What: A pulp novelist, freelance writer, B movie impresario, and lounge lizard at large. One of his novels, LOVE STORIES ARE TOO VIOLENT FOR ME, has been optioned for a film by Christian Slater since 2001. For many years in the San Francisco Bay Area he programmed and produced a roving “cult movie cabaret” called “Thrillville,” hosting hundreds of live B movie/burlesque shows as “Will the Thrill” along with his wife, Monica Cortes Viharo, AKA “The Tiki Goddess.”
Interview conducted by email. Some questions and answers have been edited.
I just finished A MERMAID DROWNS IN THE MIDNIGHT LOUNGE and my head is still swimming. Great stuff. How did this story begin for you? What are some of the most unexpected ways in which it evolved?
I actually first began writing this novel—which turned out to be my personal favorite of all my books—back in 1997. I’d just split from my first wife of like three months, so I was emotionally devastated, and I was working my ass off 12 hours a day as an Aero delivery driver in San Francisco while living in a cheap little hovel over in Oakland, near Lake Merritt, walking distance from the Parkway Theater, which had just been reopened and renovated as a combo movie house/restaurant by some friends of mine, who asked me to host and program a weekly midnight movie show, which I initially called “The Midnight Lounge.” These same friends had founded Wild Card Press and published my novel LOVE STORIES ARE TOO VIOLENT FOR ME back in 1995, but frankly they were professional dilettantes and quickly dropped the press in favor of the much more lucrative film exhibition/food racket, which proved very successful, until the entire business collapsed due primarily to internal turmoil in 2009. By that time I had pretty much given up on ever achieving my dream career as a novelist, though I still wrote and published a lot of freelance articles on pop culture and such. Plus my live show, now locally famous as “Thrillville,” garnered a ton of local publicity, establishing my “brand name,” though not in my field of choice. I was also happily married to my “lovely assistant” from my cult movie show, Monica “the Tiki Goddess” Cortes. We were wed at the Cal-Neva in North Lake Tahoe with a Rat Pack/mariachi ceremony/reception on May 31, 2001, exactly four years after I first met her at my screening of Jailhouse Rock on May 31, 1997. So I was no longer lonely, the main source of much of my literary therapy. Anyway, I’d put down MERMAID once the theater took off and I was hired as a full time publicist/programmer. But when the company abruptly folded, my backup career went with it. Now, suddenly without a steady income again, facing a return to the series of crappy odd jobs I’d been sustaining myself with since age 16, I was back in familiar, full-on panic mode.