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Carnahan, Matthew 1961–

Carnahan, Matthew 1961–

PERSONAL: Born 1961, in CA; partner of Helen Hunt (an actress); children: Emmet, Makena lei. Education: Attended New York University and Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre.

ADDRESSES: Home—Southern CA; New York, NY. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Villard Books, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.

CAREER: Novelist, playwright, and director/producer of film and television programs. Black Circle Boys (film), 1997, director; Trinity (television series), 1998, creator, producer; The Fugitive (television series), 2000, consulting producer; Rudyland (documentary film), 2001, producer and director; Thieves (television series), 2001, producer; Fastlane (television series), producer; Mailman (film), director. Has worked as a deckhand and circus worker, among nearly eighty other forms of employment.

AWARDS, HONORS: Chesterfield Writer's Film Project fellowship.

WRITINGS:

Velvet Elvis (two-act play), produced Hollywood, CA, 1993.

(And director) Black Circle Boys (screenplay), 1997.

(And creator and producer) Trinity (television series), 1998.

The Adventures of Rug Raymond (screenplay), 2001.

(And producer) Thieves (television series), 2001.

(And producer) Fastlane (television series), 2002.

The Edge (screenplay), 2003.

Serpent Girl (novel), Villard Books (New York, NY), 2005.

WORK IN PROGRESS: The Kingdom, a screenplay.

SIDELIGHTS: Playwright, producer, and director Matthew Carnahan turned his hand to novels with his 2005 title, Serpent Girl, a "hard-boiled debut [that] is a send-up of all sorts of crime fiction," according to Jonathan Durbin writing in People magazine. Carnahan's former writing credits include writing for television series such as Trinity, The Fugitive, Fastlane, and Thieves, and the 1997 feature film Black Circle Boys, the last which he also directed. That film, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, tells the story of a high school swimmer who gets in over his head with a Satan-worshipping and drug-using gang of bad boys at his new high school when his family moves to the Pacific Northwest. Dennis Harvey, reviewing the film in Variety, called it a "turgid drama." An earlier effort, the stage play Velvet Elvis, deals with the lives of exotic dancers. Writing in Back Stage West, Bob Kendt found that the play has occasional glimpses of "the ritual cadences of a true show-biz parable."

Carnahan has had a checkered employment history to support his creative efforts, and at one time was employed as a circus worker. He puts this insider knowledge to use in Serpent Girl, which is set in a circus. His protagonist is twenty-two-year-old Bailey Quinn, a student who was kicked out of college in his junior year and has now taken to a life of alcohol and minor crime. The book opens with Quinn awaking in a peyote haze with a slash across his neck that reminds him he has been double-crossed by his partners, a menacing gang who helped Quinn steal the receipts from the Maximus Circus where he has a summer job. Quinn vows revenge; he had planned to take his part of the profits to finance his return to college. The Serpent Girl of the title, one of the freaks of the circus, now runs it as well, and Quinn seduced her to find out the secrets of the financial doings of the circus in order to set up the heist. Also figuring strongly in the novel is reformed drug addict Sissy, who takes Quinn under her wing, as well as the other freaks in the circus and a colorful assortment of thieves and bad guys.

Carnahan's first novel earned favorable reviews. A critic for Kirkus Reviews called Carnahan "a stylist who upgrades pulp to the Turkish-coffee richness of [James M.] Cain, [Dashiell] Hammett, and [Raymond] Chandler." For Gregory Kirschling, writing in Entertainment Weekly, Serpent Girl is "a ripsnorting neonoir." Similarly, a contributor for Publishers Weekly called the novel a "gleefully deranged tale of drugs, deception and bad decisions." The same reviewer noted that Carnahan "renders both his characters and the geography of the American West in vibrant high style."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Back Stage West, August 13, 1993, Bob Kendt, review of Velvet Elvis, p. 12.

Entertainment Weekly, March 18, 2005, Gregory Kirschling, "Sweet and Lowdown," review of Serpent Girl, p. 74.

Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2004, review of Serpent Girl, p. 1154.

People, March 21, 2005, Jonathan Durbin, review of Serpent Girl, p. 60.

Publishers Weekly, January 24, 2005, review of Serpent Girl, p. 220.

Variety, February 2, 1997, Dennis Harvey, review of Black Circle Boys, p. 49.

ONLINE

Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com/ (August 14, 2005), "Matthew Carnahan."

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