Reviewed by Leigh Adamkiewicz
There is a delicious rush from finding something you’re not quite meant to see. And the Found Footage genre is testament to how much money we’ll spend to pretend we’ve found something risqué. But what if you found something truly forbidden? Dangerous? You’d get the word out, sure. But what would you do if the story started to grow and change as you were telling it? What if the illusion of danger wasn’t an illusion at all?
You’d probably come up with A Book About a Film, a magnificent, multi-faceted tale about the life-changing movie you’ll never see.
The book starts off with an excellent premise. What if people who had near death experiences learned something from their time on the other side? This was the plot of an excellent independent film called The Cornfield People. All the reports on the film indicated it had every chance of becoming a modest success, if not a cult classic. But there’s a problem. When the film was nearly done, it was shelved. Mysteriously.
The copies of the movie that exist are legendarily hard to find. But everyone who is anyone in film has an opinion about this one. The film has found its way into the hands of Spielberg (theoretically) and Tarantino (citation needed) and many more. So it seems only natural that our author writes a book about the film after being lucky enough to see it. And that’s when things start getting weird.
Much like Danielewski’s House of Leaves, this book relies on the footnotes to tell the story within the story. The story is not just the synopsis of the movie. It’s the things people have speculated. It’s the photos and articles that prove what happened. It’s even the typos in the document itself, which increasingly seem to be a code to another story entirely.
I actually got to the point when I wondered if the book was based on an actual movie. But aside from three posts on a movie blog, I couldn’t find any mention of it online. But this book’s level of detail makes it seem increasingly real. Didn’t you hear something about this in a trade journal? Wasn’t this person in a fluff piece in a local newspaper?
It’s the pictures, news clippings, and diary entries about those things that turn this into something more than just a good suspense thriller. If you just read the book the author thought they were writing, you’d think everything turned out. That it all wrapped up in a neat little package. But as you read on, you realize that the bigger questions are still out there.
About never enters abstract madness the way Leaves did. But it does get your heart racing as the pace accelerates, and the lines between fiction and reality gently blur. And I loved every bit of it.
Leigh is a fearless writer who never met a genre, subject, or format she didn’t like. She has written professionally for the past six years and enjoys biking, exploring odd corners of Northeast Ohio, and discovering those good books she hasn’t read yet.
Review copy was provided by C.W. Schultz.
At home, Rachel Rhodes is a mother and wife. At work, she is a manager. At night, she is the infamous serial killer known only as Jill. Her secret will eventually affect everyone in her life, from her family members to the detectives investigating the case.
Luck starts off on her side as she befriends heartbroken detective Cole Dale, who’s an important link to the investigation. However, that luck seems to fade when Rachel meets Cole’s partner, an unorthodox and mentally unstable detective, Perry Charleton, driven by personal reasons to stop Jill using any means necessary.
The novel is told in an omniscient narrative style, allowing the story to have a hauntingly neutral perspective which disguises everything as it progresses and leaves no room for predictability, entangling the reader in a web of evil. Layered with symbolism and motifs, leaving the story to come together like a puzzle through the characters’ actions and interactions; its themes deal with such issues as dysfunction, impressionability and influence, sexism, racism and even humiliation.
As with any C. W. Schultz novel, Jill is a study in candor. The author himself calls Jill “a serial killer soap opera” as Rachel seeks the romantic, fairy tale ending that only a deranged woman would believe possible after the things she has done.
Chapter 1 Teaser
WARNING: The following contains strong language, sexuality and violence that may be offensive to some…
Though this is nothing compared to the rest of the book. >;]
THE CLUB WAS BUSY FOR A WEDNESDAY EVENING.
Jacob Hansen observed this when he was halfway through his second martini and realized Colin Owen had not said more than “Dirty martini, Jake?” and “Another?”
Colin had been the bartender at Club Blue since new ownership took over a year ago. For the past three-and-a-half months Jacob had been coming in a couple times a week, usually on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. It was easier to pick up a woman when there wasn’t a crowd.
