Invasion of the Mormons

“Mormons, Mormons were everywhere, a plague of Mormons, Mormons in neatly pressed uniforms, clean-shaven, clear-eyed, too soft-spoken for cops, so excessively polite that Roy Miro wondered if it was all an act, Mormons to the left of him, Mormons to the right of him, both local and county authorities, and all of them too efficient and by-the-book either to flub their investigation or to let this whole mess be covered over with a wink and a slap on the back. What bothered Roy the most about these particular Mormons was that they robbed him of his usual advantage, because in their company, his affable manner was nothing unusual. His quick and easy smile was only one in a blizzard of smiles full of teeth remarkably whiter than his own. They swarmed through the shopping center and the supermarket, these Mormons, asking their oh-so-polite questions, armed with their small notebooks and Bic pens and direct Mormon stares, and Roy could never be sure that they were buying any part of his cover story or that they were convinced by his impeccable phony credentials.
Hard as he tried, he couldn’t figure out how to schmooze with Mormon cops. He wondered if they would respond well and open up to him if he told them how very much he liked their tabernacle choir. He didn’t actually like or dislike their choir, however, and he had a feeling that they would know he was lying just to warm them up. The same was true of the Osmonds, the premier Mormon show-business family. He neither liked nor disliked their singing and their dancing; they were undeniably talented, but they just weren’t to his taste. Marie Osmond had perfect legs, legs that he could have spent hours kissing and stroking, legs against which he wished that he could crush handfuls of soft red roses–but he was pretty sure that these Mormons were not the type of cops who would enthusiastically join in on a conversation about that sort of thing.
He was certain that not all of the cops were Mormon. The equal-opportunity laws ensured a diverse police force. If he could find those who weren’t Mormons, he might be able to establish the degree of rapport necessary to grease the wheels of their investigation, one way or another, and get the hell out of there. But the non-Mormons were indistinguishable from the Mormons because they’d adopted Mormon ways, manners, and mannerisms. The non-Mormons–whoever the cunning bastards might be–were all polite, pressed, well groomed, sober, with infuriatingly well-scrubbed teeth that were free of all telltale nicotine stains. One of the officers was a black man named Hargrave, and Roy was positive that he’d found at least one cop to whom the teachings of Brigham Young were no more important than those of Kali, the malevolent form of the Hindu Mother Goddess, but Hargrave turned out to be perhaps the most Mormon of all Mormons who had ever walked the Mormon Way. Hargrave had a walletfull of pictures of his wife and nine children, including two sons who were currently on religious missions in squalid corners of Brazil and Tonga.
Eventually the situation spooked Roy so much as it frustrated him. He felt as if he were in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”
–Dean Koontz, Dark Rivers of the Heart

Mormons: the worst fear of affable villains everywhere.

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The Face and Why It’s More Favorite than All of the Other Reindeer

I adore books in general. Particularly Dean Koontz books.

Cover of "The Face: A Novel"

The cover, in all its awesome glory.

One of them, in particular, will always stick out in my mind, though. That’s right. Unlike many bookworms, I have one absolute favorite book. It’s called The Face. One of Dean Koontz’s less-known titles, it seems. And it’s sad, because it’s better. It’s best.

Why?

Because, in a world where people are pressured to spend all their money on expensive cars, houses, plastic surgery, cosmetics, designer clothes and hairdressers, it’s something for us normal people out there. For those of us who’ve ever wanted to be rich and famous, it’s a slap-in-the-face look at the reality of it.

Once upon a distant, less enlightened time, my dream was to be a movie star. Rich and famous and beautiful. In fact, that wish was what drew me to The Face, due to the first sentence of the summary on the back: “He’s Hollywood’s biggest star.” Images instantly filled my young, impressionable mind of glamour and glory, beauty and glitz. Adventure. All the things the rich people have, of course.

Well, not so much. That sentence refers to Channing Manheim, the gorgeous bachelor action star who’s an American household name. He’s capable of stirring emotions like no other. He lives in a huge mansion named Palazzo Rospo in Beverly Hills. He has a huge garage full of expensive cars, a gigantic library, four floors worth of priceless antiques, a swimming pool, a rose garden, a room full of train sets, a cavernous wine cellar, and a fantastic staff. He spends his time away from home making multimillion dollar movies and hanging around some of the most beautiful people in the world. That’s the life, right?

