It is bio-July here at the “Fear in Ink” column on Dread Central! I have two biographies of horror luminaries to share with you this month, and we will kick it off with the upcoming Master of Horror: The Authorized Biography of Mick Garris by Abbie Bernstein from ATB Publishing.
Related Article: Mick Garris Recalls the Time He Orchestrated a Reunion Between Tobe Hooper and Steven Spielberg
There are lots of reasons people read biographies or autobiographies, but it is undeniable, whether or not folks want to admit it, that a big reason is a morbid curiosity. It is human nature to want the dirty little secrets and lurid details of someone’s personal life–particularly when that person belongs to the entertainment industry. I confess to a personal history of devouring many of these for the basest of reasons (Mommy Dearest, anyone?), but I was pretty sure before even reading one page that Mick Garris’s bio would not fit that category.
I should mention that I have met Mick Garris. I have had the pleasure of eating dinner with him and his wife, the actor Cynthia Garris. I suspect the people who read Dread Central have also had a chance to meet him because he has been very active in the horror world for quite some time, including conventions, film festivals, and other public events. He has a well-earned reputation for amiability, and that is a word I would also use to describe the new book by Bernstein.
Abbie Bernstein has a wealth of books to her name that explore the making of films or the art design behind films, and the style of those books seems to influence this biography. Unlike most books in this genre that often form a narrative of a person’s life story almost in novel form, this one reads very much like a long Rolling Stone interview, if that interview was with a collection of folks. Included amongst the interviewees are Garris himself and his wife Cynthia, as well as his family, friends, and colleagues over the years: notably John Landis (who wrote the foreword), Joe Dante, Mädchen Amick, and Richard Band.
Also Read: Exclusive: Mick Garris Reveals 5 of His Favorite Stephen King Movies!
The content is laser-focused on the creative output, experiences, and collaborations of Garris. It works, though, in part because it is so varied. From music to press agency to behind-the-scenes videographer to journalist to filmmaker, there are peeks into corners of the entertainment industry from a medley of different angles. Yes, there are tidbits of biographical information (hey, Mick Garris grew up in East County San Diego and went to Grossmont!), but they are presented in clear juxtaposition with how they may have informed the craftsman he has become.
Bernstein’s prose exists here only to give context to direct interview quotes and, since she has considerable experience reporting on the genre herself, will occasionally chime in with a personal experience or two when it is relevant. If this is made into an audiobook, I suspect it would sound something like one of the Post Mortem podcasts that Mick Garris has been gifting us with (now on the Dread Central Podcast Network!). Readers of this blog will likely enjoy a lot of what I enjoyed, and why I suspect Garris has had a lot of staying power. It is not just his interviews and films or his tv shows like Masters of Horror. It is the gooble-gobble-one-of-us nature of his genuine enthusiasm for these crazy stories. I think a lot of readers will see themselves in descriptions of his fondness for building Aurora model kits as a kid or interviewing Ray Bradbury for his high school paper.
So, who is this book for? Clearly, it will resonate most with people who are already fans of Mick Garris. That said, it isn’t an insufferable puff piece blindly extolling his virtues, either. Because his career has crossed paths in so many ways with so many in the film world, there will be interesting takeaways, even for movie lovers who may not even have heard his name before. From Star Wars to Sleepwalkers, from Amazing Stories to Psycho, there is something to offer any fan of fantastic storytelling.
As a companion to reading, you can check out the archive of Garris’s Z-Channel Fantasy Film Festival interviews on YouTube and, of course, his Post Mortem Podcast!
Stay tuned in two weeks for the second title in my bio July, a look at the new tome Terence Fisher: Master of Gothic Cinema, The Authorized Biography by Tony Dalton. This one is a very different beast, so I look forward to sharing it!