Well, dear readers, 2020 has been a helluva year…so why not celebrate by gifting yourself or a loved one with great literature at a deep discount this holiday season?
Check out the special sale prices on my books from now until the end of the year and get lost in some great stories!
#AndThenWeVanish – my acclaimed short story collection of literary fiction with a twist
I love a shocking ending that gives you a jolt where you exclaim, “I didn’t see that coming!” It’s rare to find such depth of connection to the characters in short stories. – Gina Rae Mitchell, book blogger
We never learn the first name of the second Mrs. DeWinter. Yet we are supposed to enter this story through her. Plucked from her obscurity as a family-less traveling companion to a rich eccentric by the widowed Maxim DeWinter, our young (and seemingly innocent) protagonist is thrust into high society and the mystery surrounding the first Mrs. DeWinter’s death.
It is the first Mrs. DeWinter, of the film’s title, who haunts the film and the rest of the characters, but not in the traditional ghostly way. Rebecca is a classic tale known to many by way of the source novel from Daphne Du Maurier and the iconic Oscar-winning Hitchcock film from the 1940s.
It would be unfair to judge this new adaptation from Ben Wheatley against the Hitchcock masterpiece, so applying a modern lens as a viewer helps. Through learning of Rebecca’s transgressions and those caught up in her drama, the story morphs into another “loathsome rich people doing horrible things to each other” psychological thriller. It’s not that different from Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl in that regard, except for its throwback gothic melodrama vibe, which is oddly muted here by mostly bright and cheery cinematography of naturally gorgeous environs.
There are a lot of odd things about the film: the sometimes-shoddy editing, the Clint Mansell score that starts out poorly but evolves into something good as the film progresses through the suspenseful notes, Armie Hammer’s stilted performance, Kristin Scott Thomas’ subdued turn as the conniving Mrs. Danvers, the flat dialogue.
But there are plenty of good things here as well. Lily James, against my modest expectations, does a nice job with the second Mrs. DeWinter’s arc from meek outsider to tiger-wife, though that coda at the end is rather lame. The film is beautiful to look at with its lush sets, costumes, and natural scenery…that sumptuous Monte Carlo coastline, those jagged and brutal British cliffs. Individually there are some great shots. And the secondary characters are played with the appropriate melodramatic style that seesaws from British stiff-upper lip to over-the-top cheeky.
This 2020 version of Rebecca is hardly the train wreck some might expect. It’s leagues ahead of the painfully dreadful remakes of Psycho and Brighton Rock, but it does still leave you feeling, “Why?”
Well, if you go in not expecting much, it’s still an entertaining way to pass two hours in our entertainment starved pandemic era.
The picture above was taken a few years ago by my wife when we made a visit to the American Writers Museum in Chicago. It’s kinda perfect…a “writer in words” as she described it…even down to the last detail where the name of Walt Whitman meets the top of my chest (his grave sits within walking distance of where we currently live). It popped in my FB memories on the very day I was responding to an interview request and it seemed perfect again to accompany my response.
The result was a virtual sit-down with Author Ivy Ngeow (whose novel Overboard is fantastic, by the way) at her cleverly titled blog Write Ngeow to discuss books, movies, writing, and life.
It’s been nearly two years since Then Came Darkness was published, but reviews still come in, and a sometimes they still floor me.
Laura Smith, an author and blogger, said this recently:
Then Came Darkness is a brilliant historical thriller that compares to stories like East of Eden and TheNight of the Hunter in its epic journey and menacing villain.
Laura was also kind enough to do an interview. Here’s a sample of some of the fun questions Laura poses:
Question: If you could be in a writer’s group with up to four famous writers, who would they be?
Answer: Ron Rash, Roxane Gay, T. C. Boyle, and Michael Ondaatje. All of these, except Ron Rash, are writers I have met in person at signings and seen give talks (at the Free Library of Philadelphia), and I think each would bring a unique perspective.
It’s time for the eleventh and final edition of Sunday Stories, where each week I reveal the inspiration behind one of the eleven twisting tales from my short story collection, And Then We Vanish.
My personal favorite of the collection, “Night of the Spider” arose at the crossroads of three ideas. Firstly, a photograph of my Grandmother and her sister outside their home in Northeast Philadelphia in the 1940’s had always struck me. This photograph became the inspiration for the photograph young Benjamin takes of his mother and aunt before going to spend the summer with his estranged father. Secondly, I always wanted to write a short story in the vein of my favorite writer Graham Greene. And thirdly, I wanted to write about my fear of spiders. The story almost spun into a novella where I fleshed out some of the minor characters (Scarlet) and gave Benjamin a clearer resolution…but I like how the open-ended suspense cuts this one short. Always leave them hanging…
“Night of the Spider” originally appeared in the third and final edition of my digital literary magazine, The Stone.
“When Night Falls on Niagara,” the most fanciful of the tales, came to me during a family vacation in the Finger Lakes. We took a day trip to Niagara Falls, and a conversation with my nephew about who works the light show spurred my imagination. It was originally published by Eunoia Review.
A number of readers have named this story as their favorite story of the collection, not surprisingly, as it’s the most unique and naturally stands out.
“Wild Horses” was actually meant to be the opening chapter of the novel my wife and I (still?) want to write together. While on a family vacation in the Outer Banks we cooked up a whole series of melodramatic Southern potboilers detailing family lore regarding the wild escapades of a character named “Deddy” and the women who loved him. I conjured the teaser of an opener after we went on a wild horse tour and found that it stood well enough alone as its own thing. One day it might still serve as the opener to our epic series of melodramas.
For the life of me, I don’t fully remember the genesis of “Down Gallow’s Way.” Many disparate ideas just came together for my story about where the down-and-out go all the way down…but I vaguely recall my friend telling me about a guy she met in Atlantic City who told her a wild story about accidentally dating an undercover FBI agent. That must’ve been where the idea came from, and then that blasted heated wave in the Spring of 2010…it all just came together like a fever dream after driving down to AC (and gazing out at those windmills) and a night of too much whisky. A few readers pointed out this one feels dated…and it is. I wrote it in another lifetime. I barely recognize myself and the person who wrote this.
And this was another one, like “The Ballerina in Battery Park” from the same time period in my life (ah, those early Obama years), I submitted on a lark not expecting much (though I personally enjoyed the quasi-neo-noir story a great deal) and at first the publisher said, “We like it, but it’ll be a year before we can fit it into an anthology,” followed up by, “Guess what, we fit it into the one coming out next month!”
The sound of a bleating sheep in the distance while walking a path up to a waterfall. I was on vacation in Ireland, on a day trip to Wicklow, and that sound…it haunted me. So I wrote a story about it called “Blue Heather.” I actually imagined a whole novel centered around the mystery in this story, but it remains as elusive as that sheep forever bleating in the distance.
“Somebody You Used to Know” came to me as clear as ice on an Upstate New York lake when I was on my on my way to Cooperstown, NY for the weekend and the Sandy Hook school shooting happened. This horrible, complicated, young father character burst into my head and demanded I write his story. As a father now, I don’t know that I could write the same story today from the same twisted point of view. This was the story I struggled with the most as to whether I should include it in the anthology or not, but I could just never shake it, and so here it is.
Connie’s, the pub that serves as the main setting of the story in the fictional Hamlet, was inspired by Cooley’s Tavern in Cooperstown, NY.