Another Tom Hanks Masterpiece—a Must-Read Thriller

In another Tom Hanks masterpiece The Making of Another Major Motion Picture, his first novel, one of the finest actor-writer-producers of the era invites the reader in for a detailed look at the mad, magical high-pressure world of a movie production company. In this scenario some 100 cast, crew and staff members on the set must perform thousands of closely integrated tasks, each critical to the success of the enterprise: the swing gang, properties crew, set constructors, grips, actors, writers, producers, director, assistant directors, lighting technicians and executives. I was pleasantly surprised to see that, with his mastery of the storytelling art, Hanks turns a potentially dry fictional account into a page-turning thriller.

When Bill Johnson, legendary Hollywood writer-producer-director, discovers a tattered copy of an old Kool Katz Komix book, Knightshade: The Lathe of Firefall, he envisions it as his next project. Bob Falls, a traumatized World War II Marine haunted by his military career as a flamethrower—a purveyor of death and destruction—is rescued and transformed by Eve Knightshade. His young nephew and namesake Bobby Anderson, who idolizes Falls as a window to the real world and escape from a broken, smothering family. He trades his own dreams of glory for a career in writing and designing comic books that celebrate war heroes, especially his brave Uncle Bob.

Hanks transforms the declining and decaying North Central Valley town of Lone Butte into a beloved place the reader doesn’t want to leave. He describes how a genius creative team acquires the power to transport millions of cinema and Hawkeye (think Netflix) viewers from the real world into the Reel World, with its distant climes and places, and fulfill their wildest dreams by means of the “Cardboard Carnival” in the Business of Show.

Tom Hanks, Author of another masterpiece
Tom Hanks

This Tom Hanks masterpiece abounds with quirky, profound and lovable characters. People in the real world ask them, “How did you get into the movies?” with an eye to getting in themselves. The author shows there is no single answer. Dace Mills, former lover of Bill Johnson, remains his loyal friend and serves as his administrative and consultative right hand. Super-efficient Allicia Mac-Teer solves complex problems with a knack and a system for winning over people; she likes to be called Al so agents will return her phone calls. Ynez Cruz-Guerrero {Johnson calls her Y-not), a hotel transplant and PONY ( Uber) driver, with little bidding tackles any job she sees undone; Al finds her takeover attitude hilarious and hires her on the spot. Yogi Kanakis, Unit Production Manager, head of family and cheerleader for the myriad cast, crew and staff members on the set, ends every day’s shoot over the intercom with a final blessing, “You are loved.” O. K. Bailey, a high-maintenance lead actor in the role of Firefall, is hired mainly through highly placed connections. Wren Lane (Wendy Lank), star of the Agents of Change franchise, with her twin brother as her protector, plays Eve Knightshade, learns her lines, studies her character and soon becomes production confidante to the team. Johnson also promotes a conscientious actor from his first film, Ike Clipper (Irving Cloepfer), for his creativity, apt improvisation of stage business and deep understanding of his characters. They are joined by memorable character actors, beloved makeup artists, dedicated Teamster drivers and a host of other minor contributors.

How does Johnson manage this diverse assemblage? He listens to them thoughtfully, makes suggestions, gives few direct orders and claims very little credit for their accomplishments—the short answer: his basic humanity. Moreover, he knows that each participant plays a critical role in the high-stakes game of making a multi-million-dollar production carry forward its creator’s vision, stay on the rails and succeed.

While the novel’s extraordinary length, (in excess of 150,000 words) and its unusual amount of detail took me a little longer than normal to read and absorb, it proved worth the effort. Especially memorable are the comic book pages that inspired Bill Johnson’s vision, skillfully rendered in true mid-20th-century style and full color by the talented Robert Sikoryak. This new Tom Hanks Masterpiece is a must-read for movie fans and the general reader alike. I can hardly wait to see the motion picture.

To learn more about what’s involved in writing, publishing and promoting a novel see my e-zine, A Writer’s Journey.

Till next time, good words to you,


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