From the Vault: The Inimitable Tony Todd by Sumiko Saulson


From the Vault – So Good, it Bears Repeating.
Heroes of Black Horror History: The Inimitable Tony Todd

By Sumiko Saulson

My first exposure to the versatile and prolific Tony Todd was in 1990, when he starred as Ben Jones in the remake of George A. Romero’s 1968 horror classic “Night of the Living Dead.” Too young to have seen the original performance by Duane Jones, Todd’s take on the role was indelibly etched in my mind moving forward. My budding infatuation with Tony Todd became a full-fledged love affair two years later, when he acted in what many consider his career-defining film, “Candyman.”

Not having seen the original “Night of the Living Dead” until well after I watched the reboot, my first exposure to black representation in horror films had instead been the second in the Romero series of zombie films, “Dawn of the Dead.” In it, Ken Foree starred as the musclebound action hero type character Peter Washington. I was only ten years old, but I loved and rooted for its hero. Like many African Americans, I was proud to see such a positive portrayal of a black man in horror.

Watching Tony Todd in the 1990 remake of “Night of the Living Dead” was a much different experience. By then, I was a twenty-two year old woman and immune to neither an actor nor a character’s sex appeal. Ben Jones as portrayed by the unusually tall and thin Tony Todd, who is 6’5, was not a powerful man of action, but a soft-spoken, thoughtful character that remained poised and dignified in the most unusual and dire of circumstances.

Although both films are about humans trying to survive a zombie outbreak, unlike the action packed “Dawn of the Dead,” “Night of the Living Dead” spends a lot of time with its main characters in hiding or isolation. Ben Jones and Barbara Hamilton, a young white woman portrayed Patricia Tallman who is attacked by a horde of zombies at her parents’ gravesite at the start of the film, first discover and then gradually begin to rely on each other. Ben is a sensitive, soft-spoken character whose demeanor goes against stereotypical portrayals of black men. He rarely loses his temper, even when faced with racism on top of adversity. Along with other characters, the two struggle to survive against unfavorable odds by keeping their wits. Brains and calm and collected mind become more important than brawn and weaponry. Ben’s upbeat attitude in the face of tragedy gives the film heart. Because the Barbara character has more agency in this version than in the original, the Ben character is less the clear-cut protagonist of this film and Barbara’s role is more active and central.

After Candyman came out, I wasn’t the only one swooning over Tony Todd. His portrayal of the story’s iconic urban legend inspired title character was both nuanced and provocative. The movie was written by British horror master Clive Barker and directed by fellow Englishman Bernard Rose. Its subject matter, however, was distinctly American. Set against the backdrop of Chicago’s Cabrini-Green Public Housing Projects, it tells the tale of Helen Lyle, a white graduate student portrayed by Virginia Madsen who is investigating the true histories behind urban legends.

Despite the presence of a central white or white-passing character (the character is allegedly a distant descendant of Candyman), the backstory’s premise is steeped in the history slavery and the restoration. Most of the supporting cast is African American, including Helen’s bestie, Vanessa Williams, played by Anne-Marie McCoy, and Helen’s Cabrini information source Bernadette “Bernie” Walsh, played by Kasi Lemmons. There are several other key African American characters and a wealth of lesser or background characters.

None of the characters, including the protagonist, steal the show in quite the way Tony Todd’s charismatic and frequently sympathetic villain Candyman does. The brooding bad man approaches Helen in a provocative and often flirtatious manner, imploring her to understand the dark history of injustice and terror that lead to his monstrous afterlife. His deeply resonant voice is seductive and haunting. His character evokes such pity and empathy in the viewer that even as a villain, he could be considered a Byronic hero. When pleading fails, Candyman resorts to threats and bargaining. Helen is the hero and the catalyst for the story, but Candyman is clearly its star. In spite of this, and his stand out performance, Todd didn’t win any awards (he was nominated for one, “Fangoria”), while Virginia Madsen won three.

