Friday, February 27, 2015

Cold Moon: The Movie

I came across some exciting news today: Cold Moon Over Babylon is being adapted for the screen! The director is Griff Furst who cowrote the screenplay with Jack Snyder. It will star Josh Stewart, Christopher Lloyd, Robbie Kay, Candy Clark, Frank Whaley, Rachele Brooke Smith, Laura Cayouette and Sarah Catherine. Filming is soon underway in Louisiana.

Here's the report from Variety.

More news as it becomes available. For now, you can add Cold Moon: The Movie on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Unexpected and the Inevitable

Michael McDowell was one of 17 authors who contributed an essay to Kingdom of Fear: The World of Stephen King, edited by Tim Underwood and Chuck Miller. McDowell's entry, "The Unexpected and the Inevitable," is a look at the rhythm of King's stories.

Additional authors included: Andrew M. Greeley, Robert Bloch, Bill Thompson, Ramsey Campbell, Whitley Strieber,  Leslie Fiedler, Clive Barker, Harlan Ellison, William F. Nolan, Stephen P. Brown, Don Herron, Chuck Miller, Ben P. Indick, Bernadette Lynn Bosky, Thomas F. Monteleone and Tim Underwood

"It was with some hesitation that I agreed to write about Stephen King's work. I was trained as an academic, with an eye towards analysis and criticism, but now I have only contempt for the sapping methods of literary "appreciation" taught in colleges and graduate schools. The idea of analyzing a volume of writing that I think very good seems unappealing and pointless. Increasingly, I find myself in the critical vein that either gushes, "Oh God it's great you've got to read it!" or moans, "Can you believe that anybody would publish this," or is silent from indifference. So that I think the best—and probably most helpful—reaction to King's work is a simple, "Oh God I've read everything, and I haunt the bookstores waiting for the next one."

An excerpt from "The Unexpected and the Inevitable" was later printed in the Stephen King newsletter Castle Rock in the April 1986 issue.

"Someone once asked me what I thought horror fiction did.  What its purpose was. (King is asked this question frequently as well. It is only a very little less annoying than "Where do you get your ideas?") I don't know what he stipulated as the purpose of horror fiction, but I replied that when I wrote horror fiction, I tried to take the improbable, the unimaginable, and the impossible, and make it seem not only possiblebut inevitable."

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Lakeland Ledger - July 17, 1991

Beetlejuice II in the works:

"If all goes as planned, 'Beetlejuice II' will go before the cameras next year. The Script is being written by Michael McDowell, who penned the original, and Tim Burton, director of the 1988 'Beetlejuice' hit, expects to make the movie as his follow-up to 'Batman II.' "

Cold Moon Over Babylon, 1980

Out now from Valancourt Books

Cold Moon Over Babylon (1980), the second novel by Michael McDowell, is a chilling Southern Gothic tale of revenge from beyond the grave that ranks among his most terrifying books. This first-ever reprint features deliciously creepy new cover art by Mike Mignola.

Valancourt, 2015

Book description

Welcome to Babylon, a typical sleepy southern town, where years earlier the Larkin family suffered a terrible tragedy. Now they are about to endure another: fourteen-year-old Margaret Larkin will be robbed of her innocence and her life by a killer who is beyond the reach of the law. 

But something strange is happening in Babylon: traffic lights flash an eerie blue, a ghostly hand slithers from the drain of a kitchen sink, graves erupt from the local cemetery in an implacable march of terror . . . And beneath the murky surface of the river, a shifting, almost human shape slowly takes form. Night after night it will pursue the murderer. And when the full moon rises over Babylon, it will seek a terrible vengeance . . .

Avon, 1980


Too Much Horror Fiction January 7th, 2013 - includes a look at the back cover and some close-ups

Horror After Dark February 23rd, 2015

Fontana, 1985

Visit the Valancourt website for more details and links to order.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Author Pic

Author picture from the Scream Press edition of TOPLIN, photo by John Preston, solarization by Harry O. Morris

The Tufts Daily, December 10, 1999

In December 1999, the student paper at Tufts University, where McDowell was teaching a screenwriting class, reported of his declining health and the need for a replacement. It was only a few weeks later that McDowell passed away.

