aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,

John Belushi is Dead

I had the good fortune to read the Australian version of Kathy Charles’ John Belushi Is Dead. It is a wonderful book - and doesn’t it have a great cover?

About the author
 Kathy Charles is a pop culture junkie madly in love with the city of Los Angeles. She was born in 1978 and works in the film industry. "John Belushi is Dead" is her first novel.

About the book
 Pink-haired Hilda and oddball loner Benji are not your typical teenagers. Instead of going to parties or hanging out at the mall, they comb the city streets and suburban cul-de-sacs of Los Angeles for sites of celebrity murder and suicide. Bound by their interest in the macabre, Hilda and Benji neglect their schoolwork and their social lives in favor of prowling the most notorious crime scenes in Hollywood history and collecting odd mementos of celebrity death. Hilda and Benji’s morbid pastime takes an unexpected turn when they meet Hank, the elderly, reclusive tenant of a dilapidated Echo Park apartment where a silent movie star once stabbed himself to death with a pair of scissors. Hilda feels a strange connection with Hank and comes to care deeply for her paranoid new friend as they watch old movies together and chat the sweltering afternoons away. But when Hank’s downstairs neighbor Jake, a handsome screenwriter, inserts himself into the equation ad begins to hint at Hank’s terrible secrets, Hilda must decide what it is she’s come to Echo Park searching for . . . and whether her fascination with death is worth missing out on life.

What the critics are saying
 “A page turner, bristling with sassy dialogue, blackly humerous and great fun and while aimed at a YA audience crosses over to 20-somethings, 30-somethings and 40-somethings. Richly immersed in the psychogeography of Hollywood... this is a love letter to the living and the dead of Los Angeles.”
- The Sun Book Shop

“There's a dash of Mulholland Drive in Kathy Charles' creepy comedic thriller ... Fantasy and reality smash in this distinctive debut.”
- Vogue Magazine
“(The) wit and uniqueness  certainly make what is ultimately a teenage soul-searching novel captivating--easily read in one sitting and better yet on a flight to LA.”
- Bookseller + Publisher Magazine
 I asked, Kathy answered
A. What's the scariest thing that's ever happened to you? Bonus question: have you ever used it in a book?
K I once took my pug puppy to the vet to get his toenails clipped. They gave him a mild sedative because he wouldn't stop wriggling, and he had a bad reaction to it. I watched him literally drop on the vet's table like a sack of potatoes. The vet very quickly ushered me outside and made me stand in the waiting room, and for the next few minutes I had no idea whether my dog was dead or not. Finally the nurse opened the door and out ran my pug puppy, jumping up and down like crazy. They'd given him a shot of adrenaline to get his heart started and he was literally bouncing off the walls. I held in my terror until I got to the car and then I just cried and cried, realizing how close to death my beloved puppy had come. I haven't used it in a book. It was so traumatic I'm not sure I'd want to relive it again and again through the editing process!

A. Mystery writers often give their characters an unreasoning fear - and then make them face it. Do you have any phobias, like fear of spiders or enclosed spaces?
 K In writing "John Belushi Is Dead" I was grappling with my fear of death. For a while there it most definitely became a phobia. I would actually have a physical, visceral reaction to any sort of discussion about death and what happens to us after we die. I'm still not comfortable with the subject matter, but in my fiction writing it's a subject that keeps drawing me in (ironically!). But oh boy, second to my fear of death is my fear of spiders. There was an enormous spider in my house during summer and I sat on the back porch and cried because I didn't know what to do. My 80 year old neighbor had to come and get rid of it for me! He's a cool dude.

A. Do you have a favorite mystery book, author, or movie? 
K. My favorite mystery film is without a doubt "Mulholland Drive." It's a film that warrants multiple viewings and never entirely gives up its secrets to the audience. It's also very moving. A mystery shouldn't just be about the "whodunnit" - it should make you care about the characters it's being done to.

A. At its heart, every story is a mystery. It asks why someone acts the way they did - or maybe what will happen next. What question does your book ask?
K. My novel asks the question: what are we capable of under the most horrific of circumstances, and should others have the capacity to forgive us? Most importantly, can we forgive ourselves? How do people find the strength to move on from tragedy? Okay, I guess it asks a lot of questions!

A. Is there a mystery in life that you are still trying to figure out?
K. I try not to grapple with life's mysteries. I figure someone else has that sorted out, and everything is happening for a reason, and my job is to just be here and make the most of it.

For more about the book and Kathy
Including her adorable accent! Check out http://www.thecontemps.com/2010/08/spotlight-wednesday-you-by-charles.html

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