From the start of his acting career, Tony Todd seemed poised for the world of speculative fiction. Although “Night of the Living Dead” was his first starring role, his motion picture debut was as Barrington in the 1986 fantasy “Sleepwalk,” about a Chinese manuscript with mystical powers. Fantasy and horror weren’t his only speculative acting roles. Some of you will remember his appearances on sci-fi television program “Star Trek: The Next Generation” as Worf’s younger brother, Kurn.

Todd is often cast in villain roles, and horror is the genre he is most solidly associated with. He played the villain Grange in 1994’s classic dark fantasy film, “The Crow,” starring the ill-fated Brandon Lee, who died during production. The movie, based on a dark super hero comic book, contained many elements of horror. Grange, a gangster, is merely a henchman of the main villain Top Dollar. However, in classic Tony Todd character style, Grange is the one who discovers that the crow is the source of hero Eric Draven’s powers.

His characters often have dark mystical knowledge, even when they are neutral, or on the side of good. William Bludworth, his character in the “Final Destination” series, is a coroner who has some special magical knowledge of how death (the entity, not the action) operations. Like Grange, William Bludworth can be considered somewhat problematic as a cinematic trope known as the “magical black character.” These are token black mystics who use their special magical knowledge to aid the story’s white protagonists (or in the case of Grange, villain). However, he is a notable character in the series by virtue of being the only repeating character besides Clear Rivers, the original protagonist (played by Ali Larter) to appear in more than one film. Since death never appears in the flesh in the movies, the Bludworth character acts as an anchor for its personification, performing as a medium or mystic of sorts. He appears in more than half of the movies.

The movie “Candyman” spawned two sequels, Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (1995) and Candyman: Day of the Dead (1999).  While “Farewell to the Flesh” was well-received and succeeded as a sequel, it lost much of the Afrocentrism of the original 1992 Candyman film. Fay Hauser as Pam Carver plays a significant enough role to prevent Todd from being the token black actor, but the significant decrease in black actors in both speaking and background roles makes certain elements of the backstory a bit more problematic.

In the story, Candyman originally existed as a free black man Daniel Robitaille.  He was an artist and the son of a slave. His eternal torment is the result of having been tortured, maimed, and murdered by a white mob for sleeping with a white plantation owner’s daughter whose portrait he had been commissioned to paint and getting her pregnant. Candyman’s central targets as victims are women who are descend from his bloodline.

The story becomes increasingly problematic with each sequel as the viewer begins to wonder why these descendants of Candyman’s biracial daughter are predominately white. By the third film, one begins to wonder why the blonde starlet (Donna D’Errico) is the descendant instead of her black girlfriend Tamara (played by Alexia Robinson). In a seeming effort to relieve the second movie’s lack of color, the third film takes on a Day of the Dead theme, a series of Latino secondary characters, and a new Los Angeles location. None of this saves the movie, which is by far the worse of the three. Some of the other acting performances were so bad that not even Tony Todd could save it, and it ultimately killed the franchise.

Although these are his best-known horror series, Tony Todd’s notoriety as a horror actor has landed him a number of parts both large and small over the years. He played a parody of himself as an obnoxious, entitled actor in two episodes of the television show “Holliston” entitled “Candyman.” Some of this other movie roles include Ruber in “Dead of the Nite,” a story of ghosts, ghost hunting, and murder; Reverend Zombie in “Hatchet II,” and Reverend Abraham Stockton in “The Graves.”

Tony Todd remains very active in acting and other pursuits and at 61 years of age, is still widely regarded as a sex symbol. He was a voice actor in a 2015 animated treatment of “Night of the Living Dead” subtitled “Darkest Dawn.” Other 2015 forays into horror for the busy actor included Eddie in “Frankenstein,” Detective Johnson in “Scream At The Devil,” Dr. Murphy in  “Agoraphobia,” and the pastor in “Live/Evil.” “Frankenstein” was written and directed by Bernard Rose, co-wrote and directed “Candyman.” Tony Todd also keeps up his creepy bad guy image with a recurring role in the television series “The Flash” as Zoom, an arch-villain who is kind of the anti-Flash. He stars as Detective Sommers in the horror film “Zombie,” currently in post-production.