A full PDF of the student paper is available for public viewing at: Tufts Daily, December 10, 1999

Friday, February 20, 2015

Presses Pocket

In the 90s, the French publishing house Presses Pocket (now Pocket) released two Michael McDowell titles in their Terreur line: Cold Moon Over Babylon and The Elementals. A complete list of the series from 1989-2003 can be found here.

Les brumes de Babylone (Cold Moon Over Babylon), 1990, translation by Gérard Coisne.

Cauchemars de sable (The Elementals), 1991, translation by Jacques Guiod

Monday, February 16, 2015

Dark Visions: A Conversation with Michael McDowell

Following up his collection of "conversations" with horror writers in Dark Dreamers, Stanley Wiater returned in 1992 with Dark Visions, a collection focused on masters of horror film.

Included within this collection:

Clive Barker, John Carpenter, Larry Cohen, Roger Corman, Wes Craven, David Cronenberg, Robert Englund, Stuart Gordon, Gale Anne Hurd, Michael McDowell, Caroline Munro, William F. Nolan, Vincent Price, Sam Raimi, George Romero, Tom Savini, Dick Smith, Joseph Stefano, Stan Winston, Kevin Yagher, Brian Yuzna, Paul M. Sammon

In McDowell's interview, he touches on quite a few topics such as his transition from horror novels to screenwriting and a book in the works with Harry O. Morris (Toplin) titled Revolt of the Bondage Models. He also mentions The Amulet was first drafted as a screenplay, not a novel, and that his sister was working with his partner on adapting The Elementals into a screenplay!

The book is definitely worth checking out, not just for McDowell. It's available now on Kindle for a low $1.99. Click here for the Amazon page.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Centipede Press - Blackwater

Out now

Centipede Press has a gorgeous new collectors' edition of McDowell's Blackwater series. From the Centipede website:

"This edition has a fine new introduction by Poppy Z. Brite. McDowell was at the height of his powers when he wrote Blackwater, a six-part novel about the powers exerted by the mysterious Elinor Dammert over the citizens of Perdido, Alabama and her ghastly and inexplicable ability to use water to gain her hideous ends.

Each numbered set is signed by Poppy Z. Brite, Patrick Loehr and Paul Wedlake. The signature page appears in the back of Book One. The edition is limited to 250 copies for sale. Sample page spreads appear below. Much beloved by fans, this definitive edition of an undisputed classic is sure to sell out very fast."

  • Six volumes in a slipcase.
  • Limited to 250 sets, signed by Poppy Z. Brite, Patrick Loehr, and Paul Wedlake.
  • Introduction by Poppy Z. Brite.
  • Each book has an individual dustjacket.
  • Illustrated endpapers.
  • Rare photographs of Michael McDowell.
  • Reprinted covers of the original Avon paperbacks.
  • Gorgeous, silky, two-tone cloth slipcased lined in black.
  • Color and black & white illustrations throughout.
  • Head and tail bands, ribbon markers in each book.

Visit the Centipede Press website here.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The World's Smartest 16-Year-Old

While working on Beetlejuice, Winona Ryder and Michael McDowell developed a friendship and began collaborating on at least one other project. In an interview he described her as "the world's smartest 16-year-old."

The annual Motion Picture Guide of 1990 mentions the collaboration between the two:

"Expanding her horizons, Ryder has collaborated with Beetlejuice screenwriter Michael McDowell on a romantic script about a girl who works in a bobby-pin factory."

A year later Film Monthly reports the completion of Ryder's first screenplay and gives us a quote from Ryder about the script: " 'a corny romance, almost a satire, about a girl who works in a bobby-pin factory, whose dreams come true,' - which she emphasises is purely coincidental to anything that's ever happened in real life."

. . . . . .

I wish I had more to report on this but I haven't come across anything else. Wouldn't it be great to have a picture of those two together?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015


Here's one last (lazy) post before I head out on vacation tomorrow.

Karmesin from the German publishing house Droemer Knaur, printed in 1986.

Karmesin aka Vermillion, is the first in the Valentine and Lovelace series. I believe this was the only edition. Bruno Gmünder later went on to print the rest of the series, but for whatever reason did not include this one.

