Kendra Steiner Editions

April 3, 2019

ANGORA FEVER: THE COLLECTED SHORT STORIES OF EDWARD D. WOOD, JR. (Bear Manor Media, 2019)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 4:17 pm

ANGORA FEVER: THE COLLECTED SHORT STORIES OF EDWARD D. WOOD, JR.

Edited and with a foreword by Bob Blackburn

available in both softcover and hardcover, 451 pages

published by Bear Manor Media, issued 15 March 2019

AngoraFever-230x305

Stop the presses! Those who enjoyed the OR BOOKS collection of Ed Wood’s short fiction from a few years ago, BLOOD SPATTERS QUICKLY, will be very excited to learn that the film and popular culture press Bear Manor Media has just issued a new 450-page collection with even more Wood short pieces, 60 of them, with NO repetition from the OR volume.

I’m reading a story a day (they are often just 5-7 pages), and after the first eight of them, I’m quite impressed. The shorter format allows Wood to basically riff on a theme in a unified way—-it would not be surprising to learn that these pieces were each written in one surge of work, fueled by coffee and/or bourbon/vodka/whatever Wood drank. Wood was fortunate in that he was a known quantity to the people who paid him to write these stories for porn or fetish or soft-porn magazines, and that if the stories managed to strike certain publisher-requested chords somewhere in them, the rest of the story’s content did not matter, as long as it fit into a generally sleazy or fever-dream-like kind of mood (for instance, one early story was published in a garter-oriented magazine, so Wood grafted some details about garters onto a story he was probably planning to write anyway). The publishers knew the man would deliver the goods.

Wood loved crime stories–not only were some of his films explicitly crime films (JAIL BAIT and THE SINISTER URGE), but others had a strong crime element (GLEN OR GLENDA’s police investigator, the police in PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE or in NIGHT OF THE GHOULS), and his novels often relied on the conventions of paperback-original crime novels or pulp crime stories as a frame on which to hang the sexual content. That feel is present here too, as is his other favorite field, horror.

Quickly written fiction or magazine pieces have a kind of flow and dynamism to them—-think of Jack Kerouac’s THE SUBTERRANEANS or TRISTESSA—-and one often finds this quality in the pulp-magazine genre fiction that Wood so clearly loved reading when he was growing up (its influence is all over his films and writings). The pace of the writing picks up and carries along the reader as if the reader is caught in a flood-water and carried downstream–you go with the flow, a dynamic flow that pulls the reader along, almost like a surfer riding a wave until it crashes. The writer has a central motif, and he works it at a pace beyond rational thought until the piece is over.

To use the surfer riding a wave until it crashes analogy for Wood, the stories I’ve read so far tend to “crash” with twist endings, or violent endings, or depressing fatalistic endings. Wood would have liked the end of EASY RIDER, where the heroes get blown away, or the various Al Adamson films where the nominal “heroes” get killed in the last 15 minutes of the film. They deliver a cheap thrill, and these stories are all about cheap thrills.

I generally do not review something I have not finished reading or watching or listening to yet, but I wanted to alert you to this existence of this book. It’s extremely un-PC in pretty much every way, but it’s a window into a world that no longer exists the way it once did (the attitudes linger, though), and of most value, a window into the amazing mind of Edward D. Wood, Jr.

It’s a shame that Wood did not live until the advent of the SOV slasher films of the 80’s and 90’s, as some of these stories are cut (no pun intended) from that cloth, and of course Wood’s 1960 feature film THE SINISTER URGE is a forerunner of those….and the first two stories in this collection could be adaptations of gruesome, fatalistic slasher films, one with a male slasher who hates women, one with a female slasher who hates men. I could see Wood perhaps getting some regional financing (were he still alive in the mid-to-late 80’s) to shoot 3 or 4 SOV horror-tinged slasher films (with some police procedural elements and a Kelton-esque local cop investigating) back to back in three weeks, and going to, say, Texas or New Mexico or Wisconsin and having a late-career revival, not unlike Andy Milligan did with the made-in-Los-Angeles-films he finished his career with. There would have been a feature story about the films in CULT MOVIES or some similar magazine, and Ed Wood would have been back in the driver’s seat, where he belonged.

With the publication of the earlier Wood collection from OR Books and now this massive collection from Bear Manor, neither of which has been taken off the market the way some of the reprintings of Wood’s novels were a number of years ago (and I was told by someone close to that situation that they were ordered off the market by legal entities representing Wood’s estate), perhaps we can see something like a comprehensive republication program of Wood’s books, the way the now-defunct Woodpile Press attempted to do it. These red-hot, grungy, vodka-fueled prose-blasts are the literary equivalent of some lo-fi home-made 1977 punk 45, whose sole raison d’etre is to offend, but which is catchy in an abrasive way and makes you want to play it over and over.

Though today they’d be offending different people for different reasons (how ironic!), I’m sure Wood’s prose writings still would have that effect today. Wood was proud of his these pieces and listed them on his resume (those listings are cited in this book, where available). I hope that wherever he is today (and wherever that is, let’s hope he’s having dinner at a celestial version of the Brown Derby with Lyle Talbot, John Agar, and Reed Howes), he somehow is aware that his old banged-out-quickly-for-a-deadline-and-pocket-money stories are back in print from legitimate presses and are being enjoyed by new generations today. I can just imagine him offering to write some more for you and asking when you need them by….THAT is the Ed Wood spirit!

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