In addition to his successful movie career, Todd has a substantial history in both Broadway and off-Broadway theater. His onstage credits include Donkeyman in Athol Fugard’s “The Captain’s Tiger,” the title role in August Wilson’s “King Hedley II,” and Reuben Tate in “Zooman and the Sign.” He continues to be active in theater, and is currently starring in Jack Megna’s “Ghost in the House,” a historical piece about Jack Johnson (March 31, 1878 – June 10, 1946), the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion. A victim of Jim Crow laws, the boxer convicted of violating the Mann act in 1913 for traveling with a white woman across state lines for “immoral purposes,” despite a lack of evidence. One of Tony Todd’s personal causes is working with other celebrities to ask President Obama to issue a posthumous pardon to Jack Johnson for his unjust imprisonment.

**********

sumiko armband

Sumiko Saulson a horror, sci-fi and dark fantasy writer. Her novels include “Solitude,” “Warmth”, and “Happiness and Other Diseases.” She is the author of the Young Adult horror novella series “The Moon Cried Blood”, and short story anthology “Things That Go Bump in My Head.” Born to African-American and Russian-Jewish parents, she is a native Californian, and has spent most of her adult life in the Bay Area. She is a horror blogger and journalist

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Heroes of Black Horror History: The Inimitable Tony Todd By Sumiko Saulson

Heroes of Black Horror History: The Inimitable Tony Todd

By Sumiko Saulson

 

My first exposure to the versatile and prolific Tony Todd was in 1990, when he starred as Ben Jones in the remake of George A. Romero’s 1968 horror classic “Night of the Living Dead.” Too young to have seen the original performance by Duane Jones, Todd’s take on the role was indelibly etched in my mind moving forward. My budding infatuation with Tony Todd became a full-fledged love affair two years later, when he acted in what many consider his career-defining film, “Candyman.”

Not having seen the original “Night of the Living Dead” until well after I watched the reboot, my first exposure to black representation in horror films had instead been the second in the Romero series of zombie films, “Dawn of the Dead.” In it, Ken Foree starred as the musclebound action hero type character Peter Washington. I was only ten years old, but I loved and rooted for its hero. Like many African Americans, I was proud to see such a positive portrayal of a black man in horror.

Watching Tony Todd in the 1990 remake of “Night of the Living Dead” was a much different experience. By then, I was a twenty-two year old woman and immune to neither an actor nor a character’s sex appeal. Ben Jones as portrayed by the unusually tall and thin Tony Todd, who is 6’5, was not a powerful man of action, but a soft-spoken, thoughtful character that remained poised and dignified in the most unusual and dire of circumstances.

Although both films are about humans trying to survive a zombie outbreak, unlike the action packed “Dawn of the Dead,” “Night of the Living Dead” spends a lot of time with its main characters in hiding or isolation. Ben Jones and Barbara Hamilton, a young white woman portrayed Patricia Tallman who is attacked by a horde of zombies at her parents’ gravesite at the start of the film, first discover and then gradually begin to rely on each other. Ben is a sensitive, soft-spoken character whose demeanor goes against stereotypical portrayals of black men. He rarely loses his temper, even when faced with racism on top of adversity. Along with other characters, the two struggle to survive against unfavorable odds by keeping their wits. Brains and calm and collected mind become more important than brawn and weaponry. Ben’s upbeat attitude in the face of tragedy gives the film heart. Because the Barbara character has more agency in this version than in the original, the Ben character is less the clear-cut protagonist of this film and Barbara’s role is more active and central.

After Candyman came out, I wasn’t the only one swooning over Tony Todd. His portrayal of the story’s iconic urban legend inspired title character was both nuanced and provocative. The movie was written by British horror master Clive Barker and directed by fellow Englishman Bernard Rose. Its subject matter, however, was distinctly American. Set against the backdrop of Chicago’s Cabrini-Green Public Housing Projects, it tells the tale of Helen Lyle, a white graduate student portrayed by Virginia Madsen who is investigating the true histories behind urban legends.

