A special thank you to James Rozoff for letting me
interrogate interview him last month.
Her Homeschooled Highness Reviews: How did you come up with the idea for The Amazing Morse?
James Rozoff: I had a friend … and when we were together we would always find really off the wall things to do. One day we were driving down the road … and he says “what’s that?” … We turned back and it’s … spiritual readings. He’s like ‘do you want to do it?’ It’s nothing I normally would have done but like ‘boy that would be different’, so we went in just to see what it was like … I had the weirdest feeling when I walked into the door and I don’t have weird feelings. But that was one time in my life it felt like some electrical vibe going through me. The lady came out – she was just weird. She said, “Oh, I’m busy right now. I can’t help you guys”. We never went back but that moment always stuck with me and slowly I started working.
HHHR: Dave Morse has a lot of flashbacks to his childhood – were those also based on real experiences?
James Rozoff: My brother was a magician – he still is … He’s managed to make a living out of (it). … I was his first assistant so I learned the ropes of magic. A lot of (the book) was me flashing back to my childhood and thinking about how wonderful life was then.
HHHR: Did you have to do research for The Amazing Morse? How much?
James Rozoff: I did a fair amount of research – not a ton of it … A lot of the time it’s easier to come up with a different way of doing it than doing all that research. A lot of times doing research is an easy way to avoid doing writing. It’s a balance – you want to be well informed but you don’t want to waste your time.
HHHR: How did you decide to make Dave Morse a magician?
James Rozoff: I was talking to my brother – the magician – one day and he’s like ‘you know, you should write about me’, and it really worked to make my main character a magician. … Magic (is) being able to see life beyond the mental traps that you have and the mental traps society has. Escape artistry is being able to get away from those traps. So Dave – because he was a magician – was able to see beyond society’s traps (and) escape them.
HHHR: Your books incorporate a lot of spiritualism and references to Harry Houdini – is there a reason behind that?
James Rozoff: I do like to “play” with spirituality. It’s not spiritualism, there is a dark side but there’s also a light side. I look at things through a spiritual lens … even though it sounds like it’s creepy – and there is a scary element to it – when you look at life through a spiritual paradigm it can be frightening but you have to overcome that fright to see the beauty and the miracle in life.
HHHR: Do you incorporate symbolism in your book?
James Rozoff: A lot of what I do is symbolism, like when (Dave’s) sitting in the cubicle reading about jail cells – it’s symbolism – he’s experiencing his entrapment. So many of us fall into traps in life – it could be cigarettes, it could be bad relationships, and we think there’s no way out. It’s just a matter of standing up and looking above the cube.
HHHR: Is there a message in your book?
James Rozoff: The message is to be able to see beyond the paradigms of the present society we live in … We have our own mental constructs we have to overcome but there are also these societal ways of looking at life. … I think where Dave gets his strength is because part of him is living back in the days of Houdini and he’s looking at life through that paradigm. He sees life now and he sees how it’s different and it’s not necessarily better. Everybody wants to tell you we are living in the best possible world, and I’m sure there are moments where we may, but there’s things that aren’t as good.
HHHR: Who designed your covers?
James Rozoff: My idea was from a poster from the early 1900s’ … I put it on Craig’s list, … said “I want a painting for my first cover,” and I got (it).
HHHR: What are you currently working on?
James Rozoff: The third book (of The Seven Stones series). …it takes place in Germany before World War II. I thought I knew something about it but there’s just so much about German culture and … I want to make it real. And I want to know the territory I’m going to be writing in. There’s just a whole lot of research I’ve had to do for this one and I did a lot of research on the other ones especially the historical ones but this one was just rough.
HHHR: Do you see writing as a future career or will it be just a hobby?
James Rozoff: I want to see what happens once this sixth book comes out but I do intend to push really hard and … see what I can make of it.
HHHR: How do you choose names for your characters? Do you pick names you think are cool or do you pick names with meaning?
