Donald F. Glut. The name should be familiar to most Scream Factory readers.
“Oh yeah, he used to write for monster magazines way back.”
“Glut…let’s see…the guy who wrote those big Frankenstein and Dracula reference books, right?”
“Sure, I remember him—he wrote a bunch of Frankenstein novels.”
“Used to write comic books, didn’t he?”
“Now I remember—he’s buddies with George Lucas, and he wrote the novelization of The Empire Strikes Back.”
Fact is, Glut is all of the above, and more—he’s a veritable walking definition of the term “versatile.” So versatile that he’s even written a couple of novels that are relevant to this issue’s theme: the science fiction/horror novels Spawn and Bugged! But don’t just take my word for it—read on, and see for yourself.
TSF: When did you first start writing in the genre?
DG: My professional writing career began in the late 1960s. The first sales I made were to a magazine called Modern Monsters. I had…picked up the first issue of Modem Monsters somewhere and I read it, and I got kind of angry and said “Gee, I could do much better than this.” So I looked up the address of the publisher and I called him and we talked and…by the third issue of the magazine, I was editing it. So that’s how my career started—writing monster magazine articles.
TSF: How long did Modem Monsters last?
DG: That lasted four issues. There was a fifth issue that was put together but never came out because the publisher owed the printer quite a bit of money for previous issues, and the printer decided to confiscate all the materials for the fifth issue—stills and so forth.
TSF: Was Modem Monsters a Famous Monsters of Filmland- style magazine?
DG: Yeah…that was around 1966 or ’67, so it was a Famous Monsters-type of magazine.
TSF: And after that, what did you go on to do, writing-wise?
DG: After that, 1 think the next I sold was a book that I wrote under a pseudonym on the hippie movement called Freakout on Sunset Strip. That was my first book sale. After that, I got more heavily into the music business. I’d just gotten out of USC and I was very embittered toward the USC faculty—I’d been in the film school there, and…my interest in making movies was at sort of a low point, so I decided to get into something else that I had ability in, which was music.
For the next couple of years, I was basically a rock ‘n’ roll singer and guitar player. Michael Nesmith, at that time, was one of the Monkees, and he was trying to prove to everyone that he was not this character that you saw on television every week, but that he was a serious musician and songwriter. So the way he did that was by producing his own band (which he didn’t play in) called Penny Arkade. I was the bass player, and sometimes organ player, in that band for a number of years. We did a lot of recording and playing in night clubs and so forth. So all that put my writing career on hold.
After that, when the music thing sort of fizzled out, I got involved with Forry Ackerman. Forry had offered me the opportunity to write some articles for Famous Monsters. I think the first article I wrote for them was for the memorial Boris Karloff issue. Because I was not on the best of terms with Jim Warren [publisher of Famous Monsters] at that time, some of the articles I wrote were under pseudonyms. I think Victor Morrison was the first name I used, that name coming from Victor Jory and Brett Morrison, who were two actors who played the Shadow—I was a big Shadow fan. And…at the time, [Warren’s company] was looking for writers for Creepy and Eerie. Forry asked me “can you write comics?” And I said “gee. I’ve always wanted to.” And I wrote a script that was bought for an issue of Creepy. About that same time, Vampirella was just starting up, and Forry called me and asked if I wanted to write more scripts. I think at that time, they didn’t even have the title Vampirella yet. Forry was describing this character as a “mod witch”; I don’t think they even planned on her being a vampire. So I wrote a number of scripts which became the bulk of the first issue of Vampirella. And that got me started in the comic book business. So for a number of years, I wrote comics for Warren—and then later on for all the other companies—and monster magazine articles.
About that time, I began writing a series of Frankenstein novels, which came out in just about every country except the United States. About the same time, I began writing a series of articles for the teen magazines, for The Laufer Company.
I was writing articles for Tiger Beat and…Right On!, which was written for a black audience, but which was written by a white staff, including me. Laufer used to pay me to make up interviews with David Cassidy and Michael Jackson—who, of course, was a little kid at that time.
During that same period, I did a book on vampires, which came out in 1969 or 1970, and my first Dinosaur Dictionary, which came out in 1972. What I used to do at that time…I wrote a lot of books on subjects that I was very interested in, just to get them out of my system. There were always books that I wanted to read, but nobody had written them. And if I waited long enough for somebody to write them, they always did a job that I thought was incomplete or disappointing. So 1 would take these books that I wanted to read, and I would write them myself.