Felony & Mayhem Press - The Valentine & Lovelace Series

Last year Felony & Mayhem brought back the four Valentine and Lovelace books. Written and published throughout the 80s, this series was a collaboration between Michael McDowell and Dennis Schuetz under the pseudonym Nathan Aldyne. I have to say they did an amazing job with the covers (credit to Andy Alves). Take a look below and let us know what you think. There's a funny little blog post on the their website about the cover design process: "The Moustache Wars". In addition to the Lovelace series, Felony also brought the three Jack & Susan books back into print. I'll do a post about those separately.

From the Felony website:

First in a series of four mysteries set in Boston in the 1980s and featuring the investigative duo of Daniel Valentine, a gay bartender and former social worker, and Clarisse Lovelace, his straight pal. Reading this light and breezy series set in the pre-AIDS period is a bit like stepping into a time machine. Written by the duo of Michael McDowell, who also worked as a screenwriter, and Dennis Schuetz, the books feature a central relationship that is cinematic and quippy in the manner of Nick and Nora Charles from the “Thin Man” movies.

Vermillion (1980) In Vermilion, the duo end up investigating the murder of a young gay hustler whose body turns up on the lawn of a homophobic lawmaker. When a detective comes around Valentine’s bar asking questions and casting suspicion on Val himself, there is no choice but for our amateur sleuths to figure out the truth for themselves.

Cobalt (1982)  The setting? Provincetown, circa the early 1980s, otherwise known as Sodom-by-the-Sea. The place? Only the hottest party in town, darling, and you’re invited! Clarisse, for one, is thrilled to strap on her dancing shoes: Not only is there an entire gaggle of gay men (who better to appreciate her divine diva-tude?), but some of them are very pretty (and Ma’amselle does like her eye-candy). Even better, a murder is announced, and since it’s nobody that anyone knew well, Clarisse is free to disregard all the niceties of Oh, how terrible, and concentrate entirely on poking into other people’s business. Valentine’s on hand to help, of course, though a little distracted – I mean, if a gorgeous gay bartender can’t find love in 1980s P’town, he might as well hand in his Donna Summer albums.

Slate (1984)  In this third outing for Daniel Valentine and Clarisse Lovelace—denizens of Boston’s gay subculture of the 80s—the duo decide to open a new gay bar in a run-down building gifted to them by Clarisse’s gay uncle Noah. Like the rest of this cracklingly witty, fast-paced series, Slate is set in an exuberantly pre-AIDS world, when to be young, attractive, and not a murder victim was a dandy thing indeed. Clarisse has hauled her dainty posterior off to law school, Valentine turns the new place into Boston’s grooviest gay boite, Donna Summer is still on the radio, and there’s a dead body at the disco.

Canary (1986) Last in the delightfully funny Valentine and Lovelace series, Canary finds our two protagonists a bit the worse for wear. Lovelace’s bar, once the darling of Boston’s gay brigade, is losing money like crazy, largely because someone keeps insisting on leaving dead bodies around. Do that often enough, and people start to stay away. The cops—this IS the 1980s, after all—are not wildly interested in the gay community’s problems, so Lovelace and Clarisse set up shop as sleuths, determined to stop the killer before he puts them out of business. As always, the real action here is in the rapid-fire dialogue: Imagine The Thin Man….only set in the 1980s, in a world populated by drag queens and the women to whom they give make-up tips.

Check out the Felony website here.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Rick Ramos and Mike Black Interview Larry Wilson - October 26th, 2014

Larry Wilson, who cowrote Beetlejuice along with Michael McDowell, was recently interviewed by comedians Rick Ramos and Mike Black on the radio program Watch This With Rick Ramos.

Here's a transcript of what I think are the highlights of the interview. Wilson mentions some interesting things about the early stages of Beetlejuice and working with McDowell. For continuity purposes I left out any interruptions by the radio hosts while Wilson was speaking. He also goes on to talk about The Addams Family and his newest project Cindy. A link to the radio show is below.


RAMOS/BLACK: I don't know if you guys were looking to write something that was geared towards kids? if it was supposed to be scarier? did it transform when Burton got ahold of it? What was the initial idea?

