“A story about storytelling...Conjures up the grindhouse movie-making scene in 1970s Los Angeles and tracks an ambitious young man’s flailing attempts to build a family and a career as a film arteest in that debased world...A book with a lot of heart.” —Art Spiegelman, bestselling author of MAUS
Fourteen years in the making, renowned and beloved graphic novelist Sammy Harkham finally delivers his epic story of artistic ambition, the heartbreak it can bring, and what it means to be human
YOU CAN BURN IN HELL
Set primarily in Los Angeles in 1971, Blood of the Virgin is the story of twenty‑seven‑year‑old Seymour, an Iraqi Jewish immigrant film editor who works for an exploitation film production company. Sammy Harkham brings us into the underbelly of Los Angeles during a crucial evolutionary moment in the industry from the last wheeze of the studio system to the rise of independent filmmaking.
Seymour, his wife, and their new baby struggle as he tries to make it in the movie business, writing screenplays on spec and pining for the chance to direct. When his boss buys one of his scripts for a project called Blood of the Virgin and gives Seymour the chance to direct it, what follows is a surreal, tragicomic making-of journey. As Seymour’s blind ambition propels the movie, his home life grows increasingly fraught. The film’s production becomes a means to spiral out into time and space, resulting in an epic graphic novel that explores the intersection of twentieth‑century America, parenthood, sex, the immigrant experience, the dawn of early Hollywood, and, shockingly, the Holocaust.
Like a cosmic kaleidoscope, Blood of the Virgin shifts and evolves with each panel, widening its context as the story unfolds, building an intricate web of dreams and heartbreak, allowing the reader to zoom in to the novel’s core: the bittersweet cost of coming into one’s own.
L.A. Times Book Prize winner Harkham (Crickets) delivers an ambitious panoramic period piece set in the early-1970s Hollywood exploitation film milieu. Seymour, a 20-something Iraqi Jewish immigrant, works as an editor for Reverie, a production company specializing in cheap grindhouse flicks. He's eager to direct his own script, and finally gets his shot with Blood of the Virgin after the original director is fired. Harkham spends a generous amount of the narrative detailing the grueling, often heartless day-to-day work of filmmaking, and in parallel, Seymour's increasingly stressful home life. His smart, tart-tongued wife, Ida, is exhausted from caring for their infant son, resulting in misunderstandings, frustration, and Seymour's increasingly wandering eye toward an actor in his film. (The ruthless studio head, Val, casually tells Seymour, "Don't get so down, your marriage won't last.") Harkham vividly depicts the perils of ambition and heartbreak inherent in collaborative creative projects, while glimpses into Hollywood history cleverly link Seymour to historical figures who were sacrificed to an oppressive studio system. Pages are stacked with close panels and thin line drawings that capture choice moments from back lots to late nights. Harkham's accomplished cartooning, nuanced characters, and sharp period detail keep this sprawling tale thrumming with energy and painful insights.