Schoell, William 1951-
SCHOELL, William 1951-
PERSONAL: Surname is pronounced "shoal"; born November 30, 1951, in New York, NY; son of William T. and Caroline (Baumann) Schoell. Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Education: Castleton State College, B.A., 1973. Hobbies and other interests: Opera, classical music, film, theater.
CAREER: Writer. High and Low NY, and Quirk's Reviews Online, both webzines, editor.
Stay out of the Shower: 25 Years of Shocker Films beginning with "Psycho," Dembner (New York, NY), 1985, published in England as Stay out of the Shower: The Shocker Film Phenomenon, 1988.
Comic Book Heroes of the Screen, Carol Publishing (New York, NY), 1991.
(With James Spencer) The Nightmare Never Ends: The Official History of Freddy Krueger and "The Nightmare on Elm Street" Films, Carol Publishing (New York, NY), 1992.
The Films of Al Pacino, Carol Publishing (New York, NY), 1995.
(With Lawrence J. Quirk) The Rat Pack: The Hey Hey Days of Frank and the Boys, Taylor Publishing (Dallas, TX), 1998.
Magic Man: The Life and Films of Steven Spielberg, Tudor Publishers (Greensboro, NC), 1999.
Martini Man: The Life of Dean Martin, Taylor Publishing (Dallas, TX), 1999.
Heartbreaker: The Dorothy Dandridge Story, Avisson Press (Greensboro, NC), 2002.
Remarkable Journeys: The Story of Jules Verne, Morgan Reynolds (Greensboro, NC), 2002.
(With Lawrence J. Quirk) Joan Crawford: The Essential Biography, University Press of Kentucky (Lexington, KY), 2002.
"I Can Do Anything": The Sammy Davis, Jr., Story, Avisson Press (Greensboro, NC), 2004.
Mystery and Terror: The Story of Edgar Allan Poe, Morgan Reynolds (Greensboro, NC), 2004.
H.P. Lovecraft: Master of Weird Fiction, Morgan Reynolds (Greensboro, NC), 2004.
Robert Redford: The Unauthorized Biography, Taylor (New York, NY), in press.
Verdi, Morgan Reynolds (New York, NY), in press.
Also author of "Hidden Horrors," a column in Scream Factory in the 1980s. Contributor of articles and reviews to periodicals, including Writer, Writer's Digest, Paris Notes, Off Duty, and BBC Music. Editor and publisher, High and Low.
Spawn of Hell, Leisure Books (New York, NY), 1984.
Shivers, Leisure Books (Norwalk, CT), 1985.
Late at Night, Leisure Books (New York, NY), 1986.
Bride of Satan, Leisure Books (New York, NY), 1986.
Saurian, Leisure Books (Norwalk, CT), 1988.
The Pact, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1988.
The Dragon, Leisure Books (New York, NY), 1989.
Fatal Beauty, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1990.
Contributor of stories to magazines, including Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery, Mike Shayne Mystery, and Scream Factory.
SIDELIGHTS: Biographer, novelist, and nonfiction writer William Schoell is the author of biographies on a number of popular culture figures, writers, and entertainers. Three of his books focus on the Rat Pack, that group of 1960s entertainers who embodied the attitude of the era and defined what it was like to be "cool." In The Rat Pack: The Hey Hey Days of Frank and the Boys Schoell and collaborator Lawrence J. Quirk do "an expectedly workmanlike job on the pack," commented Booklist reviewer Gordon Flagg. They provide detailed biographies of each member of the Pack, including ringleader Frank Sinatra, plus Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop; actress Shirley Maclaine was the only acknowledged female member of the Rat Pack. The authors cover the members' glory days, as well as their darker sides, acknowledging the copious use of alcohol and drugs. The book also illuminates other facts that may not be known to any but ardent fans—Humphrey Bogart was the original head of the pack and Peter Lawford was a drug addict. Schoell goes on to provide a critical assessment of the many movies that starred Rat Pack members, but concludes that most of the films were disappointing.
Two other biographies by Schoell explore the lives of individual members of the Rat Pack. Martini Man: The Life of Dean Martin attempts to renovate Martin's image from that of a permanently inebriated, womanizing, low-talent crooner with mob connections. The "whirlwind bio" places Martin at the center of attention, with the Rat Pack, his partnership with Jerry Lewis, and other larger-than-life elements out of the way. Schoell sees Martin as a serious actor and performer. He "artfully re-creates the magic of the Martin and Lewis partnership," which for many years was a phenomenally successful act. Schoell also provides an explanation for Martin's many mob connections, though he downplays his drinking and philandering. "Schoell's book reads Dino sympathetically, leaving Rat Pack sleaze-a-thon treatment awaiting another day," commented Mike Tribby in Booklist. Another Rat Packer, Sammy Davis, Jr., is profiled in "I Can Do Anything": The Sammy Davis, Jr. Story. Here, Shoell outlines the singer's career and conveys his admiration for Davis. Though Schoell does cover Davis's alcoholism and drug abuse, these subjects are minimized. Furthermore, "racism dogged [Davis's] every step, and he often responded to it in bizarre, self-destructive ways," but Schoell also glosses over that aspect of Davis's personality, noted Carol Jones Collins in the School Library Journal.
