David Morrell Southwest Book Fiesta Wrap up

December 29, 2013 Bookish Events 0

I was clearing out files the other day and noticed I still hadn’t posted two book signing wrap ups and decided to get those posted during the last few days of December. The first one is David Morrell’s wrap up from his talk at the Southwest Book Fiesta (recap here).

I grew up watching the Rambo films with my father since he really enjoyed them. I was aware of Morrell’s books, but never picked one up then I read a review for Murder as a Fire Art in an issue of Entertainment Weekly and was intrigued. I came across Thomas De Quincey before in class when I was in Glasgow and found him very interesting so when I read Morrell based his book on him, I knew I had to read this!


Before he began to discuss Murder as a Fine Art, he decided to talk about Rambo since he mentioned he’s always asked about it and he wanted to get it out of the way. I’m doing the wrap up in a bullet point style.

• In Canada no one talked about the Vietnam War and it was mostly a US war. He did not know what it was and first encountered it when he came to the US to do a PhD.

• Taught mostly veterans returning from Vietnam who were bitter that he didn’t fight.

• One day noticed a riot on TV and turned down the volume and noticed it resembled a firefight in Vietnam and couldn’t tell the difference between the riot and war.

• Rambo as a movie has different intentions from the book.

• Rambo is like the Minutemen and conflicted with himself.

• Morrell says he questioned if he could write an action book that is not necessarily genre based. He used Hemingway as a guideline.

First Blood went through a process as it was adapted to film. Went through 26 scripts with 5 different studios and Steve McQueen was considered to star as Rambo.

• Doesn’t understand the huge success Rambo had as a film series.

• Began to notice indie bookstores turned from him as an author after First Blood’s theatrical release because many considered him to be pro-war.

• He said he had a love / hate relationship in terms of how people perceived him.

• Sylvester Stallone hates the second and third films in the series because he considers them to be too violent.

• If you really look at the films you’ll notice four different Rambo’s in terms of how the character is portrayed on film.

Murder as a Fine Art came about because he watched Creation and it’s about Darwin’s breakdown he suffered while writing On the Origin of Species. In the movie, someone says to Darwin, “You know, Charles, people such as De Quincey believe that we’re controlled by elements in our mind that we’re not aware of.”

• De Quincey wrote a detailed account of drug abuse in Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. During his peak of addiction, De Quincey drank sixteen ounces of laudanum each day. Laudanum was 90% alcohol and 10% opium.

• Began to research De Quincey and spent two years reading his letters and writings. From there he began to collect books on Victorian culture.

• Mass murders have always occurred, but communicating the news was limited back then and mostly tied to local news.

• In 1811, a murder took place in the East End of London and 52 newspapers in the UK mentioned it. Took 2 days for news to spread about the murder. 12 days later another murder was committed and De Quincey became obsessed.

• John Williams was accused of murdering John Williamson and the Marrs in what would be known as the Ratcliff Highway murders. In total 2 families were killed and 7 victims total.

• De Quincey wrote for a variety of magazines and newspaper. In 1854 began to write about the Ratcliff Highway murders and invents the true crime fiction genre.

• Edgar Allan Poe loved De Quincey’s work and Arthur Conan Doyle was inspired by Poe.

• Wilkie Collins takes a page from De Quincey to the point of making him a detective because he noticed the influence De Quincey had.

• With Murder as a Fine Art, Morrell wanted readers to feel like they were in the 1850’s.

• He decided to use third person omniscient as a narrative to portray important information.

• Morrell says he’s different from how authors research in terms that he likes to go and do it especially for action. For example, he wanted to add pilot scenes in a book and the way he could relay that information properly was to go and take flying classes because he wants readers to know what he’s talking about.

I will say this, if you ever get the chance to attend a David Morrell book signing or talk, GO! It’s fascinating to hear him talk and besides, he’s a kind man who’s happy to talk to you! We spoke about turning my master’s thesis into a book and didn’t roll his eyes when I mentioned knowing him because of the Rambo films. In fact, there was a copy of First Blood and he signed it for my dad and I mentioned how my dad was fan of the films, he included a signed card with him and Stallone.

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