By T. WINTER-DAMON (TAL; 1993)
A spirited 100-page look at the life and fiction of the late Rex Miller, one of the most distinctive horror/mystery specialists of the eighties and nineties. In earlier years Miller was a radio DJ and collectible dealer, but his true calling was cemented by the 1987 publication of SLOB, a blistering serial killer mind-fuck. An explosively profane and transgressive creation, it featured one of the genre’s most unforgettable personages: Daniel “Chaingang” Bunkowski, a raging psychopathic killer, and his foil, detective Jack Eichord, who was to be the protagonist of most of Rex Miller’s subsequent books. Many of those flat-out suck, but Miller did turn out several memorable post-SLOB efforts, such as the hallucinatory ‘Nam saga PROFANE MEN and the Eichord-headlined thrillers SLICE and ICEMAN. These days it seems Miller and his writings are largely forgotten (as is this book, purchased off a discount rack for a whopping 50 cents), which is a shame, as his work still holds up.
Author T. Winter-Damon is clearly a die hard fan of Rex Miller, and writes in a ribald stream-of-consciousness style that directly recalls Miller’s top-of-the-voice prose–there’s been speculation that Damon IS Rex Miller, even though the latter died in 2004 and TW-D as far as I know is still breathing (he’s the co-author of 05’s notorious depravity-fest DUET FOR THE DEVIL). This book is lively and enthusiastic, indeed perhaps a bit too much so: Damon in my view goes far too easy on his subject’s lesser novels, including hackneyed rush jobs like STONE SHADOW and FRENZY (which Miller says he wrote “in 18 minutes”, a claim I fully believe), and allows Miller to drone on far too much in the copious interviews that punctuate the text.
About those interviews, they’re rambling and largely incoherent, packed with pop culture references a’plenty and lengthy digressions (there’s a long and pointless aside on author James Ellroy) that invariably go nowhere (at one point Miller tellingly interjects, “Sorry–the Nyquil kicked in”). But they do succeed in capturing the true flavor of Mr. Miller, who was by all accounts a mighty colorful personality, as attested by the following remembrance from a radio colleague (not included in this book but worth taking into account): “Highly talented, an immense brain and talent, but so undisciplined it was unbelievable. He would just mesmerize you when you when you watched him because everything came to him off the wall”.
Other goodies include a plethora of well-chosen quotations from Miller’s books and a mind-blowing bibliography of his short story publications, which were far more numerous than I ever imagined. His yarns appeared in the SPLATTERPUNKS, HOT BLOOD, BORDERLANDS, MASQUES and WHISPERS anthology series, and the magazines MIDNIGHT GRAFFITI, DEATHREALM and GAUNTLET. There was also a three-issue CHAINGANG comic series, varied collaborations with the like-minded authors Andrew Vachss and Ed Gorman, and a discarded radio-themed novel called KENNEDY BLUE, excerpts from which close out the present book.
What REX MILLER: THE COMPLETE REVELATIONS doesn’t cover is its subject’s long period of illness–the reason his writing tapered off during the latter half of the nineties–and untimely death at age 65. The book was published back in 1993, when Rex Miller’s fortunes were apparently at their brightest. This lends it an unintended melancholy, colored by our retrospective knowledge that this talented author’s sad decline was literally right around the corner.