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December 2004
 
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The Late Great Creature, by Brock Brower (1971)

FIRST published in 1971, Brock Brower's The Late Great Creature is a darkly funny, frequently brilliant novel about the interrelated roles of movies and horror in modern American life. The book takes the form of a fictional biography of aging actor Simon Moro, a larger-than-life figure who evokes both Peter Lorre and Lon Chaney, but remains, in the end, a wholly original creation. Born in 1900 (the true child of a macabre century), Moro made his reputation playing a Lorre-like pedophile in a mythical Fritz Lang film entitled Zeppelin. A gallery of B-movie monsters—among them Ghoulgantua, Gila Man, and the Moth—followed, each representing an inspired performance in a less-than-inspired film.

Brower's novel focuses on Simon's last appearance in a low-rent production of The Raven. The story emerges from a variety of perspectives that describe Moro's long, colorful career, his bizarre behavior during—and after—the making of the film, and the bloody event that disrupts the film's premiere in a sleazy Manhattan theater. The result is a satiric, horrifying account of one man's plan to deliver a final, unforgettable shock to an increasingly shockproof world.

The Late Great Creature is a virtuoso portrait of a unique performer whose life and art are inextricably connected. Simon Moro—who never really existed, but should have—is one of the great comic/horrific figures of modern fiction, a man who prefers "the appalling to the appealing," and whose career stands as a testament to the subversive power of horror.

—Bill Sheehan

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