Well, meet Manheim’s son. Ten-year-old Aelfric. A small, skinny kid with messy hair and severe asthma born to Manheim’s supermodel ex-wife, Freddie Nielander. Fric sees his parents so often that he refers to them in his own mind as Nominal Mom and Ghost Dad. It’s through Fric that we see the real Channing Manheim.

Of course the guy isn’t perfect, even if he’s a Hollywood god. Everyone has problems. He was probably bullied as a kid, right?

Well, the library is only there to wow visitors. To make people think they have something in common with him. The cars are never driven. The trains would sit and gather dust, if not for the attention of the staff and Fric’s own interest in them. When the man himself is in residence, there are often wild parties, and always a new girlfriend.

And Fric leads a charmed life, of course. He gets everything he ever wanted. Why, his father sent him out with an interior decorator and fifty thousand dollars to refurnish his suite of rooms. Movie companies send him all the newest children’s movies. He has a private tutor and gets to roam the huge house, doing whatever he wants. He even has his own home phone line.

And we can’t forget about Christmas. Fric gets everything he asks for. Even if he were to ask for a Porsche. But never any surprise in the matter. He has to write a Dear Santa format list every year and give it to the housekeeper. Daddy’s orders. If it’s any shorter than the list from last year he has to add things to it, and he gets exactly what he asked for. No surprises. Ever. Oh, sure, the gifts are wrapped all nice and pretty, but where’s the fun when you know what’s in each one of them?

To put it together, here we have the portrait of a man who, to paraphrase Mr. Koontz, believes nobody else has anything more to them than a half-page of back story, and who is benignly certain the universe and him regard each other with equal amounts of fascination.

But, though he’s the title character (it’s a title the media has bestowed upon him), Manheim isn’t the protagonist. In fact, he never even makes an appearance.

No, the protagonist is his chief of security, ex-cop Ethan Truman, who quit the police force after his wife died of cancer. The book is about Ethan trying to figure out who’s threatening his employer, and simultaneously figure out the mystery of an old friend’s death.

This book is a masterpiece, in short. Something beautiful to make me laugh and cry—sometimes at the same time. The villain is quirky and almost likable at times. All the characters feel incredibly real. It’s creepy, it’s funny, it’s heartbreaking and it’s wonderful. So do yourself a favor and go check it out, because I said so.

My Love Affair with Horror

Horror. Horror! Oh, the horror!

Scary stuff. Fear. Things that go bump in the night. Something under the bed or in the closet. The monsters of reality and our imaginations. Of course, here, the Kingdom of Under The Covers isn’t safe.

Muahahahaha!

Moving past that.

I’m a horror junkie. I love seeing if I can be scared, and I love scaring other people. Acting in a haunted house was one of the most fun things I’ve ever done.

For me, subjecting myself to horror movies is challenging myself not to be scared. Seeing how fearless I am. Moving forward when others shrink away.

When someone is afraid of you, you have power over them. They’re the prey, and you’re joined in a complex dance. And it’s a wonderful, addictive feeling. Why do you think so many people have fed off of it? When someone is afraid of you, you can control them. Make them do what you want. If you know a person’s fears, you can manipulate them. And being able to do that is quite the thrill.

For instance, think of how often men are manipulated because of their male ego. A fear of not being masculine.Now, I may not be a good person, but let me straighten this out—I’m not a horrible person, either. I promise, I’ve never killed anyone, and I’m a relatively good little Mormon girl. I’m just pointing this stuff out because it’s interesting to me.

I think my love of horror stemmed from wanting to prove what a little badass (forgive the language) I was. Step away from the whiny, sensitive crybaby image. I read Dracula when I was ten, and I watched Stephen King’s Rose Red the same year. Both terrified me, of course. Particularly Rose Red, which is still near the top of my favorite horror movies.

At eleven, me and my dad started going to see horror movies together. Like Darkness and White Noise, both of which also gave me nightmares. I tried reading  Dean Koontz’s Hideaway that year and The Voice of The Night the next. Both were too adult for me at the time. And then, of course, my sister read Koontz’s Lightning, and warned me off his books, saying he was “a sex maniac.” Well, she was only thirteen or fourteen.