Schoell turns to the literary world for biographies of noted early writers of science fiction and weird stories. In Mystery and Terror: The Story of Edgar Allan Poe he examines the life of the brilliant, complicated, but ultimately tragic Poe, whose circumstances in life often seemed to conspire to divert him from success. An orphan at age two, Poe had a difficult relationship with John Allan, the man who adopted him and who wanted Poe to live frugally. The biography covers his marriage to a young cousin, his failures as a reviewer, the level of fame that his poems brought to him during his lifetime, and his still-mysterious death. Poe's legacy as a progenitor of the science fiction and mystery genres is also discussed. "This is not just the usual time-line-led biography, but rather a deeper look into Poe's life and personality as reflected in his work," commented Marilyn Fairbanks in the School Library Journal. "Clearly written and insightful, this biography is frank about Poe's faults and failings as well as his talents and achievements," observed Carolyn Phelan in Booklist.
Howard Phillips Lovecraft, whom some would say inherited the literary mantel from Poe, is the subject of H.P. Lovecraft: Master of Weird Fiction The author of stories that combined a distinct sense of personal foreboding with large-scale terror at forces that cannot be adequately described, let alone controlled or contested, Lovecraft was a staple of the early American pulp magazines, a prolific letter-writer, and a habitué of his hometown of Providence, Rhode Island. Lovecraft's stories, many written in the 1920s, still hold up today, including "The Call of Chthulhu," "The Color Out of Space," "Shadow over Innsmouth," and "The Dunwich Horror." Schoell covers issues such as Lovecraft's often-espoused racism and anti-Semitism, his debilitating rounds of depression, his resentment at his lack of literary success, and the devoted circle of friends, mentors, and protegés he developed, largely through the mail. Booklist reviewer Terry Glover called the book "concise and well-researched."
Schoell's biographies have also covered prominent members of the motion picture and entertainment industries. Heartbreaker: The Dorothy Dandridge Story, for one, tells the life story of Dandridge, who was the first African-American woman to be nominated for an Oscar but who died tragically at age forty-two. In Joan Crawford: The Essential Biography Schoell and coauthor Quirk provide "a thoroughgoing, evenhanded review of Crawford's life and work, which in tone is neither academic nor gossipy," remarked Library Journal reviewer Edward Cone. Magic Man: The Life and Films of Steven Spielberg covers Speilberg's life and works as well as the complex techniques used to create the special effects that underlie many of his more popular works. Lauren Peterson, writing in Booklist, noted that the book "will be a great hook for reluctant readers."
Schoell, who has also written his own novels, once told CA: "I write because it is a joy to do so, and I have never been interested in doing anything else. At the beginning of my career I wrote horror and suspense novels because I loved the genre and it was then enjoying unprecedented popularity. (It is unfortunate that publishers often gave my novels such stupid and often inappropriate titles as Spawn of Hell and Bride of Satan.) My nonfiction projects—then and now—are dictated by my own interests primarily and commercial considerations secondly. There are things and people I would love to write about that aren't 'commercial' enough, so I somehow insert them into stories and articles anyway. Sometimes my characters have interests that are similar to my own.
"I have done a number of biographies, and I greatly enjoy the challenge of finding the drama—the true story—of a famous individual's life. I want to present this real-life 'character' as colorful, while always maintaining a proper balance and fair perspective. I have found that discovering the right style and approach to your subject is as important as the research you do. My writing day actually starts late in the afternoon or early in the evening, and it goes on until the wee hours of the morning. Some writers keep bankers' or farmers' hours, but I'm a night owl. Writing is so much more romantic that way. Nowadays, when most published writers are actually celebrities, television stars, standup comics, politicians, judges, chefs, and so on, I take enormous pride in simply being a writer—a real, honest-to-goodness writer!"
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 15, 1998, Gordon Flagg, review of The Rat Pack: The Hey Hey Days of Frank and the Boys, p. 1410; May 15, 1998, Lauren Peterson, review of Magic Man: The Life and Films of Steven Spielberg, p. 1624; October 1, 1999, Mike Tribby, review of Martini Man: The Life of Dean Martin, p. 334; June 1, 2002, Roger Leslie, review of Remarkable Journeys: The Story of Jules Verne, p. 1702; September 15, 2003, Terry Glover, review of H. P. Lovecraft: Master of Weird Fiction, p. 234; October 1, 2004, Carolyn Phelan, review of Mystery and Terror: The Story of Edgar Allan Poe, p. 321.
Library Journal, June 1, 1998, Michael Colby, review of The Rat Pack, p. 110; September 15, 2002, Edward Cone, review of Joan Crawford: The Essential Biography, p. 66.
Publishers Weekly, March 23, 1998, review of The Rat Pack, p. 87; October 11, 1999, review of Martini Man, p. 66.
School Library Journal, September, 2002, Jane Halsall, review of Remarkable Journeys, p. 251; January, 2003, Carol Jones Collins, review of Heartbreaker: The Dorothy Dandridge Story, p. 170; December, 2003, Elaine Fort Weischedel, review of H.P. Lovecraft, p. 174; June, 2004, Carol Jones Collins, review of "I Can Do Anything": The Sammy Davis, Jr., Story, p. 174; December, 2004, Marilyn Fairbanks, review of Mystery and Terror, p. 169.
William Schoell Home Page, http://williamschoell.bravehost.com (November 22, 2005).