Despite the presence of a central white or white-passing character (the character is allegedly a distant descendant of Candyman), the backstory’s premise is steeped in the history slavery and the restoration. Most of the supporting cast is African American, including Helen’s bestie, Vanessa Williams, played by Anne-Marie McCoy, and Helen’s Cabrini information source Bernadette “Bernie” Walsh, played by Kasi Lemmons. There are several other key African American characters and a wealth of lesser or background characters.

None of the characters, including the protagonist, steal the show in quite the way Tony Todd’s charismatic and frequently sympathetic villain Candyman does. The brooding bad man approaches Helen in a provocative and often flirtatious manner, imploring her to understand the dark history of injustice and terror that lead to his monstrous afterlife. His deeply resonant voice is seductive and haunting. His character evokes such pity and empathy in the viewer that even as a villain, he could be considered a Byronic hero. When pleading fails, Candyman resorts to threats and bargaining. Helen is the hero and the catalyst for the story, but Candyman is clearly its star. In spite of this, and his stand out performance, Todd didn’t win any awards (he was nominated for one, “Fangoria”), while Virginia Madsen won three.

From the start of his acting career, Tony Todd seemed poised for the world of speculative fiction. Although “Night of the Living Dead” was his first starring role, his motion picture debut was as Barrington in the 1986 fantasy “Sleepwalk,” about a Chinese manuscript with mystical powers. Fantasy and horror weren’t his only speculative acting roles. Some of you will remember his appearances on sci-fi television program “Star Trek: The Next Generation” as Worf’s younger brother, Kurn.

Todd is often cast in villain roles, and horror is the genre he is most solidly associated with. He played the villain Grange in 1994’s classic dark fantasy film, “The Crow,” starring the ill-fated Brandon Lee, who died during production. The movie, based on a dark super hero comic book, contained many elements of horror. Grange, a gangster, is merely a henchman of the main villain Top Dollar. However, in classic Tony Todd character style, Grange is the one who discovers that the crow is the source of hero Eric Draven’s powers.

His characters often have dark mystical knowledge, even when they are neutral, or on the side of good. William Bludworth, his character in the “Final Destination” series, is a coroner who has some special magical knowledge of how death (the entity, not the action) operations. Like Grange, William Bludworth can be considered somewhat problematic as a cinematic trope known as the “magical black character.” These are token black mystics who use their special magical knowledge to aid the story’s white protagonists (or in the case of Grange, villain). However, he is a notable character in the series by virtue of being the only repeating character besides Clear Rivers, the original protagonist (played by Ali Larter) to appear in more than one film. Since death never appears in the flesh in the movies, the Bludworth character acts as an anchor for its personification, performing as a medium or mystic of sorts. He appears in more than half of the movies.

The movie “Candyman” spawned two sequels, Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (1995) and Candyman: Day of the Dead (1999).  While “Farewell to the Flesh” was well-received and succeeded as a sequel, it lost much of the Afrocentrism of the original 1992 Candyman film. Fay Hauser as Pam Carver plays a significant enough role to prevent Todd from being the token black actor, but the significant decrease in black actors in both speaking and background roles makes certain elements of the backstory a bit more problematic.

In the story, Candyman originally existed as a free black man Daniel Robitaille.  He was an artist and the son of a slave. His eternal torment is the result of having been tortured, maimed, and murdered by a white mob for sleeping with a white plantation owner’s daughter whose portrait he had been commissioned to paint and getting her pregnant. Candyman’s central targets as victims are women who are descend from his bloodline.

The story becomes increasingly problematic with each sequel as the viewer begins to wonder why these descendants of Candyman’s biracial daughter are predominately white. By the third film, one begins to wonder why the blonde starlet (Donna D’Errico) is the descendant instead of her black girlfriend Tamara (played by Alexia Robinson). In a seeming effort to relieve the second movie’s lack of color, the third film takes on a Day of the Dead theme, a series of Latino secondary characters, and a new Los Angeles location. None of this saves the movie, which is by far the worse of the three. Some of the other acting performances were so bad that not even Tony Todd could save it, and it ultimately killed the franchise.

