The sudden demise of the Parkway Theater in 2009 elicited a mighty threnody from the throats of Oakland. Amid this mournful din — and in the various, anticlimactic clatterings of resurrection that followed — one trademark voice was perhaps assumed silenced forever: Will "The Thrill" Viharo, who not only hosted the Parkway's long-running B-movie series Thrillville, but also acted as laconic foil to theater co-owner Kyle Fischer in those notoriously homespun preview reels.
Turns out those twelve years as the face of the Parkway was merely a side gig for Viharo: Will "The Thrill" has actually been Will "The Quill" all along. Named for none other than Shakespeare by a beauty-queen mother and B-movie actor father, Viharo finished his first novel at nineteen; his first hardboiled pulp effort, Love Stories Are Too Violent For Me, was published in 1995 by Wild Card Press. Then came the Parkway, "merely a distracting detour off the road to my real dreams," he said. "After Speakeasy Theaters suddenly crashed and burned and my twelve-year career as a film programmer abruptly ended, I wasn't left with a lot of options." He picked up the book he'd been working on, pre-Parkway, A Mermaid Drowns in the Midnight Lounge, "just to prove to myself I still had it in me. Mermaid was like a literary geyser, unleashing over a decade of pent-up creative frustration in one wild rush.
And that geyser hasn't ceased to gush. Viharo is just finishing up what, by his estimation, is his eighteenth book — seven of which he's published via Lulu.com. The work runs the gamut: mysteries starring private dick Vic Valentine; the psychosexual, all-dialogue Lavender Blonde; the XXX bizarro-world of Freaks That Carry Your Luggage Up to the Room. All roil with satire and pop culture — in Freaks, a hotel run by sex-crazed, murderous beasties ends up as a top-rated reality show — and all are redolent of the B-movies that were Viharo's bread and butter for so long. And though much of Viharo's personal brand harks back to a different time, "The Quill" is no stranger to the 21st century. From self-publishing his books online, producing book trailers, and blogging about independent film for Examiner.com, Viharo is a very modern pulp peddler. "I don't think of my stuff as retro, per se, except in that ironic David Lynch sort of way," he said, "where I combine nostalgic iconography and a romantically stylized mood with pretty intense elements of horror, sensuality, and depravity, laced with my common theme of human loneliness. For me the obvious retro stuff is incidental and superficial, the icing on a cake that contains a saw."
Up next for the fastest quill in the East Bay: Hangar 18, due out in 2012, commissioned by a regular at Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge (Viharo's current employer) whose wild scientific theories form the basis of what Viharo calls a "truly epic pulp novel." And the next Forbidden Thrills movie night at Forbidden Island (1304 Lincoln Ave., Alameda) happens December 19, wherein Viharo screens two Mexican "monsterpieces;" all monthly Forbidden Thrills events feature a special cocktail menu, inspired by Viharo's novels, "so people can literally drink one of my books."
"Now there's no turning back" from the lit life for Viharo. "And I'm much more fulfilled both personally and artistically now than ever before. I'm not 'The Parkway guy.' I'm now, always have been, and always will be 'the writer guy.' This is the real me. Pleased to meet you." Books, event info, blog, and more: Thrillville.net.
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