So, staying away from Koontz, I read The Shining in eighth grade, Bag of Bones that summer. Carrie and ‘Salem’s Lot during freshman year, I believe. Sometime around there, my dad decided to show me Night of the Living Dead, which I couldn’t watch all the way through because my mother had made greasy, flavorless chicken for dinner, and that combined with watching zombies eating intestines made me sick.

Sophomore year I went to my first drama club meeting, where they were requesting actors for the local haunted house. I decided to try it. And that, let me tell you, is where my true love of horror came from. My inability to scare easily. I worked in a haunted house that was really haunted. How much scarier could you get?

So, after that season, I started expanding my horizons with Silence of the Lambs and Resident Evil. I picked up another Koontz book, and found myself hooked. I started watching most of the horror movies I could get my hands on, though I avoided most of the classics and the slashers, because they looked stupid.

And after four more years of working in that haunted house before retiring, as it were, I think I know my horror pretty well.

My Top Ten Horror Movies:

  1. Insidious—Made me jump, even in the height of my cocky horror-movies-don’t-scare-me phase, and wasn’t in the least what I was expecting.
  2. Dead Silence—Scared me so badly I had to go sit outside in the sun, and I still didn’t feel safe!
  3. The Rite—A good possession movie for those who don’t watch R-rated movies, but still want quality. Can’t get better than the great Anthony Hopkins!
  4. Rose Red—One of my classic favorites, terrified me for days on end the first time I saw it. The best in haunted house movies.
  5. Devil—Some good jumps, but the story is the best part.
  6. Stay Alive—Atmosphere, baby! Horror game that’s for reals? Erzebet Bathory? Heck yeah!
  7. The Woman in Black—Saw this with my sister and my best friend on my birthday. Sister doesn’t do the horror thing. Her reaction was the best part, but it’s a good, creepy story with some satisfying jumps.
  8. 1408—I like this one mostly for the story and the concept, although it has a few good jumps and some fun twists.
  9. White Noise—A favorite from my younger days. Still has the power to make me jump, besides being a good concept.
  10. The Devil Inside—That woman is seriously disturbing. That’s some quality acting, right there!

I’d add a list of books, too, but it’s so incredibly rare for a book to scare me. They very rarely have the same power over me as movies.

The Hollow City, Deeply Odd and A Bad Day For Voodoo

I’m a huge reader. And reading is a very expensive addiction, especially for a self-defined book phagocyte like me. I devour books I love. If I’m really into a book, I will not be able to put it down until I finish it, and woe unto you if you come between us.

A lot of my peers (’cause, though I’m an adult, I’m still a young’un) will talk about how some band saved their life or something like that. For me, it was books. Particularly Dean Koontz. I was quite the depressed, dramatic teenager until I stumbled across Fear Nothing in my high school library.

Recently, I’ve read three excellent books by three of my favorite authors.

1) The Hollow City by Dan Wells

What I love about Dan Wells is his ability to write characters with mental disorders. In his debut book, I Am Not A Serial Killer, he did a really excellent job of getting into the mind of a sociopath (at least, from an empath’s point of view). In The Hollow City, he did it again, but with schizophrenia. It was wonderfully packed with twists and turns, trying to figure out what was reality and what was delusion. Also, it’s creepy, funny and heartbreaking—a variance of emotion, which is pretty necessary for me to love a book.

2) Deeply Odd by Dean Koontz

Koontz is my favorite author, flat-out. I bought—and finished—this book the day it came out. The latest installment in the Odd Thomas series, it may just be my favorite of them all, which is saying a lot. The villains are creepier, the ghost companion is awesomer, and there’s a character named Edie Fischer who I want to be when I get old. And it’s full of connections to Koontz’s other works, which drives people like me crazy in the best way. Once more, creepy, funny and heartbreaking, but also with the enduring optimism in humanity that Odd voices so well.

3) A Bad Day for Voodoo by Jeff Strand

Strand is an underestimated genius. Nobody manages to combine humor and horror in quite the same way he does. His style is so delightfully quirky and unexpected. Sometimes, I wish some bestselling authors (who can be a bit dull sometimes) would be more like him. Books need more humor, because a lot of them take themselves too seriously.