By Jamie Russell
320 pages, B&W w/ Colour inserts
Dimensions: H=25.4cm W=19.2cm D=2.2cm
'The Complete History Of Zombie Cinema' it says on the cover, and believe you me, they ain't kidding. This is a fabulously in-depth exploration of the zombie genre that we all know and love. The opening chapters actually explore the genesis and introduction of the literary idea of the zombie, and chart the evolutionary path from page to stage to screen. It's exhaustively researched stuff, and extremely interesting from a historical perspective, and no stone is left unturned...suffice to say, those amongst us who think zombie movies began in earnest with Romero's 'Night Of The Living Dead' are going to be in for a lot of reading until they get to their perceived 'Year Zero'. Romero doesn't pop up until the end of Chapter Five, and these are some substantial chapters we are talking about here. Happily, when the more familiar names begin to enter the picture, Russell doesn't shy away from giving them the exact same treatment as some of the more obscure entries discussed in the book, as some authors more inclined to cinematic snobbery are often wont to do.
If you're looking for a pretty picture book with lots of witty repartee, this isn't it (although the monochrome of the standard text and pictures is broken up by two lavish colour inserts). This is an altogether more serious and scholarly work, and if at any point you are planning to write an essay or dissertation on zombies or horror cinema in general, then this is a book you should own, not only to see how it should be done, but also as a great resource for stealing ideas from to flesh out and corral yourself an easy 'A'. It also affords the reader some intelligently-argued material for putting those folks who are dismissive of the horror genre firmly in their place.
You'll notice I haven't used the term 'academic' at any point thus far in the review, and that's because I did an MA and it totally turned me off academia and literature in general (in the decade since, I've read three works of fiction, and two of those were small paperbacks. I've learned a great deal from reading non-fiction books in that time, but that's beside the point.). Ergo, when people start throwing around terms like 'critic', 'commentator', 'theorist' or refering to concepts of 'otherness', I generally feel like kicking someone in the balls. Russell does stray into this territory on a number of occasions, but thankfully keeps it very brief. If nothing else, I think you should consider buying this book to keep him in gainful employment so he doesn't have to slide down the slippery totem pole which invariably leads to him selling the Socialist Worker (oxymorons, eh?) outside the Student Union or somesuch. I truly believe it's not yet too late to save him.
The other reason you should buy this book is that it is extremely good value for money. Again, I got my copy via a loyalty card points redemption, so it didn't cost me anything per se, but had I paid the SRP (£19.99) for it, I would not have felt short changed in the slightest, and I personally think that £20 is a lot of money to spend on a book. The reality is that it is a lot of reading for the money, and damned informative reading at that. Amazon.co.uk currently has it for £12.99 brand new...my solemn advice to you would be to make like a ravenous zombie and bite their hands off at this price before they come to their senses, as I would consider paying £15 for this to be a bargain in any man's language!
Not to put too fine a point on it, but for me this is the definitive book on the subject. I've got a couple of other books from FAB Press on my reading pile, namely 'Beasts In The Cellar' and 'Nightmare USA' (a review of which will not be coming soon...it's like a bloody phone directory on steroids! It looks damn good though, and I hope to be able to finish it before I shuffle off this mortal coil), and suffice to say, they've got a lot to live up to...here's hoping!