDY MAN we feel Wilson's opening chapters with Cary's dead-end job read like a prison inmate's journal, while the excerpts from his first Gothic success VENGEFUL GHOST captures the elegance of Shirley Jackson, and his murder thriller THE BRANDIE KILLER has the rat-tat-tat visceral-ness of Stephen King’s CUJO. These gentle shifts in tone and narrative voice are so smoothly executed by Ms. Wilson, we're certain the average reader or listener won’t even notice it on the surface. But they will sure as hell catch a certain “vibe” because of it. It's a very well done bit of literary interactivity.


     If there’s one minor quibble - and if we had our druthers (yeah, that’s a word you don’t hear everyday!), we’d prefer the appearance of a “mysterious visitor” near the beginning of the final Act to come just a little bit later as we feel it tipped the scales perhaps a bit too much and too soon towards one of those three “shell game” possibilities. But even this bit of “obviousness?“ seems wholly intentional and well planned as one of THE TRAGEDY MAN’s greatest strengths remains its insistence in making the horror thriller fun again, and not just humorous or pun laden. Many so-called thrillers of late - novels and films (Eli Roth, THE PURGE and SAW anyone?) - are effectively grim and creepy but no “fun“, whereas say THE EXORCIST, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE and even PSYCHO and Argento’s SUSPIRIA (none of them light or jokey by a damned sight) possess a rollercoaster glee in taking the audience on a macabre thrill ride.

     Rod Serling was very often criticized for this same kind of so-called “tipping the scale obviousness”, and so even was the late great Richard Matheson. So, if there’s going to be a “fault” in Ms. Wilson's narrative stars this time around, then sharing a so-called one with the likes of Serling and Matheson isn’t such a negative boat to be in. As said, that’s a more personal preference on our part, and not necessarily a bonafied criticism.

     From Shirley Jackson to Stephen King to Clive Barker (oh, and some of those authors get witty fictitious shout-outs in TRAGEDY MAN) great horror fiction has always managed to creep you the hell out and be fun in the process. Wilson’s novel does the same.

     All things considered THE TRAGEDY MAN  (think of it as equal parts Clive Barker and Nathaniel Hawthorne) is one of the most enjoyable reads we’ve experienced in quite some time.


Wilson (R) on the set of GOOD FAMILY TIMES (2015)

THE TRAGEDY MAN - Additional Reviews:

     Staci Layne Wilson has one hell of a book here. It’s a spine tingling story from the very start; exciting, erotic, chilling, horrifying, gruesome… but more than anything, it’s AWESOME.
This one I guarantee you will not be able to put down.

-- Ruby, Fallen Angels Review

     First-class storyteller Staci Layne Wilson has a style that is all her own: from her wicked tongue-and-cheek insider play on words and names to the heart she puts into the tale. She evokes the reader's compassion for her mild-mannered main character—from being publicly dissected by a talk show host, to his mounting terror at the long string of grisly murders that keep mysteriously finding their way to him.
It’s got an ending so tightly twisted that it fits perfectly!

-- TM Gray, Dark Wisdom Magazine

     Like some bizarre ménage à trois between Stephen King, Candace Bushnell, and Sarah Silverman, Wilson's fiction explores every aspect of the Forbidden. 

-- Peter Atkins, screenwriter of the HELLRAISER and WISHMASTER films, author of MORNINGSTAR

     Staci Layne Wilson is an expert at creating believable characters [and a] chilling scenario. 

-- James Newman, author of HOLY ROLLERS and THE WICKED

     Treat yourself to a masterfully written mind-tweak, haunting descriptions and an ending
that screams, 'Move over, Rod Serling! 

-- Cass Andre, author of EL CHUPACABRA

Based in Philadelphia, PA, screenwriter / director Craig Ellis Jamison is webmaster of the GULLCOTTAGE / SANDLOT online 
film magazine / library as well as creator / producer of its "CreaTiV.TV" network, YouTube "TUNEPLAY FILM MUSIC" channel, and THE MOVIE SNEAK PODCAST. He's dir. / writer / co-producer of the documentary feature 
STEVE VERTLIEB: THE MAN WHO "SAVED" THE MOVIES. And (to unwind) he recently began penning the 

A professed film music and jazz junkie, he's accused of being a workaholic, but more accurately feels he'll take a vacation when 
he's "earned" one. These days he's usually found chained to the desk in the wee hours - with a lovable pain-in-the-ass 
Lab / Shepered / Pitt mutt named Ripley at his side. - banging out web articles, scripts and a soon-to-be-published tome 
on the socio-political history of the science fiction, horror and fantasy film entitled 

Drop a line and shoot the sh*t with him on Facebook, or connect via

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