Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Ed Wood's BLOOD SPLATTERS QUICKLY: An introduction

Blood Splatters Quickly reintroduces America to the short fiction of Edward D. Wood, Jr.

"It got to the point where, when one of the kids got an ear infection and we needed to buy antibiotics, [my wife] Tabby would sayhalf-joking and half not'Hurry up, Steve, think of a monster.'"
-Stephen King on his short story-writing career

I have decided not to write an article about Blood Splatters Quickly: The Collected Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr. (O/R Books, 2014), the newly-published volume that contains several dozen short stories written by Ed Wood in the late '60s and early-to-mid-'70s, most of them unseen for over 40 years. Instead, I'm going to write 33 articles about it... 34, I guess, counting this one.

After some careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that it would be best to cover each of the stories individually. As I've been making my way through these marvelously twisted and unmistakably Wood-ian tales, one persistent thought has been gnawing away at me: "How am I ever going to condense this down into one Ed Wood Wednesdays piece without skipping a bunch of stuff?"

Well, who says I have to skip anything? So instead of my usual 5,000-plus-word behemoth (and do you realize that I've now written about a quarter of a million words about ol' Eddie at this point?), Blood Splatters Quickly will receive coverage here on a day-by-day, story-by-story basis. That way, I'll be able to discuss each entry in the book at my leisure while also providing a more steady supply of new content at Dead 2 Rights. Doesn't that sound like fun? Trust me, this is gonna work like gangbusters or my name isn't Adkon Telmig.

While the stories contained within its covers were written by Ed Wood, the omnibus Blood Splatters Quickly owes its existence to one man: Hollywood resident and tireless Ed Wood booster Bob Blackburn, whom you may remember from my coverage of I Woke Up Early the Day I Died . A lifer in the radio business himself and the son of a prominent Seattle sports announcer, Bob met Kathy Wood, Ed's widow, in 1992 and became a good friend to her in the last 14 years of her life.

Significantly, Bob assisted her in an ongoing quest to make sure that Eddie's life and work were not forgotten even though the man himself died in 1978. Besides getting I Woke Up Early made into a full-length, all-star motion picture in 1998, Bob and Kathy also arranged for a New York firm called Four Walls Eight Windows to finally publish Ed's previously-unseen Hollywood Rat Race, along with attractive new editions of Death of a Transvestite and Killer in Drag. Kathy Wood passed away in 2006 at the age of 84, and Bob became the caretaker of the Edward D. Wood, Jr. estate. His dedication to Wood's memory has not wavered in the intervening eight years.

Bob's latest accomplishment is Blood Splatters Quickly: The Collected Stories of Edward D. Wood, Jr. The 33 short stories reprinted here were originally cranked out for pornographic publications known euphemistically as "men's magazines" between roughly 1969 and 1975. Though explicitly sexual in nature, many (or most) of the tales have a horror or supernatural element as well.

Sam Yorty
Bob Blackburn himself pens an affectionate, informative introduction to the new book. He gives a thumbnail history of Ed Wood's literary career, including a retelling of Eddie's long association with Bernie Bloom at low-end Pendulum Publishing in the 1970s. The introduction also includes a biographical sketch of Ed Wood's entire colorful life, touching on his stint in the Marines during World War II and the low-budget film career that made him famous/infamous in the 1950s and beyond. Ed's work with the Autonetics aviation firm and controversial Los Angeles politician Sam Yorty are also covered.

Not ignored in all this is Eddie's decades-long struggle with alcoholism. This crucial subject is treated in a matter-of-fact way, highlighted by vivid details. (An example: "Ed would take a thermos of vodka to work with him and by the end of the day, he would be smashed.") But Kathy's life is given due attention as well; this may be the first time that her post-1978 life has ever been described at any length in a book. A little of the woman herself shines through in the process. "Kathy was a very private person," Blackburn writes, "and couldn't quite understand the growing fascination with Ed's work and the re-appraisal of his films and writings. She later told me that Ed would have loved it all, but it was too late." Those all-important words "too late" cast a pall over Eddie's entire posthumous career, including this very book.

Before we go, here's a neat video introduction that Bob recently made for an Ed Wood film festival. It's shot in front of the infamous "Yucca Flats" apartment building (6383 Yucca Street, Los Angeles, CA 90028) where Ed and Kathy spent their last few turbulent years as a couple. Just as in Ed's day, the building is still located next door to a 7-11 convenience store. The famed Capitol Records building (glimpsed in Nympho Cycler) is just a few blocks to the east. Head west on Yucca and you'll soon find another quintessential Wood location: Pla-Boy Liquor (still in operation as of this writing).

NEXT: "Scream Your Bloody Head Off" (1972)