Most readers will know, perhaps inadvertently, of the work of Edward D Wood JR through a Tim Burton film, unimaginatively entitled Ed Wood. The film won two Academy Awards, which is more than a little surprising – especially considering that Burton’s masterpiece Edward Scissorhands never won a single Oscar and was arguably the better film (hey – that’s Hollywood for you). Ed Wood starred divine beauty Johnny Depp as the hapless Ed Wood, an extraordinarily-bad film director. Blood Splatters Quickly is the quasi-mythological, but still very much real, Edward D “Ed” Wood JR’s short story collection – unfortunately for the reader it turns out that Ed Wood was just as bad at writing stories as he was at directing films. He was not just casually inept. He was capital-A Atrocious.
Artistically speaking the most interesting plastic jewel in Ed Wood’s prince of fool’s crown was his incredibly colourful life story. This explains why his existence spawned a feature film. However my own knowledge of the film and of the man Edward D Wood JR himself is clouded somewhat by the fact that my ex-girlfriend talked incessantly throughout the DVD, despite claiming it was her “favourite” film. Consequently, before reading Blood Splatters Quickly, I had only a vague idea of the oeuvre of the “screenwriter, director, producer, actor, author and film editor”. I knew Ed Wood was famous for being bad – a sort of cult figure – in short, a talentless pretender. Fortunately, Bob Blackburn’s introduction, the only piece of good writing in this long and teeth-numbingly dull work, ticks of all the necessary boxes of the author’s story.
To recap briefly for those still listening: transsexual from a young age (his mother wanted a girl), military service, decorated, discharged, California, a number of poorly received feature films (the miracle is that he kept making them, lesser mortals without his self-belief would have given up and taken the floor manager job in Taco Bell), descent into serious alcoholism, poverty, death at fifty-four and finally posthumous fame after receiving a Golden Turkey Award as Worst Director Of All Time. Ed Wood was nothing if not curious. It’s just a shame his fascinating life never fed into his art. Proving Oscar Wilde wrong, his art failed to imitate life (or was it vice-versa?). Regardless: there is absolutely nothing in this collection for the reader. Ed Wood clearly admired F Scott Fitzgerald and Fitzgerald’s wonderful LA-based Pat Hobby stories seem especially prescient, but Ed Wood has none of the master’s sublime pathos, he shares none of his lyrical, delicately-calibrated style. His writing is about as subtle as an elephant landing on someone’s head, from a great height. In short: Ed Wood was not a bad writer, he was a very bad writer.
The genetic make-up of the stories tends to be plot-less, directionless pornographic exercises in vulgarity. Nothing believable ever happens. In one of his many novels (I’ve not read any of them and based on this would highly recommend not reading any of them) Ed Wood advised the amateur writer to “just keep on writing. Even if your story gets worse, you’ll get better”, which is true in a kind of warped way, except that it isn’t true at all for the man who wrote it. To paraphrase Bob Dylan “what’s bad is bad and what’s good is good”. This is one of the worst collections of writing I have ever read. But, then, perhaps that’s what makes it so intriguing.
Charlie Baylis lives and works in Nottingham. He reviews poetry for Stride, which is where his best poetry is published. He also reviews poetry and fiction for Neon. His own creative writing has appeared in a number of publications, including: Stride, Litro , Ink, Sweat And Tears, The Cadaverine, Boston Poetry, and Agave. Charlie has been shortlisted for the Bridport (UK) and Pushcart prizes (US). He spends his spare time completely adrift of reality.