WILSON: Well, the initial idea, and I'm going to love answering your question about “was it for kids?” or “wasn't it for kids?” because it's worth answering for several reasons. The initial idea, I had a brand new writing partner, the late great Michael McDowell. We were trying to figure out what we were going to write together, and he was living in Boston at the time, I was here in LA, and as I remember it I called him, it was over a weekend, over a three day period, so we'll say I called him on a Friday and I said “okay, how about a psychedelic ghost comedy.” And we had no idea what it meant but it sounded, it kind of resonated for us. I said that to Michael and the next day he called me and he said “okay, this is what I know: it's the humans haunting the ghosts.” And that was such an epiphany and terrific idea. And my next step in that was.... Okay quick digression, Michael and I always had, it was in good sport if you will, we had a sort of class war that went on between us. Michael was extremely well educated, very well-turned out upper-class. I grew up in a trailer park and I barely got through high school and I was from a very middle-class background as it compared to him. It kinda became a joke between us sometimes. So I said to Michael “I really love that. The humans are haunting the ghosts, and the humans are you, they're these hideous, snobbish...New Yorkers. And Barbara and Adam, Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis's character, who evolved into that, they were too nice. They were too nice to get rid of these humans. To use the old-fashioned expression “Norman Rockwell.” So one day it's the humans haunting the ghosts, the second day it's the humans are too nice, or should I say the ghosts are too nice to scare the humans so they hire a gunfighter because they need someone who can scare the humans out of the house. And that became the Betelgeuse character. So it was over a weekend that the essence of the idea was in place.

RAMOS/BLACK: This is a question only you could answer: what was Beetlejuice when he was alive? 

WILSON: He was some sort of person wandering in a cart selling phony remedies for the black plague or something. The original, and I don't know if this is in the original first draft of the script or if this is just what Michael and I told each other about it, but our very first description of him was “Groucho Marx from Hell,” and that he had that huckster persona, that he could basically extract every dime that you had through his wit and his charm, or pseudo-charm, and then you know Betelgeuse, you had that whole demonic thing working for him too.

RAMOS/BLACK: And at one point Sammy Davis Jr. was attached, or thought of...

WILSON: Thought of, you know, no offense Mr. Davis, wherever you are in Vegas Heaven, but thank God it didn't's hard to imagine anyone but Michael Keaton as Beetlejuice now.

WILSON: A couple of other things that you said earlier on here about “did we know this was for kids?” No. When Michael and I sat down to write it we had not a thought in our head about who was it going to be for, what's the demographic, any of that often nonsense. We wanted to write what we thought was funny, what we thought was cool, what we thought was interesting. It was one of those amazing experiences that you----, that it starts writing you, actually. We got in such a flow together and about halfway through we really started to feel like we're on to something here, there's something happening. It's a movie where, it's a PG movie where “fuck” is used. That's the only PG movie I know where that word is allowed. The plot jeopardy in it is that there's this demonic pervert who wants to marry a fifteen year old girl. And all of those things, that had someone really been watching, I suppose, it could have been found very objectionable. I don't know what would have happened.


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Outlines, Plots, and Guilt

In April 1982, The Writer printed a four-page article by Michael McDowell: “Outlines, Plots, and Guilt.” In it he details his process for writing novels, beginning with an outline, sometimes sticking to his outline and sometimes not. If you're a writer and a McDowell enthusiast, you may find his thoughts on the process of interest. “Outlines” is not available digitally, however, so you'll have to track down a copy. Below I've included a few excerpts:

“In writing my first few novels (which for good reason remain unpublished), I would start with a title, fashion a few characters and a few scenes to prop up that title that had intrigued me so much, and then begin an outline.”

Gilded Needles, my third novel, was based on a very intricate plot which I had worked on (now and again) for about three years. I began writing the book with every intention of remaining close to the outline—after all, why had I labored on it so long if not to make the novel easy to write? But sixty pages into the manuscript, I suddenly got a bright idea for an entirely new character—Maggie Kizer, the octoroon prostitute—and threw her into the maelstrom.”

On writing Cobalt, the second installment in the Valentine and Lovelace series (written in collaboration with Dennis Schuetz) he writes: “We did have our location—Provincetown; a list of our suspects and our corpses; and half a dozen jokes. With that we began writing.”