Although these are his best-known horror series, Tony Todd’s notoriety as a horror actor has landed him a number of parts both large and small over the years. He played a parody of himself as an obnoxious, entitled actor in two episodes of the television show “Holliston” entitled “Candyman.” Some of this other movie roles include Ruber in “Dead of the Nite,” a story of ghosts, ghost hunting, and murder; Reverend Zombie in “Hatchet II,” and Reverend Abraham Stockton in “The Graves.”

Tony Todd remains very active in acting and other pursuits and at 61 years of age, is still widely regarded as a sex symbol. He was a voice actor in a 2015 animated treatment of “Night of the Living Dead” subtitled “Darkest Dawn.” Other 2015 forays into horror for the busy actor included Eddie in “Frankenstein,” Detective Johnson in “Scream At The Devil,” Dr. Murphy in  “Agoraphobia,” and the pastor in “Live/Evil.” “Frankenstein” was written and directed by Bernard Rose, co-wrote and directed “Candyman.” Tony Todd also keeps up his creepy bad guy image with a recurring role in the television series “The Flash” as Zoom, an arch-villain who is kind of the anti-Flash. He stars as Detective Sommers in the horror film “Zombie,” currently in post-production.

In addition to his successful movie career, Todd has a substantial history in both Broadway and off-Broadway theater. His onstage credits include Donkeyman in Athol Fugard’s “The Captain’s Tiger,” the title role in August Wilson’s “King Hedley II,” and Reuben Tate in “Zooman and the Sign.” He continues to be active in theater, and is currently starring in Jack Megna’s “Ghost in the House,” a historical piece about Jack Johnson (March 31, 1878 – June 10, 1946), the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion. A victim of Jim Crow laws, the boxer convicted of violating the Mann act in 1913 for traveling with a white woman across state lines for “immoral purposes,” despite a lack of evidence. One of Tony Todd’s personal causes is working with other celebrities to ask President Obama to issue a posthumous pardon to Jack Johnson for his unjust imprisonment.

 

**********

sumiko armband

Sumiko Saulson a horror, sci-fi and dark fantasy writer. Her novels include “Solitude,” “Warmth”, and “Happiness and Other Diseases.” She is the author of the Young Adult horror novella series “The Moon Cried Blood”, and short story anthology “Things That Go Bump in My Head.” Born to African-American and Russian-Jewish parents, she is a native Californian, and has spent most of her adult life in the Bay Area. She is a horror blogger and journalist

Horror Addicts Guide to Life Author Spotlight: Sumiko Saulson

23676179Sumiko Saulson has written several horror novels and has been featured on the horror addicts podcast before. For Horror Addicts Guide To Life  she wrote an article called The Addicts Guide To Cats. In it Sumiko gives us some hints on what not to do with your kitty. One thing you definitely don’t want to do is bring your cat back from the dead.  To read Sumiko’s article along with several other articles on living the horror lifestyle, pick up a copy of Horror Addicts Guide To Life. Recently Sumiko was nice enough to tell us what she likes about horror:

What do you like about the horror genre?

The horror genre addresses our deep, dark fears of the unknown. Many horror stories are about surviving or at least attempting to survive the worse. Often, they are stories about why we fight to survive against all odds. Sometimes, they are stories about the underdog overcoming, but even when our brave heroes and heroines die, they are valiant in the struggle. I’m not sure if all human beings are deeply concerned with their own mortality, but I certainly was, from an early age. How can we enjoy our life story when we know it inevitably ends in death? Or does it? Perhaps there is an afterlife. Perhaps we can continue as the Undead. If we can’t continue, perhaps our brief lives can still have meaning. I think all horror addresses some visceral fear of the unknown, where death is the greatest unknown of them all.

What are some of your favorite horror movies, books or TV shows?13564711

My first horror novel was Peter Straub’s “Ghost Story,” which I read when I was 11 years old. My first favorite horror novel was Stephen King’s “The Stand.” I don’t think “Dune Messiah” by Frank Herbert was a horror novel, but it probably should have been. It certainly gave me nightmares. Both of Christopher Rice’s horror novels, “The Heavens Rise” and “The Vines” were excellent, but I’m not sure when the will be a new one, since he’s writing porn.. uhm I mean erotica, lately.

