Paul: I am going to cut to the chase on this one. Forgive me for straying off topic, or going off on a tangent. Mack Dunstan’s Inferno was inspired by Bowling for Columbine where actor Charlton Heston was challenged by Michael Moore. At that time, I was looking at Dante’s Inferno and I found myself musing about what today Divine Comedy would feature. Instead of mentioning long dead figures of history, modern celebrities would have a place. I wanted to take subtle aim at all the celebrity literature being promoted by the 500 channel universe. Mack Dunstan’s Inferno is my reaction to celebrity gossip, or celebrity driven media culture that we have become.
Ana: I imagine Dante would have approved. What themes does your novel explore and what do you hope the reader will take away from the experience? Is there a particular feeling or experience that you hope to evoke in the reader? Essentially, do you hope your novel will mean to a reader?
Paul: I wrote this manuscript back in May, or June 2004, and finished at the end of February 2005. At that time, I found myself reading eastern thinking. I devoured Hermann Hesse, explored Ayn Rand’s fiction, not philosophy. The Upanishads followed, including Mahabharata and Ramayana, both translated by William Buck. I find myself gravitating towards eastern thinking. It amused me when I meet people who go on about our society being run by extraterrestrials, or a more powerful alien species. Conspiracy theories have replaced the explanation once offered by mainstream, organized religions. For example, if you want the answers in 2011, you go to www.prisionplanet.com. No one ever thinks of their world being one giant illusion. I would like to leave the message behind Mack Dunstan’s Inferno -- we live in a world of illusion, life is what you make it, and if you need another lesson, the smoke and mirrors after death will give it to you.
Ana: What prompted you to write this novel and did you have a specific inspiration in mind? Were you influenced by a certain author or work that inspired you to add your voice to this genre? Besides the boatloads of money and rock star fame, what motivated you to write this book?
Paul: As I said before, Mack Dunstan’s Inferno is a reaction to our celebrity driven culture. If you looked for wisdom in the 500 channel universe, you will find Oprah Winfrey, American televangelists, or investment gurus, all offering smoke and mirrors. Everyone, or everything, seen on TV, or the movies, is heavily marketed. We are brainwashed from every source imaginable. Mack Dunstan’s Inferno is today’s Divine Comedy with all the celebrities, captains of industry, and Wiseman to keep the smoke and mirrors alive. I love reading the masters of literature. If I can find such an author who wrote a book that I never heard, that is my element of discovery. I don’t find today’s fiction, or nonfiction, very interesting. Last year, I discovered the Mark Twain 2010 Autobiography and I read every page and loved it. This year I came across Alexander Dumas’ The Last Cavalier. I strongly feel today’s books have the promotion, the timeliness, but lack the substance of the previous generation. Mack Dunstan’s Inferno is my reaction to today’s 500 channel universe and celebrity driven culture.
Ana: If you could compare your novel to any other existing works, which ones would it be and why? If the one thing you could say to a prospective reader was, "If you like X, you'll love my book!” which work would be invoked so that a reader could judge whether or not your novel is their cup of tea?
Paul: This is my fourth book and probably my last one too. I am not mainstream. If you look at Hemingway in his time, he was fired from the Toronto Star for literary incompetence. I don’t think things have changed. We have the same talented writers being paid by the media chains, offering candy coated propaganda, instead of substance. There are still lies being told in the world of politics, the media, Kitsch from mainstream publishing houses, and no melody to hum from today’s music industry. Thus, I feel my feeling for eastern thinking has reached its point and will be pushed aside for another Harry Potter book, or yet another addition to the Twilight Franchise. I am just going to be honest about it, I have nothing to lose.
Ana: Do you have any more novels planned, either as a follow-up to this one, or as a completely different novel or genre?
Paul: There are no plans for another work. I do have a satire for today’s Hollywood, but I have my doubts. I love old Hollywood, James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, James Stewart, Alfred Hitchcock, and the original Twilight Zone. I feel everything good has been done and that is why you’ll find me reading the masters of literature and enjoying the golden age of Hollywood. As for my books, I would welcome a second edition of any of my books. I just don’t have any expectations for it.
Ana: Where can readers obtain a copy of your novel for them to enjoy? How can they contact you with any thoughts or questions? And do you have a means by which they can "sign up" to be notified when your next novel comes available?
Paul: Readers can buy my book EVERYWHERE! You’ll will find Mack Dunstan’s Inferno at Amazon, B&N, Chapters, or at iUniverse. Mack Dunstan’s Inferno and Mystery of Everyman’s Way are my best work. Prescience Rendezvous and King without an Empire were when I was an evolving author. Reach me at Facebook, Twitter, or at www.mandy.com. My web site is www.myspace.com/authorpaulcollins.
