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.
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.
C.W. Schultz is a brilliant author. Or is he? Writing a book about a film about Joe Fisher’s experience while investigating the Cornfield People, a secret society that knows the meaning of life and what comes after death, calls for a medal of bravery or dare I say it aloud, a badge of stupidity. There are many out there who believe that anything written about this subject is a threat and even those interviewed advised not to release the book due to safety issues. Because of this, I am not really the reviewer/author named Joanie Chevalier. I don’t want my life threatened in any way; I love my life. Therefore, I hacked into Ms. Chevalier’s computer and I shall remain anonymous. This is all I care to say on this subject.
Just like the man on camera, I too, enjoy an apple martini every now and then and now I have the knowledge of things that are better left unknown. But is this a gift or a curse? Just like any good reviewer, I analyzed the research given about the Cornfield People and noticed that some called it a cult. Cults are scary and while I appreciate the fact that the author couldn’t get his book properly edited out of fear, it is a crime to subject readers to the kind of erRors we were burdened with. That, and the hundreds of footnotes which were reminiscent of expensive heavy college textbooks.
The author dared to state his opinion in Fn. 98 [or was it Fn. 96?] that Cornfield Persons are clowns. Reading in context, the author wrote, “these Cornfield Persons look like a bunch of clowns.” I respectfully write this in quotations so that certain persons would know it was not me who originally dare write these words down on paper. However, coming to the defense of C.W. Schultz, I concluded from the author’s other remarks that this was probably a cover up for his true fear. Writing about red-herrings is probably a cover up too, with Mr. C.W. Schultz presenting us with a “journal,” a silly “song,” and a “word search” (email me if you too find the phrase “Cornfield People are Clowns” diagonally and backwards in the red herring word search).
The Cornfield People are a proud society and was formed over a hundred years ago. I dare you to google who was alive back then; you may be surprised. Read the book. See for yourself. Find the answer to the question: Is it possible to hang yourself with a coat hanger? Only C.W. Schultz can bring that answer to light as he courageously researches and writes, A Book About A Film. I commend you Mr. C.W. Schultz. Thank you for giving me more questions than answers.
Fn. 56 [Note: Footnotes 1 through 55 must NOT be read by the public.] The day after I finished the book, I noticed a suspicious looking man dressed in a burlap sack (I just thought he was homeless, sorry) eagerly looking over my shoulder as I was typing the review during my lunch break while sitting on a bench at the park. The next day I found a sheet of paper under my windshield. All it had were five symbols, drawn in red crayon: stars. I took this to mean only one thing – to rate this book 5 stars . . . or else. I rest my case. Fade to Black.
See the author’s website for more information: Cornfield People
TowerBabel, the place to go to “fall in love with books”, will include Schultz’s debut novel Yeval as a Featured Book later this month. Georgina Parfitt has given the book a ★★★★ (out of five) review. If you enjoy browsing for books, reading reviews, or posting your own opinions, please make sure to check out TowerBabel.
A disturbing but gripping internal monologue
There’s something very alive and vivid about this set of messed-up characters. Randy as a narrator is, necessarily, almost completely unreliable, as he is bullied and tormented by a figure in his mind called Yeval, who Randy describes as being created by his own guilt over the death of his mother.
Randy’s voice jerks and despairs as his reality becomes less and less stable over the course of the novel. This lends a suspenseful and unpredictable mood to it. The angry eruptions of the narrative voice make the reading experience feel dangerous but quick-moving. At times I felt I needed a less chaotic way through, from one event to the next, but I appreciated the author’s commitment to the scattered, often terrifying, movement of his main character’s psyche.
Some of this story is deeply unsettling, and that’s a necessary evil of its subject matter, but I was impressed with how tender and warm the narrative was able to get between the angrier episodes. Randy’s brother, the love of his life Caroline, and his late mother are all at various times conjured with extreme affection. I think this aspect of the novel is almost the most important; it’s the humanity and sympathy of these sections that propels the reader on, and inspires her to seek to understand even the most obscene sections of Randy’s interior monologue.
The writing is best when it doesn’t over explain itself. Moments of profound emotional resonance are possible when the narrator speaks simply and honestly, and when repetition is avoided. ‘“I’m with somebody,” I respond. It feels like a confession,’ Randy tells us when he is reunited with his beloved ex-girlfriend Caroline. Lines like this give us a simple insight into the moment-by-moment emotional journey of this character that is helpful when trying to negotiate his unpredictable actions.
The structure of the novel overall is well-paced, and leads the reader deeper and deeper into the internal danger of Randy’s mind. Just as the mystery of Slayer and Yeval seems to be unwinding, it obscures and convolutes again, and we are left with an indistinct and upsetting ending, but one that feels fitting for this story.
In short, not a comfortable read, but interesting, and highly thought-provoking, with moments of really moving writing.
But it didn’t stop there.
www.cwschultz.com decides a wonderful review of an exciting release warrants enough enthusiasm to finally reveal A Book About a Film’s release date as Tuesday, September 8th, 2015, as well as the front cover!
This should mark the beginning of updates on a project Schultz has been pretty secretive about. Stay tuned as the reveals continue to pile on!
It doesn’t get more meta or self-referential than this. C.W. Schultz’ original and effervescent work A Book About A Film is subversion at its best. It beckons the dream-like quality of Fellini’s masterpiece 8 1/2 with a touch of Grey Gardens. It’s like that great movie M. Night Shyamalan has yet to make.
I absolutely do not want to spoil the narrative for any prospective readers. I will say, however, that Schultz’ uncanny ability to write a work that has an inherent momentum which does not lose any steam is revelatory. I’ve read a lot of books that borrow elements from various genres that attempt to amalgamate them into a piece that will appeal to all demographics. A Book About a Film, however, is heads and shoulders above its subversive predecessors. It maintains the readers interest, utilizing imagery that is both evocative yet easily visualized.
It’s a thriller, a neo-noir and the Blair Witch Project all rolled into one cohesive narrative that held my interest in the palm of its words from start to finish. I was not only riveted by the plot mechanisms that managed to delve into the mentalities of secret society members, in this case, The Cornfield People, but I was also astonished by the authors effortless ability to weave varying styles into one masterpiece so successfully.
Maybe its because I’m a film graduate, or maybe its because I watch a lot of films, but I found A Book About A Film to be the equivalent of that rare director commentary on the DVD of your favorite semi-obscure movie. You’re in awe of the director’s ability to present subtle motifs without exploiting the intricacies of the characters and their flaws. Schultz is destined for greatness, and A Book About a Film is a book about life – the kind of life that is real, gritty, and dark.
A Book About A Film will be released in September 2015. I will write another post to remind you all to be sure to pick up a copy.
— Nick Rossi, Reading Other People