TSF: Let’s back up for a second—how did you get to be on less than good terms with Jim Warren?
DG: At the time, Warren considered anybody who wrote for the competition to be an enemy, and a threat. I remember one time, I was in his hotel room in Los Angeles, and we were discussing a project. We had the whole project worked out, and I was just getting ready to leave, and I said “oh, by the way, I hope the fact that I’m editor of Modem Monsters isn’t going to jeopardize this deal.” He just exploded with rage. He threatened to sue me and all sorts of things…because I was editing a competing magazine, I was his enemy, and I stayed persona non grata for a long time. That’s why, when Forry brought me into some of the Warren magazines, he had me use the pen names. And I had a whole roster of pen names that I used.
…In fact, I wrote a novel in the late ’60s or so, that was published in…Belgium or Denmark, called Brother Blood. It was the first novel about a black vampire; it was basically the Dracula plot set in the city and in the ghetto and so forth. In that novel—which I wrote like Stoker wrote Dracula, with a series of diary and journal entries—I used my various pen names as the bylines for the diary and journal entries. And I literally killed off a bunch of my pen names in that novel, names like “Rod Richmond” and “Bradley D. Thorne.”
TSF: This novel only appeared overseas?
DG: Yes, it never sold over here. It was part of a series of novels over there…which appeared in a magazine-style format.
TSF: You mentioned earlier that the first reference book that you did was a vampire book. Tell me a little about that book.
DG: The first reference-type book that I had published was True Vampires of History….
TSF: Was that around the time of In Search Of Dracula, and that whole “boom-let” in vampire popularity?
DG: Yeah…I think it came out in 1971, but it was actually written in the late ’60s. In fact, somebody who’s doing a major literary study and bibliography on vampires recently told me that True Vampires of History was the first book to deal solely with vampires since Montague Summers had done so in the ’30s.
TSF: After that, your next non-fiction book was The Frankenstein Legend?
DG: Except for The Dinosaur Dictionary, which came out in ‘72.1 think The Frankenstein Legend came out in ’73.
TSF: That’s right. And then you later revised The Dinosaur Dictionary?
DG: Yes, the first one came out in ’72 and then I revised it as The New Dinosaur Dictionary, which is essentially a whole different book. And then the project I’m working on now, which I’ve been working on for about eight years, is Dinosaurs: The Encyclopedia, and this book will be out in October of 1994. Whereas my earlier two dinosaur books were casual reference books, the intent of [the Encyclopedia] is to appeal on two levels: one, to professional paleontologists, who can use it as a reliable reference source; and two, to have enough non-technical information in it to appeal to a general reader who’s interested in dinosaurs. My intent is to make it the ultimate book on dinosaurs; it’s so big, they may have to publish it in two volumes.
TSF: Getting back to The Frankenstein Legend—tell us about that book, and your other Frankenstein book, The Frankenstein Catalog.
DG: Well, The Frankenstein Legend was meant to be read—somebody who’s interested in Frankenstein could sit down and read it cover-to-cover. The Frankenstein Catalog was not meant to be read from cover-to-cover—it was simply a reference book in which things could be looked up; it’s basically a collection of glorified checklists, and all the credits that go with it.
TSF: And you also did a Dracula reference book…?
DG: Yeah, I followed The Frankenstein Legend with a book called The Dracula Book, which was the same kind of book, and then I did a third book, which covered all of the other “popular” monsters, like the Wolf Man, Godzilla, King Kong, the Invisible Man, and so on, called Classic Movie Monsters.
TSF: So we’ve now covered all the genre-oriented reference books that you’ve done, right?
DG: Yeah…unless you want to count serials—I did a book with Jim Harmon called The Great Movie Serials, which had a lot of stuff on Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Superman, Captain Marvel, and those characters.
TSF: You quit doing these big reference books because, essentially, they took so much time and paid so little?
DG: Yeah, I discovered that I was putting literally years into these books, and none of them really made a whole lot of money—not that I did them to make money, it was more to get them out of my system. But they took an awful lot of my time, and they weren’t advancing my career in any way, except for the dinosaur books.