Ana: Thank you, Paul. I understand you have the first chapter of your novel available as an excerpt for interested readers below the jump.
MACK DUNSTAN’S INFERNO
“I think I’ll just take a nap,” he exclaimed to the doctor and nurse, as they took his temperature.
Lines now crossed his face, which had thinned. Silver hair adorned his head. The twinkle in the eye had remained the remnant of what had been. In the evening, the doctors had given him his medication and the nurses readied his death bed.
Dunstan felt a feeling of coldness that began to rush up and down his arms and legs. The life-energy of his body contracted. Mack’s heart went weaker and his circulation proceeded through a slowing process. He felt himself sinking into a pool of cold water, almost as if he had begun the process of dissolution. The soft hospital bed had perverted the departing energy flow.
Blackness swelled over him. Out of the blue, he actually believed he saw himself unconscious and surrounded by doctors and nurses. That must be some other poor sap, he thought. Dunstan cringed at the sight of tubes sticking out of the stranger’s nose and mouth. Poor bastard, he mused some more. Just say your prayers and eat your vitamins. You’re a goner!
Just like that, he realized that his speech came out slow, as if slurred, or drunken. As his spinal forces went upward, white, blue, and red energy emerged from the heart, pushing this spirit into the afterworld. He felt his arms and blood being burned by the life streams of fire. He felt his body descending into an area equal to that of a boiling point of water. He even felt the sensation of being pierced by an infinite number of hot needles. A great vibration now ensued. The life force departed between the eyebrows and many more of the parts of the body. As this energy gathered above his heart, he saw a great light shining above his heart.
While the forces traveled through the nerves, it took almost a half an hour to an hour for a multitude of such forces to reach the crown of the head, where a great heat of energy had risen and left the body. If only the doctor had not put so many drugs in his system. Dunstan now found himself overwhelmed by the hallucinations for as yet an unknown period of time. In such a conscious state, the dying man could hear the sound of his own beating heart. Unexpectedly, his heart beat no more, but he continued to breathe. He even heard voices whispering, but he knew not what they spoke, nor knew who they attempted to communicate to. He saw his wife Lydia crying, but a force prevented him from approaching her and giving her solace.
He felt himself rise from the darkness. His being almost froze before the intruding, dark clouds. He didn’t want to die. He felt he still had it in him to fight these beings and the forces of nature combined. I wished I could hold Lydia; just hold her one more time. Everything seemed to slow down. Dunstan saw his whole life flash before him. He thought he saw a cave open up. Torches lined its walls and went on for infinity. Dunstan turned and jumped, shaken that he saw his own body stretched out on a bed nearby. Again he saw the parade of images that traveled through his mind, the early years when his mother and father had been together. He even remembered the time when his mother remarried. He saw his stepfather Chet, a man who inspired him so many times, forever leaving a lasting impression on him. Dad!
Dunstan saw himself as a soldier in World War II. He also visualized a younger version of himself auditioning for plays and movies. He remembered speaking to Hal Wallis, who went on to help him become famous. All such events passed by him, until he descended to the underworld. For seven days, his ghost was lost in a dream-like state.
Dunstan was incapable of holding onto the clear white light of the beyond that would lead to the everlasting peace and non-being. When all his mental facilities had stopped, the mind ceased to create the divisions of illusionary separation. Thus, all became one.
He saw the whitest of all lights, the clear light of the beyond, and viewed the sun as a living being.
His kundalini was activated and it came in the guise of a shaft of light, which shot through the spinal column. Dunstan perceived it as his life force. He breathed lightly and his energies moved silently. Other forces then blasted through his body. The kundalini reached the highest part of the skull, which then radiated a glow. He systematically held his breath and drew his breath deeply, while inhaling with great force.
He held his breath; some energy did burst into flames, devouring his higher self. This process got him on to the path of the super consciousness, where he met a myriad of psychic guides. Hey, how are you? He would think, jokingly.
He discerned a great flash of light that penetrated all matter and energy. He saw the nameless god, in a formless and uncreated state. All the forces of his body now traveled through the many organs and glands, preparing for departure at the crown of the head. Unseen and unknown beings tried to guide the forces out of the body and through the crown of his head. Such forces traveled throughout all the chakras. Atoms and molecules were divided, sending out a sonic boom through the skull, leaving his eyes to flicker open. All the physical life forms of doctors, nurses, and loved ones disappeared into the background.
