There are some things in life that I enjoy more than others, a great mystery or conspiracy, the gory madness of zombies, and the music of The Beatles being chief among them. Author and musician Alan Goldsher must have known this because his book, Paul Is Undead: The British Zombie Invasion, manages to take all of my favourite things and put them together as he explores the life — and death — of The Beatles.
The book begins where the true-life story of The Beatles ends, the assassination of John Lennon by Mark David Chapman, although the outcome is entirely different. Attacking Lennon with a scythe, Chapman almost chops Lennon’s head off. He’s taken away to an undisclosed location, has his head reattached, and is reanimated for the 263rd time. Readers instantly understand that things will only get stranger from there.
The world that Alan Goldsher creates in Paul Is Undead is full of zombies, ninjas, vampires, ghosts, and beings that defy description. Told through interviews with friends, colleagues, and The Beatles themselves, Goldsher takes us from the early undead life of zombie John Lennon to the rise and fall of The Beatles, before ending as The Beatles decide to reunite by playing a gruesome show in a small Chicago bar. You may know the history of the greatest band in the world, but you’ve never heard it like this before.
Plenty of famous names find their way into the book as well, but not exactly like we may remember them. Mick Jagger is a zombie hunter, killing the undead by kissing them on the chest with his powerful lips. Roy Orbison is interviewed, but he won’t reveal the secret behind his magical glasses, which seem to keep him alive. Yoko Ono is also a ninja, constantly battling with Ringo Starr. Even the Devil and Jesus Christ give their take on Beatlemania. There are also interviews with people like Steven Spielberg, Dr. Timothy Leary, Queen Elizabeth II, Hunter S. Thompson, Rod Argent, and Brian Epstein. If you can think of someone who may be connected with The Beatles in any little way, they’re probably in here.
It wouldn’t be the story of The Beatles without covering some of the major events in the band’s history, again, nothing is really the same though. Their appearance on Ed Sullivan ends with The Beatles attempting to hypnotize the viewers. The iconic concert on the Apple rooftop becomes a battle as the band fights amongst themselves, throwing each other from the roof. Even their numerous shows at The Cavern Club are represented, but they almost always end in bloodshed. Don’t forget, zombies do get hungry.
The monthly Read This column usually covers a book that is either about film, or one that has been adapted to film, and Paul Is Undead doesn’t seem to fit that criteria. The connections are there though. Zombies have always been a staple of horror, creating a very popular sub-genre, so casting The Beatles as zombies makes for an easy connection. The Beatles also created a number of films including A Hard Day’s Night, and Magical Mystery Tour. Both those films are represented in the book, but in a very strange way. As zombies, The Beatles can’t be seen on film. To remedy this situation, the zombified members are wrapped in bandages. I’m pretty sure that will change my experience the next time I watch A Hard Day’s Night.
Alan Goldsher also has a few connections to the world of film as well. He’s ghostwritten the insanely violent and bloody book Midnight Movie with Tobe Hooper, director of horror classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, as well as working with Robert Englund on his biography Hollywood Monster. I would highly recommend both books for horror fans. Goldsher has also continued the story of The Beatles with Give Death A Chance: The British Zombie Invasion 2, as well as setting his sights on The Sound Of Music with his novel My Favorite Fangs: The Story Of The Von Trapp Family Vampires.
There may be some hope that Paul Is Undead will hit the big screen. Double Feature Films does own the rights to the book, but everything beyond an announcement in 2010 seems to have stalled. Not to worry though, fans of horror films are going to find plenty to enjoy even if it doesn’t make it to the screen. Goldsher creates scenes that are extremely bloody, as well as taking the idea of zombies and injecting it with a completely original spin.
Read This is a monthly column that brings film lovers the best in cinema literature, from books on the making of cinema itself, to books adapted to film.
Stay tuned for TFS’ featured topic this month. We’ll be exploring music in film, celebrating the upcoming North By Northeast Festival and introducing you to some of the people who make films that are truly music to your ears.