Six Devils in the San Fernando Valley tells the story of Truman Morrow, a disillusioned screenwriter, navigating the fallen humanity of an industry populated with serial “users” who prey upon others’ naive dreams of stardom. Morrow discovers that some of the users are not human at all, and he has been chosen to vanquish them.
Pope John Paul II said that “the opposite of love is not hate, the opposite of love is use.” This concept is starkly illustrated in this first novel by Ernie Mannix. Six Devils paints a picture of an industry almost entirely devoid of love–not affection or infatuation which we often confuse with love, but real love, the conscious choice to want what is best for a fellow human being.
The world that Mannix shows us is one where human need is a vulnerability to be exploited if not ignored. Needing work hinders one’s ability to get work because needing is a weakness. Young dreamers become playthings for corrupt producers and drug dealers who make empty promises to get what they want. The dreamers even use the base needs of the powerful in order to sustain their hopes of success. Everyone is objectified by themselves or by others.
With repeated references to the Franciscan friars like Juan Crespi and Junipero Serra who evangelized and settled the San Fernando Valley centuries ago, Mannix magnifies the present corruption while also giving the reader hope. The forces of good have not been totally eliminated in the Valley. They are few in number and take unlikely forms but they continue to work tirelessly to save what is good. They are the ones who choose Truman Morrow and guide him through his task.
The spiritual realm and the physical realm coincide in this novel in a manner very reminiscent of C.S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy. The story unfolds without any heavy handed moralizing–the characters’ actions speak for themselves. Through the course of the novel Morrow learns that good and evil both reside in unexpected places and that defeating evil always involves personal contrition and sacrifice.
As one who normally writes about politics, I couldn’t help but see parallels between the entertainment industry and the government–like they say, if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog. As it turns out, Ernie Mannix’s next novel will be Six Devils on the Ellipse wherein his new job as a vanquisher of evil brings Truman Morrow to the nation’s capital. I’m looking forward to that.
(cross posted at Anthropocon.com)