The typical woman at Club Blue was in her early twenties, slender built, usually tall, and always wild. Jake, however, was happy even with a woman slightly below par.
Tonight was unusually wild. Plenty of guys for the hotties to choose from which only reduced Jake’s chances.
“Hey, buddy,” Colin said as the bar began to die down.
“Colin,” Jake replied. “Busy night. What gives?”
Colin shrugged. “Business is business.”
“It looks like it’s slowing down a bit.”
“Shh. Don’t jinx it.”
“I thought business was business.”
“I won’t complain when it’s busy,” Colin began while wiping the counter. “That doesn’t mean I don’t prefer the down time.”
“Not so fast,” Jake said, then guzzled the rest of his martini and placed the glass where Colin had just wiped.
“What? You don’t want my company?” Colin teased, smiling as he swooped the glass closer to him. “For a guy who doesn’t want company, you sure look unhappy sitting here by yourself.”
A woman of 43—twice the age of most of the girls at Club Blue, but twice as beautiful—took a seat at the bar a couple of stools away from Jake.
He observed the few faint freckles on her face.
Cute, he thought.
He noticed a few more freckles on her neck, and even a few on her cleavage which she was obviously flaunting.
Look at those things! DDs, maybe even E-cups. Definitely at least Ds. I know who I’ll be thinking about if I go home alone tonight.
Jake was about to turn to Colin and say something like, “I’m not sitting by myself anymore, smartass,” but noticed that Colin had been pulled away by other customers.
Colin took their order, slid Jake his martini, and then prepared to make a couple of drinks for the people who just paid.
“Dark in here,” Jake observed.
Colin just shrugged.
“It’s getting busy again,” Jake pointed out, taking a sip of his third Martini.
“Looks like you jinxed me,” Colin replied as he mixed a margarita.
“May I have a dirty martini when you get the chance, please?” the woman asked.
“And put it on my tab,” added Jake.
Colin looked up from mixing the margarita and glanced briefly at the woman.
After Colin delivered the customers their drinks, he started on her martini.
“Thank you,” she said to Jake. “I’m Rachel.”
After the excitement of Rachel not rejecting Jake’s offer, he felt himself begin to blush. To avoid revealing how nervous he was, he said the first thing on his mind. “Aren’t you a little old for this club?”
You moron, Jake thought at the same time Colin raised his eyebrows.
Surprisingly, Rachel just laughed.
Is she laughing at me? “What I mean is… I felt like the only mature person in here. Then you came along and now I don’t feel so alone.”
“How old do you think I am?” she chuckled playfully.
“Old enough for me not to feel like a creep for buying you a drink.”
Rachel laughed again and then thanked Colin as he set the martini in front of her.
“What’s your name?” Rachel asked.
“I’m Jake. You from around here?”
“Actually, no.” She took a sip. “I’m actually from Portland on business.”
“Ah-ha. What do you do?”
“I started Flickerless Candle Co. Pretty much just a scented candle business. Small, but popular in Oregon and Northern California. Maybe Seattle might want some of my candles.”
“What do you do?”
“CEO of Sunrise Coffee.”
“You’ve heard of us?”
“I’m surprised, we only distribute in Washington.”
Rachel guzzled her Martini.
“Another?” offered Jake.
“I want a smoke.” Rachel pulled a pack of cigarettes from the little black purse that matched her hair and dress perfectly. The green color on the Marlboro Menthol 100’s pack matched her eyes that had already been matching the ring on her right-pinkie with an emerald-stone. Jake noticed this and thought black and green have never gone together better. “You smoke?”
“No,” Jake replied.
“Wait here while I smoke?”
“Or, you can keep me company outside.”
“Maybe I’ll bum one of those,” Jake said, feeling a bit useless just standing in the cold watching Rachel smoke.
Rachel opened her purse and handed him a smoke and lit it for him.