I know this is kind of weird but, “Bones”- that fifteen year old horror film with Snoop Dog – is in fact, one of my favorite horror movies. I also love the Tony Todd film “Candyman” – and generally, I adore Tony Todd. “Bride of Chucky” and “Spawn of Chucky,” and “Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors” are other favorites, as are the original three Raimi “Evil Dead” films, particularly “Army of Darkness.”

As far as TV shows go, Supernatural.

In what way do you live the horror lifestyle?

When I had a 93 Crown Vic I used to pretend it was a Chevy Impala and I was Dean Winchester while bumping some old ass 70s tunes on the radio, does that count?

I think I’m a standard issue old school goth chick, and I have headstone book ends all over my house and a coffin-shaped jewelry box.

What are you currently working on?

I’m editing “Insatiable,” the third book in the Somnali trilogy. The first was “Happiness and Other Disease,” the the second “Somnalia.” They are dark fantasies based in Greco-Roman mythology, but the third book also has Hawaiian mythology, which makes some sense since the central protagonist is half Hawaiian. I can’t really say much more without giving spoilers for the first two books, but let me just say that things get really bad for mankind in this third book and I really feel for the humans. And there is a lot of weird, transgressive sex involved.

Where can we find you online?

sumikosaulson.com

https://www.facebook.com/authorsumikosaulson

https://twitter.com/@sumikoska

Guest Blog: The Creepiest Job I Ever Had

Written By : Sumiko Saulson

When I was a young newlywed, in need stable part time employment in my field of internet technology in order to support my family, I got a job working in a genetic research facility. The place had a creepy, Resident Evil vibe to it with its long, poorly lit, frequently empty hallways, and the elaborate series of card keys we had to use to get into the various laboratories. Every lab was equipped with emergency washing stations for washing your eyes in case you should some caustic substance in them, special foams to spray down in case of chemical spills and instructions on what to do if you should accidentally release any airborne pathogens and how to call in Hazmat so that their team covered from head to toe in protective gear that looked something like a space suit could clean up the mess if things should go terribly awry.

There were laboratories for the experiments on live rats, and I would find myself being alone in rooms with nothing cages full of laboratory rats.

When I was hired, I was told that they did animal research, and they asked me during the interview process before I was hired if I would be comfortable with the fact they were experimenting on rats and mice. They were particularly concerned since I admitted that I had pet rats at home, but I told them that if a rat’s life had to be sacrificed for something like developing a cure cancer, I was okay with that, and didn’t think it was any worse than my eating dead cows… actually, maybe not as bad, since my eating hamburger definitely won’t help anyone develop a cure for Alzheimer’s.

The facility was researching cures for genealogical conditions and disease, but I was not a scientist. I was a computer repair technician. In fact, I was one of only two repair techs and the company was on a large, old campus composed of aging brownstones. Despite the efforts to modernize the interior with long, identical-looking mazes of sterile corridors such as you might see in a hospital, the main halls suffered from a dank, musty aroma and the ancient overhead fluorescent lights hissed and buzzed and flickered. You had to use special key cards and key chain dongles to access every new area, and I had a massive keychain for these passkeys and for thumbprint reads for special areas and equipment. The overall effect made me feel like I was walking through a live version of the laboratory areas in the first-person shooter game series “Doom”.

I also had to repair computers in the clean rooms, which are laboratories where cannot enter without a mask over your face, dust covers over your shoes, rubber gloves, and a knee-length labcoat that seals on the front and the back, like a hospital gown. A double-door system where you entered one door, put on your gear, and then entered another kept out dust and unauthorized personnel. Because I am nearsighted, and the rooms were often hot and muggy, I did my best to do my job from behind glasses that were frequently fogging up from my body heat.

Most of the time, I was completely alone in the room, or worse… it was just me, and rows of cages of genetically altered rats.

In one of the labs, there were rats that had been genetically altered to be perpetually overweight so that the scientists could study obesity; in another were rats that were bred with the genetic tendency for Alzheimer’s. In still other laboratories, the rats were altered in ways that I could not understand, or imagine.

