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May 16, 2022

It's Alive! by Julian David Stone ~ a Review

by Elisabeth Scherer

Grab your fanciest clothes, your fedora, and your favorite drink because it is time to dress to the nines and attend a party only Hollywood could throw!

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

book cover of horror novel It's Alive by Julian Stone
May 2022; Greenleaf Group Book Press; 9781626349315
audio; ebook, print (232 pages); historical fiction, horror

It’s Alive! by Julian David Stone is a historical fiction story based around Hollywood in the 1930s. More specifically at Universal Studios around the time that filming began on the production of Frankenstein.  

The story follows Carl Laemmle Junior, heir to the Universal Studios kingdom, Bela Lugosi, and Boris Karloff as casting was being finalized. Junior, fresh off the box office success of Dracula, is charging ahead with his next big vision of Frankenstein, while anxiously awaiting news of his promotion to Vice President of the Studio. 

Bela Lugosi is a star and wants to be treated with respect by Junior and Universal Studios. He is keen to start working on his next project and has rejected playing the monster in Frankenstein as there is mostly grunting and no lines. 

Boris Karloff is an undiscovered talent just trying to make enough cash to stay alive and in a home. He is on the brink of deciding whether to throw in the towel or crash and burn in the hard business of Hollywood.

Stone describes these different people and the world in which they inhabit in a way that really makes you feel like you’ve stepped out of a time machine and onto the Universal lot in 1931. It has a quality that is almost like a movie itself. The pacing of the storyline moves in a way that I couldn’t help but find myself at the end of the story very quickly.  Stone creates the feeling of being a fly on the wall of Universal Studios when silent films were on their way out and talking films were on the rise. 

It is hard to tell if Junior is the villain, hero, or antihero in this story for a long time. He seems to be very selfish in his pursuit of running the studio, bulldozing over anyone and anything in his way in the race to get there. He also is trying to make a name for himself out from under his famous father’s shadow. You can definitely tell the motivations behind all the characters, major and minor, and those motivations are front and center throughout the whole story.  

It didn’t matter what you did—make a hit out of Dracula, make the first million-dollar color production – they just didn’t see it. All they saw was the shadow of the great man who stood behind you. 
- pages 93-94

One thing that stood out to me as I read is that you could really see the parallels between Frankenstein, and both Junior's and Boris’s storylines which only got more intricate as the plotline progressed. I wasn’t sure exactly how this was going to end. If you are a golden age of Hollywood trivia buff, you probably can guess the ending of this novel. I myself walked away from the book curious about the film, the studio, and the people mentioned in the book. It was falling down a rabbit hole of history in Hollywood that I could easily see spending some serious time researching. 

If you like the historical time in Hollywood of the 1930s, are interested in a behind-the-scenes look at the start of a classic talking film, or are just looking for something a little different from your usual reading habits, It’s Alive! might be the book for you.

Buy It’s Alive! at Amazon

Elisabeth Scherer is a lifelong bookworm who loves discovering new favorite authors. She is a watercolor and mixed media artist who lives in Minnesota with her husband and two children.

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