More mist obscured him and his surroundings. Dunstan then clenched his teeth. When one embarked on the land of the dead, one must be at peace with oneself and others.
In time, he penetrated the light of the universe, where billions of galaxies were born and died. Its brilliance was unknown, unborn, undying, uncreated, and consisting of raw mental energy, where fire and spirit had manifested. He saw the forces guide a mass of departing spirits into the next world, where men, women, and children of all ages passed through this golden light, becoming one.
Back in California, his adult children divided Dunstan’s will. The best mortician in the business embalmed his body. Several hours after his death, they dressed his corpse in the best clothes that money could buy. In the evening, the media proclaimed the death of a screen legend. The next day, in all the newspapers and trade publications of that era, his obituary was proclaimed. In three days, unbeknown to Mack, he had a private funeral.
The ceremony consisted of a who's who affair, where politicians, former politicians, and celebrities were present. Tom Selleck delivered his eulogy.
In the weeks that followed, television networks celebrated Dunstan’s life by playing all his old movies. Before his funeral, the obituaries appeared, lauded his legendary career, and then went into the annals of history. A&E even featured Dunstan's Biography. After the ceremony, the family had a private burial. Only close friends and business associates were invited. Initially, his family wished to bury the actor in his hometown of Michigan, but they settled with having his body interred at Westwood Memorial Park in the Corridor of Memories, alongside all the other Hollywood legends.
However, as Dunstan drifted further into the lands of the dead, the world moved on, and the actor descended deeper, where he became overwhelmed with hallucinations. Following his death, he could not detach himself from his riches, his desires, fears, and ambitions. Where is my house and favorite chair? I knew I should have paid the Internal Revenue Service! In time, he soon would learn that death acted like a mirror. If a man cannot let go of his possessions, his self, and his vices, hallucinations in the afterworld turned evil. As darkness encircled him, these hallucinations tortured him, causing him to yell and scream. When in a terrible moments of pain, his world went dark. Meanwhile, at such an interval, Mack saw a play, where his image was the principle actor. The dead man saw his life from a myriad of directions. He began to detest his egotism, his vanity, and greed. He watched himself break the destiny of his life that he had already lived. He projected himself back in time; also to those he had relationships. He saw the four courses of possibilities, which interested and eventually horrified him. Dunstan was lost in superimposing his world of dreams over his reality, which eventually bedeviled him in a world of illusion.
Dunstan soon became aware that he now possessed a body of energy; his earthly body was no more. At that time of realization, he encountered an ocean of light. He fought to maintain such a force. He tried vainly to handle onto this level of super consciousness. This newly departed tried to hang onto this pure energy, which came to be the source and return of all souls. As he passed through this ocean of light, where at some distance he saw a giant lake. A great edifice manifested, which shielded the unknown treasures of the underworld.
Each successive lake he passed represented a sojourn into the chakras. A lake of diamonds blinded him. He tried to cross this lake. If he did, he would experience bliss and non-being. He went further and saw a collection of suns, all varying in size and color. Each sun had a path into the white light, which came to be the state of oneness in the universe. They all represented a chakra. He must travel through its highest center and every path to escape this illusion. Dunstan struggled and couldn't let go of his guilt and sense of misgiving.
Unwittingly, he had failed at crossing each path and went into a higher level of consciousness. Dunstan now faced a grayish lake. As he stood on those dismal shores, he looked toward the horizon, where all his fears, desires, all feelings of guilt and desperation manifested, the site of his lesser self. Those who wanted to become, or have been. All his desires were realized, which would eventually become a source of agony after judgment.
A blinding light shocked our hero. A myriad of beings manifested, all statuesque, grand, and sublime. Their images chiseled from marble and physical features possessed an awe inspiring glow. Thus Dunstan had failed to overcome the self, inducing such great beings to arise from the oblivion-- the judges of heaven and hell. Many native tribes believed people don’t die, they transform into other animals. This would explain the shape shifting beings that populated the underworld. These entities took on the images of a set of Supreme Court justices. The specters shaped shifted into the shape of alligators, or extraterrestrials. “We sentence you to be among the damned!” it cried. “You will never leave this world unless you have redeemed yourself.”
Oh great! “Who are you!” Dunstan countered. “What did I do!”
His reaction and further pleadings of innocence was ignored.
“We have spoken,” they pronounced. “All will be, will be as if you have not been at all,” they proclaimed in unison. When a thunderclap sounded up above, the tribunal disappeared. What was that all about?