A “canny, funny, impressively detailed debut novel” (The New York Times) that blurs the lines between life and art with the story of a film director’s unthinkable experiment in the Amazon jungle.
When a nameless, struggling actor in 1970s New York gets the call that an enigmatic director wants him for an art film set in the Amazon, he doesn’t hesitate: he flies to South America, no questions asked. He quickly realizes he’s made a mistake. He’s replacing another actor who quit after seeing the script—a script the director now claims doesn’t exist. The movie is over budget. The production team seems headed for a breakdown. The air is so wet that the celluloid film disintegrates.
But what the actor doesn’t realize is that the greatest threat might be the town itself, and the mysterious shadow economy that powers this remote jungle outpost. Entrepreneurial Americans, international drug traffickers, and M-19 guerillas are all fighting for South America’s future—and the groups aren’t as distinct as you might think. The actor thought this would be a role that would change his life. Now he’s worried if he’ll survive it.
This “gripping, ambitious…vivid, scary novel” (Publishers Weekly) is a thrilling journey behind the scenes of a shocking film and a thoughtful commentary on violence and its repercussions.
In Wilson's gripping, ambitious debut novel, a struggling actor flies to the rain forests of Colombia to star in Jungle Bloodbath, a grind house horror film directed by an eccentric Italian auteur. Roughly based on the infamously brutal production of Cannibal Holocaust, the novel tracks a wide cast of characters, including guerilla rebels, effects artists, and the director himself, as they slowly descend into barbarism. Interspersed with the alternating perspectives are transcripts from an Italian court, where the director stands accused of abuse, negligence, and murder, most of which seem to have occurred during the grueling shoot. In the name of supposed verisimilitude, the crew sets fire to an indigenous village and mutilates animals at whim, all without seeing a script. The drama builds palpably and haphazardly, drawing the invading crew and invaded population together until, in a moment of cathartic bloodshed, reality and fiction collide. Though Wilson novel's reach occasionally exceeds its grasp, the story never flags thanks to the ferocious momentum of her prose. This is a vivid, scary novel.