James Rozoff: As far as the characters in The Amazing Morse, there’s a band called Spock’s Beard. Their singer is Neal Morse and their bass player is Dave Meros. I took Dave’s first name and Neal Morse’s last name and called my character Dave Morse. They have a drummer called Nick D’Virgilio, I dropped the ‘D’ and just used Mindy Virgilio, and then their keyboardist had a Japanese name (Ryo Okumoto) … I had his name as the person who wrote the book: Dead Languages. … I don’t know why … but I just thought it would be fun thing to do. Also, my brother, the magician, is a friend of the bass player so it was another way to tie things together. I love tying things together in every possible way.
HHHR: Out of the protagonists you’ve written about so far, which one do you feel you relate to the most?
James Rozoff: I think the first book is always going to be the most autobiographical so I threw every important part of my life into my first character. (Dave Morse) is kind-of me, kind-of my brother, kind-of different people I know. … The fact that he’s a very
(empathetic) person, I think that’s me. I described putting a worm on a hook and thinking about the worm’s struggle for survival – that was totally all from me.
HHHR: What book has inspired you the most?
James Rozoff: Les Misérables.
HHHR: Who are your favorite authors?
James Rozoff: Victor Hugo, Jack London, Alan Moore, (and) Nathaniel Hawthorne.
HHHR: Do you have any strange writing habits?
James Rozoff: When I get stuck (while writing) I do housework.
HHHR: The Amazing Morse is the first of a series – can we expect more books or is the story finished?
James Rozoff: I wrote the first three Amazing Morse thinking I could build off of that (and) I figured out what I would do is write a prequel that didn’t really have any meaning but it would lead up into my series. But of course, I can’t avoid writing the way I write so the meaning started creeping into the book which was Seven Stones. It was basically set 100 years before Amazing Morse and at the end of the book (The Amazing Morse) he (Dave) says he’s going to go work for Doug Slattery. In the book Seven Stones, my main character is Doug Slattery and you have to figure out ‘okay what’s the deal?’ it can’t be the same guy – can it?
HHHR: What book would you suggest new readers start with? The Seven Stones Series or The Amazing Morse Series?
James Rozoff: You know, growing up I read comic books where every month you can pick up a comic you haven’t read in a year and you find yourself in the middle of something and it’s kind-of cool. I’m not one of those people who think you have to start in a certain place. Each story is a full story. I think it’s cool to read something then go back and read how it started. I always like digging back – but other people have their own preference.
Title: The Amazing Morse
Written by: James Rozoff
Genre: Fiction – Horror
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Publication Date: September 20th, 2012
Paperback: 212 pages
“He begrudged the relative success of those who had achieved more than he had while at the same time thinking less of them for their lack of imagination, their lack of real ambition. He just couldn’t see himself taking such a job seriously. He could not see the point in committing himself to a profession such as this; it was a job one ended up in, not something one aspired you. And after all, he was The Amazing Morse.” (Page 16)
At one time Dave Morse’s life had been filled with magic. He – The Amazing Morse – had performed magic tricks to an adoring public while life seemed to be bursting with magic, charm, and wonder. The years passed and now he spends most of his time in a cubicle counting down the days until the weekend when The Amazing Morse is scheduled to entertain at children’s parties. On the way home after one such party his assistant sees an advertisement for fortune telling and makes Dave go with her to the spiritualist’s house. But after a failed attempt to have their fortunes told they leave. That is when the dreams start.
Harry Houdini meets The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, with a dash of Frankenstein and a side of spiritualism.
Yeah, I should probably stop starting with mashup descriptions.
To begin, I’ll confess if I had seen The Amazing Morse at a bookstore I would have walked right past it without a second thought. I don’t typically enjoy books that deal with spiritualism or “real magic” – the stuff just creeps me out – but I was pleasantly surprised with The Amazing Morse.