“I quit about four years ago,” Jake said, taking the first puff.
“Yeah? How does it taste?”
“Not good anymore.”
They shared a laugh.
Jake kneeled down and crushed the cherry gently. He stood up again and handed the dead cigarette back to Rachel. Aside from the blackened front and a faint yellowish inside the filter, the cigarette was in pretty good shape.
“Don’t mean to be rude,” he said bashfully.
“That’s okay. Don’t smoke it if you don’t want it. I’ll have it later.” She smiled and took it, digging into her purse again for the pack.
“I don’t mind standing out here with you,” Jake began. “But if you want, I can go back inside and order us another drink.”
“Wanna take this party somewhere else?” she suggested in a natural tone.
Jake was surprised at how perfect and easily things were falling into place. “Yeah,” he replied.
“You’ve had a little too much to drink. My motel room is about a block away. The Sunhill Motel. Room five.”
“Sure,” Jake replied, failing to disguise the happiness in his voice.
“Okay. I’ll head over now. Pay the tab and meet me there. You can pick up your car later tonight. Or tomorrow morning.”
Jake arrived at the Sunhill Motel almost twenty minutes later. He told Colin that he was going to leave his car in the lot until morning and to not have it towed. Jake slipped Colin $20, but Colin waved it off.
Jake insisted and added the $20 to his tab. Colin shrugged and said, “This one’s on the house.” He put a martini in front of Jake. He couldn’t resist.
Jake guzzled it. “Thanks. This will make me less nervous. I don’t know if I’ve ever been with a woman this beautiful.”
“Good for you, buddy,” replied Colin. “Wish I would’ve gotten a better look at her. It’s been damn busy. You jinxed me.”
Everything was going great. The last martini kicked in as he walked up the driveway to the one story motel.
There were 12 rooms, each with its own parking space in front of the door.
Jake found room five on the west side. No car was parked in front, but the lights were on.
Maybe I can give her a ride tomorrow. Keep this thing going.
Jake knocked on the door.
“Jake?” Rachel called.
“Come in. I’m just picking up a little. It’s unlocked.”
Jake turned the knob and entered.
He looked around the room. There was a TV to the left, the bed and nightstand to the right, and the bathroom adjacent to the door.
Typical motel room. He didn’t see Rachel anywhere. Where is she?
He saw movement out of the corner of his left eye.
He turned and saw Rachel approaching.
Jake awoke, staring at the stained yellowish-brown ceiling, the result of years of cigarette smoke.
It took him a while to realize what was going on, but it all sunk in when he noticed from the puffiness and strange mixture of numbness and soreness that his left brow was swollen. Pain became full-blown and he was then able to comprehend the extent of his injury—the shock had gone and the seriousness of what had just happened began to kick in.
He looked around the room and saw Rachel sitting on a chair next to the bed, smoking and watching TV.
“My eye,” Jake moaned, still in a bit of a daze, trying to communicate to Rachel that he was hurt.
When he moved to touch the wound, he realized that his arms and legs were tied to each of the bed posts with shoe string.
“Oh, you’re up,” Rachel said and turned off the TV.
Jake realized how calm Rachel was and hoped, Maybe this is just some kinky shit.
Rachel stood up and grabbed a syringe off the nightstand, shoving the needle into the side of Jake’s neck without hesitation.
Solid and heavy were the only two sensations Jake could convey. He felt like he was turning into stone.
“The Norcuron works pretty quickly,” Rachel said as she slipped the syringe in a medical bag, also black, next to her purse under the chair. “You’ll be paralyzed but capable of feeling. This is the ultra-torture accessory. A must have for any serial killer.”
Jake suddenly realized what was happening and began to scream, but deep moans were all that came out and before long, the moans turned into quick periodic gasps.
