Samuel Fuller was of course a writer before he became a director, writing books and screenplays following an early career as a New York crime reporter, and I’ve found his deliriously pulp novel Brainquake a fascinating insight into his films- while at the same time, having seen a few of his films now (both written and also those directed) those films also provide an insight into this book. Certainly, there’s elements of Underworld U.S.A. clearly on display here in how it describes the machinations of the criminal underworld which the novel’s chief protagonist, Paul Page works for as a bagman. The woman that Paul betrays his criminal overlords for, Michelle, has clear precedents in some of the strong but desperate women that are seen in the films.
Brainquake was written when his Hollywood career was over, and published (in English, at least), posthumously. My ‘education’ regards Fuller’s filmography is obviously incomplete but I can easily see how this book could be seen as a ‘Greatest Hits’ for Fuller, and parts of this book’s charm is imagining it as one of those brash, larger-than-life black & white noir adventures that I have been watching on Blu-ray of late. That being said, its also clear that while its got many Fuller tropes (for want of a better word) its also a cheeky self-indulgence, Fuller writing things he knew he could never get away with in a film. Even Tarantino would struggle to get away with some of this, but it would be marvellous, now that I consider it, to see him try. Mostly this regards Father Flanagan, a hit man for the Mob who is always dressed as a Catholic priest who nails his victims to walls in the manner of crucifixion, and who mentally pictures all the women he meets as naked. Imagining his scenes in a film with all the actresses alternatively dressed and undressed depending upon us ‘seeing’ the scenes through Flanagan’s eyes, was a major part of the fun of the book.
Its wild, its crazy, its quite intoxicating; but its absolutely a rollercoaster ride and quite a page-turner. Its definitely a Samuel Fuller book- nobody else could have written it.