I picked this book up expecting it to be about a children’s-party magician who went too far into “The Dark Side” with one of his tricks.
Yeah – no.
You know, one of these days I should really finish reading book descriptions instead of stopping halfway through because the book already sounds interesting.
Anyway, back to our actual topic…
The Amazing Morse.
So many things should have turned me away from this book yet The Amazing Morse kept me spellbound from cover to cover. (pun intended)
Let me explain:
I’m an action girl through and through – give me a good chase scene or shoot out, or fight and I’m hooked and/or drooling with excitement.
The Amazing Morse has none of those.
I also hate books with mile long conversations inside the main character’s head.
The Amazing Morse has a lot of those.
But neither of those facts mattered.
The book’s mystery kept me wanting to know more and then, once I knew the solution, I was too deep into the story to back out. Plus, those marathon mental conversations were interesting and (more importantly) vital to the plot.
I tip my proverbial rabbit-filled hat to James Rozoff for being the only author besides Shirley Jackson to somehow make me enjoy a horror novel.
Unfortunately, I have a few problems with this book.
First, the main character isn’t the hero in the end. Yes, he confronts/stands up to/is ready to fight the villain but it’s not Dave who ultimately defeats Mr. Bad Guy.
Second, I understand that in order for the reader to grasp the severity of Dave’s situation, Dave must travel to the deepest and darkest places of life. This decent to the depths leads him to hire a prostitute (although for a reason totally outside of her job description) and when they first meet the two have a conversation filled with descriptive illusions to her profession.
Personally, I think a homeless person could have worked just as well as the prostitute – but hey, no one had an affair, there was no love triangle, and the most sensual thing Dave does is think how good Mindy looks in her Magician’s Assistant costume.
And, as I’m also reading (review to come) this stupid, sappy love book which I foolishly didn’t think was going to be a stupid, sappy love book – and I’m too far into it to quit reading – the lack of romance in this book adds at least two stars to The Amazing Morse’s Personal Rating.
Just kidding – it’s more like one-and-a-half stars.
Because of the prostitute scene, the amount of swearing, and the violence (I had to skim over a few parts – although I am admittedly more squeamish than most people and the violence is not the most graphic I’ve ever read) I recommend this book for older readers. It would be a good fit for those who liked The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein, or would enjoy a story which sporadically talks about Harry Houdini/his tricks and spiritualism of the 1900s’.
Age Range: 14 – adult
Cautions – *Contains Slight Spoilers*
Violence: A guy is poisoned. A man is thrown from a building. A description of a dead body with maggots. Dave pretends he’s going to behead a kid. Many people are strangled with detailed description. Mindy smells a decaying body. A guy shoots himself. Dave hits a guy on the head with a metal pipe. A man’s head is torn off. Worms are used as fishing bait (yes, I know this seems un-violent but trust me on this one.)
Sensuality: Mindy and Dave sleep in the same bed – but nothing happens. Mindy wears tight clothes. Description of prostitutes. Two characters kiss. Young Dave has a crush on a girl.
Profanity: B—-h, s–t, d–k, l-y, b–w, p–s, k—-y s–t, f–k, h–l, and God’s name was taken in vain multiple times.
Other(drugs/alcohol): Dave and Mindy break into a house. Characters lie. Spirits of the dead are summoned. A man is locked up in a straitjacket. Mindy is a religious sceptic. A boy is tied up and locked inside a trunk. Dave is a magician. Dave steals books. Talismans, magical items, demons, cults, witches, sorcerers, mediums, incest, pagan priests, the sixth sense, spirits, ghosts, tarot cards, spiritualists, gambling, a straitjacket, tulpa, sociopaths, swastikas, a man being beheaded, a dead cat, séance, coffins, bombs, killing cats, beer, drunks, and being drunk are mentioned.
Personal Rating: 3 ½ out of 5 stars
Cleanness Rating: 2 ½ out of 5 stars