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Ray Manzarek

Ray Manzarek


Cris DeRose talks to Ray Manzarek

As one fourth of The Doors, keyboardist Ray Manzarek made his bones in the music industry in a thinking man’s band. The group, influenced by the free-form style of both poetry and jazz, was not afraid to be literate, so it should come as no surprise that Manzarek has since found his way into the world of the author, not only in non-fiction (his first work, Light My Fire, detailed his life with The Doors) but in fiction as well. His latest novel, Snake Moon, is a tale of the supernatural published by Night Shade Books.

Not one to rest on his laurels, Ray has also staked his ground in the world of film with Love Her Madly , and continues making music with Riders On the Storm, playing the music of The Doors with frontman Ian Astbury (formerly of The Cult) and Doors bandmate Robby Krieger. The Doors have also recently issued a second boxed set on Rhino/Elektra entitled Perception.

Speaking from his home in northern California, Ray was his usually affable self, quick to joke and share his thoughts about his written work, the Fortieth Anniversary of The Doors, and a vision of his late frontman, Jim Morrison.

Horror Garage: Snake Moon began as a screenplay with Rick Valentine. Can you talk a little about the background to how you came up with the story?

Ray Manzarek: We were both attracted to ghost stories and the Civil War, and we were talking over beer and wine as we often do, and we started talking about a family compound during that time where no news of war came. It was an idyllic existence, and peaceful. They were in love. And because of greed, madness, and lust for fame and strange adventures, the men pay a price for it. Actually, we worked on the story with Rick Schmidlin, who did the reconstruction on Orson Welles’ A Touch of Evil and Erich Von Stroheim’s Greed.

HG: What led to your novelizing the screenplay?

Ray Manzarek: That was Hollywood’s decision. We wanted a film, but when we had shopped it around, Cold Mountain had just come out and went flopsky, so Hollywood said, “No Civil War movies.” We said, “But it’s a small movie, no battle scenes, we can film it in Tennessee or Kentucky, won’t cost much.” Hollywood said, “No Civil War movies!” We said, “It’s an esoteric love story!” And Hollywood said, “No Civil War stories for the last time, Manzarek!”

But all three of us loved the story. I said, “This is too good, I’m going to write it as a novel.” I’d still like to see it as a movie, but I understand Crash was banging around Hollywood for something like nine years before it got made, and it won the Academy Award for Best Picture [2004]! But you’re typical moviegoer is a seventeen year-old on a date, so you’re going to have Pirates of the Carribean II type movies more than anything else.

HG: Spectacle over substance?

Ray Manzarek: Right. And it’s getting harder and harder for films like Crash to get made.

HG: Is that why the chapters in Snake Moon were short? To maintain the integrity and pacing of the screenplay?

Ray Manzarek: Yes, exactly. Scenes. I had a friend say, "This is a fast read." I said, "That’s what I was trying to do; write a fast-paced page turner." The way it was written, everything was said, everything was covered. But the publishers we sent it to all said, "It’s gotta be three-hundred pages to be considered a novel." I said, "But it’s two-hundred, it’s a good, fast read." I mean, gee, I wish there was more. But you know what Elvis said: "Always leave them wanting."

HG: Is that why you picked Night Shade as a publisher?

Ray Manzarek: Absolutely. They said "Fine, we like mysteries… strange tales." It was great fun writing it; I was there, standing behind a tree, observing these great characters, just watching what they were doing. I’d like to direct it, if it does become a movie, but I don’t think that’s going to happen [chuckle].