Somewhere along the line, a few years ago, I decided that the only things I really wanted to do professionally were things that would advance my career: making movies, and by that I mean both directing and producing; and my paleontology work, which includes not just books but also my lectures and working as a consultant; and then in the last couple of years, I’ve added music to that list—I want to make more music. For instance…Pete Von Sholly and I are doing a musical version of THE LOST WORLD that’ll be coming out next year…and possibly a musical version of KING KONG.
TSF: I was going to ask if you’d ever thought about updating any of the reference books, but it doesn’t sound like you have.
DG: No…MacFarland wanted me to update The Frankenstein Catalog, but even if I wanted to, and if I had the time, a lot of those things I just haven’t been keeping up to date on, and I wouldn’t even know where to start.
TSF: Let’s go back for a second to the musical versions of THE LOST WORLD and KING KONG that you mentioned…define for us what you mean by “musical version.”
DG: Okay…to backtrack a bit, I’ve got an artist friend named Pete Von Sholly, who’s a storyboard artist who works with Sam Raimi and lots of other big names. Pete and I both have musical backgrounds, and we formed a small record company called Fossil Records. Up until this point, we’ve been doing dinosaur rock songs for grown-ups. We have a series of albums called Dinosaur Tracks, and we’re doing videos based on this music. Now, we’re starting to branch off into other areas, and we decided to do audio tapes that would essentially be like the Who’s Tommy—if you remember that. We thought maybe we could take a novel that had dinosaurs in it, and do a “rock opera” version of it. So we’re starting off with THE LOST WORLD, and we’re about halfway through writing it. Everything is being written from the point of view of Malloy, the newspaper reporter in the story.
TSF: You mentioned your work writing comics…when did you get into writing fiction per se? What was your first novel?
DG: The first novel that I had appear was…probably Frankenstein Lives Again!…that came out in Spanish, and was followed by Terror of Frankenstein.
TSF: So when you first started doing these Frankenstein books, did you have a contract for a series, or did you do them on spec?
DG: I didn’t have an actual contract, I had a letter stating that they were going to do the series. And what happened was…there were originally going to be 11 books in the series but…this was during the Franco regime [in Spain] and Franco’s censors thought that the books were too violent— which they really weren’t, they were really tame by comparison with other stuff—but the censors said they were too violent, and they weren’t going to let them publish any of the books after [volume] #2.
TSF: So there were originally going to be eleven Frankenstein novels?
DG: Well, there were eleven books in the series—ten novels and a collection called Tales of Frankenstein, with several of the stories tying into the novels. A few of those short stories have since been published in other places.
TSF: So you wrote two books for the Spanish publisher and then you went on to continue the series for…was it Mews in the UK that picked it up next?
DG: …I’m trying to think of what the progression was…there were the Spanish editions, and the Dutch or Belgian editions…and then they came out in England, where they published the first four books in the series. I kept re-writing these all along, so the English versions were a little different from the Spanish versions. And then they came out in Germany, and the German publisher published all of them, except for Tales of Frankenstein.
TSF: So you actually wrote all eleven books, then…?
DG: Oh yeah…see, when I get inspired, or enthusiastic about something, I don’t even think about the money, I just go ahead and do it. I think I had them all written before even the first one came out.
…And somewhere in there [after the British editions started to appear], Forry [who is Glut’s agent] got associated with the Donning Company [a U.S.-based publisher], and they were going to publish the whole series. So I started re-writing them again, and the version of Frankenstein Lives Again! I heavily re-wrote, so it’s a lot different from the British edition. I was going to re-write them all, but I guess the [Donning edition] of Frankenstein Lives Again! just didn’t sell well enough for them to go on with the series. Who knows, maybe they’ll eventually be published by someone over here…but if they are, I’d have to heavily re-write them all, because I wrote them so long ago, and some of them are really dated now.
TSF: I actually have three of those books, but I’ve never read them…
DG: Maybe you shouldn’t. You won’t think too highly of them—they’re pretty crudely written.
TSF: Where, in the publishing sequence of the Frankenstein series, did you write your novels Spawn and Bugged!?
DG: Spawn and Bugged! were both published very shortly after they were written. In both cases, Forry called me and said he’d been talking to publishers who were looking for specific books. In the case of Bugged!, the editor was looking for a novel in which “insects were doing terrible things.” In fact, the way it was described to me at the time, they were looking for a novel in which insects were robbing banks and everything. I thought that was pretty ridiculous, so I basically took the type of plot that was popular in the movies then—with things like DR. PHIBES—and adapted it to use insects.