“I don’t like men,” she explained as she slipped on a pair of black leather gloves. “My father would fuck any woman in sight, and I ended up marrying a man just like him. My brother and my son will not be like them. Unfortunately, my brother contracted HIV from a blood transfusion about 15 years ago. The tragedy bestowed on one of the only men I actually love fills me with an indescribable rage. Nice guys do finish last… until I get involved.” She enjoyed giving all her victims her life story. Allowing the victim to understand the root of her anger robbed them of any hope that they might survive—they would understand she had no intention of not following through. Her brevity and matter-of-factness made it clear to Jake that he was not the first man to hear this tale.
Rachel picked up a hammer. It had Jake’s blood on it.
“I can’t take my anger out on my father because he’s dead, and I can’t take it out on my husband not only because he’s the father of my children but also an obvious tie to me, so you’ll take their place. You’ll be their substitute. You’re the next best thing.”
Rachel waved the hammer over Jake’s fully clothed crotch, as if contemplating exactly what angle to use.
“Most man-haters would love to devour a cock and balls, but me, I have more original tastes,” she said, pulling the hammer away.
Jake wondered what a “man-hater” would choose over that.
Rachel picked up her purse, removed a knife from it and then casually set it on the nightstand alongside the medical bag.
“My first victim was actually a castration,” she said as she stared at the reflection of herself in the clean silver blade, gently brushing her bangs away from her eyes. “It was boring. He expected it.”
She climbed on top of Jake’s limp body, reaching over to the nightstand for the hammer and laying it down next to him.
She leaned in close enough to kiss him, and said, “I wanna see you without a…
Critical response has been mixed.
However, IndieReader gives Jill a rather negative review. Schultz’s approach of showing murder as an act of insecurity and moral-weakness by a shallow killer—drawing inspiration from real serial killers—did not sit well with IndieReader, who said: “Rachel kills simply because some men have hurt her, her brother was favored over her, and therefore she hates men. Some additional internal conflict or complexity might serve the purpose of making the murderer, and thus the murders, more interesting.” No lenience was given for the book’s intended soap-operatic direction, with some characters’ behavior being called “pretty inexplicable.” The book’s matter-of-factly and neutral narrative also seemed to bother the reviewer, who said: “The book can also be fairly heavy-handed in its moralizing, spelling out directly morals and judgments that would be more effective if readers were left to infer them.” Despite the panning ★½ (out of five) review, the IndieReader was not without compliments, calling Jill “lively”, “full of events” and “never dull”. They also called Perry Charleton (Schultz’s favorite character of his own creation) “surprisingly likeable, and his personality rather takes over the book whenever he’s in it.”
While Schultz has said he will never play favorites with his stories, he has not done the same with his characters, stating that Detective Perry Charleton is by far his favorite character that he has created.
Despite Yeval not being critically recognized, the Utica Public Library put the novel on their list of Guy Lit along with many other contemporary classics. Georgina Parfitt of TowerBabel gave the book a ★★★★ (out of five) review, calling the overall structure well-paced, going on to explain that although it is an uncomfortable read, it is nonetheless “interesting, and highly thought-provoking, with moments of really moving writing.”
C. W. Schultz’s fourth novel A Book About a Film is officially available for purchase today! It’s an academic study on the cult classic The Cornfield People that not only acts as a novelization of the movie but also as a thriller in its own right when the book begins to dig into the film’s hidden messages, reoccurring themes and haunting obscurity. The book analyzes a chilling movie which follows a secret society that knows the meaning of life and what comes after death… and the cult will stop at nothing to keep their treasured knowledge hidden from outsiders.
You can watch the teaser trailer here!
A Book About a Film has been receiving lots of praise. Nick Rossi of Reading Other People said “Schultz is destined for greatness” in his review; while Joanie Chevalier, author of Deadly Dating Games: Murder. Blackmail. Romance., gave A Book About a Film ★★★★★ (out of five) in her review. Ajoobacats Blog commended the book for being original and unusual, saying “this is one hell of a read for film enthusiasts” in the review. An overall rave review came from RedPillows, who said the book was ultimately intriguing and well-written. Schultz’s narrative choices was said to be “complex, gripping, and ultimately hard to put down” in a review from the Midwest Book Review. Of the copious analysis, disorienting narrative and unique layout, Kirkus’s response was that the subject’s “conceit is rather ingenious”.