Not knowing what diseases the rats had, or what contagions were in the laboratory was part of what was so nerve wracking about working in the research facility, and the many signs reminding you that there were dangerous disease all around you and that you had to be extra careful not to trip and break anything of the test tubes people had sitting at their workstations produced a certain amount of anxiety. Sometimes people had computers on workbenches in laboratories, connected to electronic microscopes and other specialized equipment, and I had no idea what kinds of things might be in those test tubes and beakers.

Sometimes, I would walk into a lab when the research assistants were handling rats who had reached the end of the line in terms of their usefulness as live animals. They were put down, with a shot of some sort, and although I knew that they were using the least cruel method possible, I still felt a little sad. Sometimes the rats were baby ones, or very young. In spite of my cavalier speech when they hired me, I loved my pet rats the way people love their cats and dogs, and that made it hard for me.

Later in my job, I was involved in creating a database system for bar coding the rats. The system used little UPC codes such as you find on packages of groceries at the market. I was very disturbed by this, as I imagined all of the horrible Frankenstein-like ways they could adhere barcodes to living rats, through some sort of tattoo or branding process, as if they were miniature cattle – cattle, like the future hamburgers I callously described during my interview. I cringed to think about metal objects injected under the skin, or tagged to their ears.

I guess I really let my imagination get the better of me.

As it turned out, the barcodes actually weren’t being attached to the rats, but to the outside of their cages.

For more information about Sumiko Saulson, author of Solitude, be sure to check out these sites:

Buy Solitude at Amazon.com
Oakland Art Scene, Examiner.com

Solitude

13564711Imagine being in your car one day and suddenly all the people vanish. The cars, trucks and buildings are still there.  The animals are still there also but they’re not how they use to be. The world is a different place, there are forces at work that are changing everything and they may never be the same.

This is the story behind Sumiko Saulson’s Solitude. Solitude is about seven very different people and how they react to being alone after civilization disappears. One of them goes mad and talks to people who aren’t there. One goes to the zoo and frees all the animals and two others treat the whole situation like they are trapped in a video game.

When I first heard of Solitude I really liked the idea. The concept of being totally alone is a fear of mine and I was curious as to how each character would react, but there is more to the story then that. Solitude also gets into mythology and the supernatural as you find out why things are the way they are.

There is a lot to like about Solitude. One of those things is how the city of San Francisco itself is a character. Even though I’ve never been there ,  I felt I had been when I was done reading it. Sumiko really did her homework in the writing of this book. Each time there was an isolation as its called in the book,  it corresponds to an earthquake that really happened. The book also gets into religion and touches on the subject of how something sinister can effect us on a personal level and how our world can be changed when something wants what we have.

One of my favorite scenes in the book was when a spirit takes over one of the character’s bodies and cries as he realizes that another character has died. At this point you are thinking that the spirit is evil and even the person whose body the spirit takes over wonders if the spirit is faking, but you soon find out that the spirit is not what it seems. I also liked the character of Angela who seems to be at the mercy of several external influences. I looked at her as a tragic character, she comes across as evil in the book but she doesn’t try to be, she just reacts to things in her environment the wrong way.

If I was to compare Solitude to anything, it would probably be to Stephen King’s The Stand or Beneath The Dome. You can also compare Sumiko’s writing to Anne Rice. The subject matter may not be the same but Anne Rice  got into her character’s heads and Sumiko Saulson does the same thing. By the end of the book I felt I knew each character personally and it was hard to see them suffer.

I would classify this book as psychological horror. Because Sumiko doesn’t seem satisfied giving you a book that will entertain you and give you a couple of quick scares. No that’s to easy, Sumiko wants to make you think and then give you nightmares. Twice while reading this book I stopped and thought about the ideas that Sumiko was trying to get across, such as being at the mercy of forces greater than yourself and the idea of a world within a world.

The tone of the book is a little depressing and I would have liked a couple more action scenes but  this is a great read. A sequel to Solitude is on its way called Disillusionment and I for one look forward to seeing where Sumiko goes with it. If you ever wondered what it would be like to be alone and at the mercy of powerful spirits, you should check this one out.