…While I was writing [Bugged!], I thought of it as possibly being a movie, so I structured it like a movie, and I even wrote in a cameo for Peter Cushing. There’s a scene in there where they go to a museum and talk to an entomologist, who’s described as looking like Peter Cushing, though I didn’t mention his name.
TSF: How about Spawn…?
DG: Spawn came about in much the same way—Forry was in touch with the people publishing the Laser line of books, and they were looking for a science fiction novel, but they had all sorts of restrictions, because the editor there was a…born-again Christian, I believe, and so I had to be real careful on the sex and…
TSF: That [editor] was Roger Elwood, wasn’t it?
DG: Yeah…and so I had to be real careful in writing that book, and Elwood still wasn’t happy with how the book came out…the interesting thing about Spawn is that it was originally going to be called Dino-World and it’s about this amusement park…
TSF: I was just going to say that, based upon the cover blurbs, Spawn sounds a lot like Jurassic Park turned out to be. Do you see similarities there…?
DG: Yeah…but the thing is…the reason that I never pursued anything in that regard is because Spawn was written as a take-off on WESTWORLD, and you know who wrote that [Michael Crichton], I don’t think Crichton ever saw Spawn, but I had seen WESTWORLD, and I said “let’s do WESTWORLD, but with dinosaurs.” So I didn’t feel like he was ripping me off, because I had been ripping him off, so I just let it lie. But I doubt if Crichton ever read Spawn.
TSF: Your other published novel was the novelization of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK—how did that book come about?
DG: Well, everybody thinks it came about because I went to college with George Lucas, and that’s how I got the job—but actually, Lucas had no idea I got the job until after the fact. What happened was…Lucas had originally asked me to do the novelization of STAR WARS—and this was before anybody knew what STAR WARS was going to turn out to be—but the deal I was offered was not a good deal. In fact, Lucas said he was embarrassed to have to offer it to me that way; it was a flat rate, for not very much money, with no royalties—and it had to be ghostwritten, because the studio wanted to put Lucas’ name on the cover. So I turned him down. And then I spent a couple of years kicking myself.
…And then, after STAR WARS (the film) came out, I started to get involved with other aspects of it. 1 was a good friend of Russ Manning, who was doing the [Star Wars] newspaper comic strip at the time, and he was trying to get me involved with doing some writing on the strip. Through that, I started talking to people over at LucasFilm’s editorial department, here in Los Angeles. And I had also written some of the Star Wars comic books that Marvel was publishing. All of this kind of got my foot in the door again at LucasFilms. So I was kind of known around their offices for various reasons…and then I got a phone call from someone at LucasFilms and…they said “we want you to do the novelization of The Empire Strikes Back.” And 1 thought, “well, 1 get offered a lot of things that don’t pan out, so I’ll take this with a grain of salt, and meet with them, so that at least I’ll get a free lunch out of it.” While we were eating, they made me an offer, and I accepted it, because it was a real good offer. When Lucas found out about it, he said “I didn’t think you’d ever want to write the second one, because you didn’t want to write the first one.” And I said, “well, a lot has changed since then.” That book wound up opening a lot of doors for me…
TSF: Have you written any further, unpublished, novels since then?
DG: No, except for what was more or less a novelization—it was a Big Little book—of CLASH OF THE TITANS, which was never published.
TSF: Finally, could you bring our readers up to date on what you’ve been doing since writing the Empire Strikes Back novelization?
DG: Yeah…as I said earlier, at one point I was making a lot of, if not all of, my money from comics and cartoons—through Hanna-Barbera, Marvel, Filmation, Universal, and all of these companies. That was a big part of my life for many years. And then a few years ago, I decided— just like I had decided not to write any more non-fiction reference books—that I didn’t want to do any more Saturday morning cartoons, or comic books, unless I absolutely had to, or unless it was some dream project that I really wanted to do. So…for about the last five years or so, I’ve been concentrating on those three areas I mentioned earlier: getting movie and video projects made, my paleontology work, and—in the last couple of years—my revived music career.
…In particular, I’ve been doing a lot of paleontological work lately, including acting as dinosaur consultant on Roger Corman’s CARNOSAUR…I also have about four or five film projects that I’m trying to get financing on—one’s a horror film, one’s a comedy/monster movie set in the ’50s, two are dinosaur films, one’s an anthology film, sort of like [the movie] TALES FROM THE CRYPT.