Go grab a couple paperback novels off your bookshelf (preferably horror or thriller) and turn them over so you can see the back covers. Chances are, at least one of them was reviewed by the Midwest Book Review. Today, they just released a review of A Book About a Film, which is less than four days away from release!
A Book About a Film
C. W. Schultz
4900 LaCross Rd.
North Charleston, SC 29406
9781508595939 $13.40 / 8.68 Brit. pounds / 11.82 Euro
A Book About a Film actually isn’t exactly a book about a film – not if you’re expecting a nonfiction exploration of how a production is created, and not if you’re looking for any insights on independent filmmaking. It’s actually a true-life thriller that revolves around a film’s production, though, and it novelizes the lost/incomplete/controversial film ‘The Cornfield People’ while considering its gripping story of life, death, and everything that lies between.
We’re not talking a big film, here: few people have had access to or watched the movie – which means the majority of readers of A Book About a Film will find themselves on equal footing, new to the subject under discussion. While many maintain the film actually doesn’t exist, its status as a cult classic implies otherwise.
The story that revolves around this film’s rumors and mystery is vivid, taking readers away from the reality of The Cornfield People’s possibilities and into a world of secret societies, ulterior forces, tangled webs, and complex twists that at times adds a wry touch of irony to the discussion.
No light pursuit, the read includes: acronyms, cinematic terminology, quasi-terrorism, debates about life and death, and a narrative surrounding the evolution of an urban legend. Money, an intriguing story, the Periodic Table of Elements, production analysis and director choices: all these are wound into a saga that is heavily footnoted and researched.
There’s nothing simple about ‘The Cornfield People’ (even some of the actors have no clue of its intentions) – and nothing easy about reading through its evolution in A Book About a Film, but readers interested in cult classic film mysteries in general and this hidden gem in particular will find C. W. Schultz’s narrative to be complex, gripping, and ultimately hard to put down – even if you’ve never seen or heard about ‘The Cornfield People’ before.
I was provided with an ARC of the book in exchange for an honest review. Initially, I was not at all certain as to what to expect. The blurb got me searching the internet for as much information as I could about the premise of the story. When I realized that there was not much to go on and almost every search that turned up somehow pointed back to the upcoming book: A Book About a Film, I started reading it with much more interest.
About the Book:
Author C. W. Schultz’s fourth release A BOOK ABOUT A FILM is a matchless thriller focusing on a low-budget movie called THE CORNFIELD PEOPLE, which follows journalist Joe Fischer as he investigates the titular group. The Cornfield People are a secret society who know the meaning of life and what comes after death. It is essential to the Cornfield People that their knowledge remain hidden from outsiders, and they will stop at nothing to protect their secret. Schultz surveys censorship through the means of violence in this chilling and unforgettable book. This satire on film-criticism takes on a double-narrative, with one acting as a novelization of the movie, while the other examines the film’s hidden messages, motifs and haunting obscurity.
This is a narrative about the plot of the above said film which is said to be lost while some think of it as an urban legend. The plot of the film is explained in a manner that prompts the reader to visualize each scene. The author not only describes the setting, but also talks about the camera angle and each character’s current position in the scene. Added to this are annotations where the author has interspersed his research along with the thoughts and quotes from several well-known film-makers, writers, producers and others in the field of film-making.
The story is intriguing, dealing with a group of people who claim to know the truth about life and what comes after death. We do however, meet some characters who are portrayed as cold and calculating. The bottom-line of the plot comes down to protecting a secret for the greater good, to protect mankind and the extent to which people can go to accomplish this. There are many references to breaking the fourth wall and how the characters are seemingly aware of their audience. This has been described in detail and analyzed in several instances. The author has made sure to bring out these points quite clearly.
