Saturday, April 20, 2019

M.G. Wheaton

Born in Texas, M.G. Wheaton worked in a computer factory before getting his start as a writer for such movie magazines as Total Film, Fangoria, Shivers, SFX and several others. After leaving journalism, Wheaton worked as a writer for video games, comic books, and movies, including writing scripts for New Line, Sony, Universal, Miramax, HBO, A&E, Syfy, Legende, Disney Channel, and others while working with filmmakers such as Sam Raimi, Michael Bay, Steven Soderbergh, George Tillman, Gavin O'Connor, Janusz Kaminski, and Clark Johnson.

Wheaton's new novel is Emily Eternal.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
Right now, I’m reading about five books at once: one on audio, two on the Kindle, and two physical books which is about average for me depending on if I’m in the car, working out, or in a theater somewhere waiting for the curtain to rise.

On Kindle, I’m reading Ahmed Saadawi’s novel, Frankenstein in Baghdad, and Tony Healey’s The Singles, a collection of short stories and novellas. Frankenstein in Baghdad takes place during the US occupation of Iraq and focuses on the aftermath of a sectarian bombing. One of the nameless people blown to bits is reassembled by a junk dealer but before long, heads out into the city again with revenge on his mind. Told from several different points-of-view, it’s dark and absurd and kind of amazing. I have no idea where it’s going, but I can’t put it down.

Similarly, Healey’s collection of shorts is equally addictive. Healey is an excellent crime writer, best known for his Harper and Lane novels, but his recent and twisty Not For Us is my favorite. The Singles is like if a pulp magazine like Black Mask or Weird Tales showed up in the modern day and was filled with crime and adventure stories of every stripe. So far, I’ve read one detective story, one jungle caper, and a twisty, Twilight Zone-type murder tale. Hilariously, I caught someone reading the detective story over my shoulder waiting at the post office and she seemed as engrossed as I was.

On audio, I’m listening to investigative reporter, Jane Mayer’s book Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, which is so hard to recommend as every chapter is more infuriating than the last, hilariously enough. It concerns the billionaires behind right-wing politics, just this parade of huge money donors like the Koch Brothers, John M. Olin, Richard Mellon Scaife, etc., who create these non-profit foundations to evade taxes then use them as lobbying firms to push for, say, environmental deregulation. In case after case, Mayer lays out how these men became extremely wealthy by breaking the rules, such as the sheer number of times the Kochs have been called out for everything from lying about how much benzene they were polluting the air with in Texas to running a nationwide scheme of cheating their business partners out of oil revenue by using faulty gauges and covering up spills. When caught, each and every one of these billionaires chooses not to clean up their businesses but instead to funnel hundreds of millions into right-wing think tanks and university programs in hopes of bringing about widespread de-regulation of environmental and tax laws in Washington that is then supported by judges they’ve sponsored. The book is basically an incendiary prequel to a lot of what’s happening in American politics right now.

As for physical books, I’m a big Little Free Library person and recently traded for Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence and Mary Renault’s The Persian Boy, which I’d never heard of but sounded interesting. From the very first page, the Wharton is exquisite, describing Newland Archer’s evening at the opera when he, and everyone around him, first spies the beautiful Countess Olenska in a neighboring box. I’ve only ever read The House of Mirth, so it’s wonderful to devour such beautiful prose.

The Renault, it turns out, is a semi-romantic, imagined life of Bagoas, a Persian eunuch who first served in the court of King Darius III, then with Alexander the Great after his army clashed with Darius’s troops, eventually becoming a lover to each. I’ve read some Alexander stories here and there such as Steven Pressfield’s novel, The Virtues of War, as well as various chunks of Arrian’s histories of Alexander, but this is very different, much more emotional and much more attuned to the very human frailties of its characters. Renault, herself emigrated from the UK to South Africa to live openly with her partner, Julie Mullard, writes of Alexander’s relationship with both Bagoas and his more historically prominent lover Hephaestion in romantic terms absent in those other works while still retelling the epic story of Alexander’s unification of the Greek and Persian worlds.
Visit Mark Wheaton's website.

--Marshal Zeringue