The principal character, a journalist by profession is shown as intelligent with a slight sense of humor reflected when he encounters different situations while he has been tasked with investigating the Cornfield People. There are instances when we see the analysis provided while trying to narrow down a time frame or period for when this film may have been taken. With little to no information, these first hand and second hand reports add some mystery to the book. The story does fall a little flat at times where a sense of mystery is created but the author doesn’t go deeper with the explanation. However, this does not take away from the beauty of the overall idea.
The reader, through this narrative is in for an interesting read whereby the author ensures that he/she will go away with enough knowledge about this film that they will start their own research into it. Judging by the story, this would indeed be a classic film to watch. A rather well-written book, this story about a film will spark the interest of the reader and create awareness about the film
This rather unusual read is a fictional account of a lost film or a film that never existed according to the hype in the book called The Cornfield People (aka Operation D-minor and The Phantom), which is about the secret of life and broadly speaking about the secrets held by a cult of near death survivors who will do anything to protect their cult and the secret they know.
When one of their own flees them and tries to give this secret to a journalist at a Paranormal magazine, Joe Fischer, the journalist in question must jump through a series of hoops to find validity in this bizarre tale and get to the bottom of this secret in order to write his expose.
Written as a scene by scene account of this mysterious film and annotated with editorialized footnotes (which incidentally don’t work very well on Kindle as the author has not taken advantage of the Word Wise feature to aid readers by simplifying the text) from various legendary filmmakers, like Ridley Scott and Tarantino, this is one hell of a read for film enthusiasts and though I would never describe myself as a film enthusiast I did get swept away by the mystery contained in this elusive novel. I have never read a book from this author before but I found A Book About A Film, an original, if not unusual read.
However, as much as I enjoyed it the lack of formatting on ereader and the frequent typos made this probably the most difficult ebook I have read to date
Got any books released after the 1980s on your bookshelf? Maybe something by Stephen King? Jack Ketchum? George R. R. Martin? Of course you do. Go ahead and grab one, and take a look either on the back cover or the first couple of pages. Odds are, there will be an excerpt from Kirkus Reviews. Well, they had a chance to read A Book About a Film and had some pretty nice things say. Read the full review below, and stay tuned for more as September 8th approaches.
Schultz’s (Jill, 2012, etc.) novel looks at the apocrypha surrounding an infamous lost film.
In this metafictional work, a fictionalized version of the author describes a film that he claims is real, although he acknowledges that many people believe it to be an urban legend. At the same time, he attempts to publish this account with a fictional publisher. If the plot sounds tangled, that’s sort of the point, as this novel is set in the underground world of rare, lost, and legendary independent films, where the smoke and mirrors surrounding a movie can prove more deceptive than those used to make it. The film, known as The Cornfield People, among other titles, is a low-budget neo-noir shot between 1999 and 2001. It follows a journalist at a paranormal publication investigating the eponymous secret society, which is willing to go to great lengths to protect their esoteric knowledge of life and death. The book opens with a foreword explaining that this book is actually the second edition of A Book About a Film, the first having been so explosive that the publisher was forced to redact it, due to an apparent shadowy conspiracy working to keep all knowledge of the film from the public. Even so, “there are still many out there who object to this version as well, as they believe what is reported in these texts are a threat to everyone,” says the foreword’s author. Schultz then offers an annotated, scene-by-scene account of the film, along with supplementary materials; the texts become progressively more sinister as the film’s plot begins to bleed into events of the “real” world. Overall, the novel’s conceit is rather ingenious. However, the author unfortunately gets in his own way when it comes to its execution. The story’s tension is undercut by its jocular tone, and the author isn’t enough of a skilled ventriloquist to successfully mimic the array of critics and film experts whose quotes populate the text. Additionally, the film at the center of book simply isn’t persuasive enough to support all the marginalia. Although this book is fun at times, readers will be left wishing that it had just a bit more polish.
A story with a great premise that never quite takes flight.