On the edge of hilarity and terror, Toxicity challenged how I should approach a novel. Quentin Tarrantino is the master of mundane dialogue while presenting despicable characters who remain interesting, with an infusion of dark humor that is borderline silly in a different context. While reading Max Booth III’s first novel, I struggled to understand why I didn’t like it, and why I continued to read it. Halfway through the narrative, I suddenly realized that I loved it, and finished the rest of it in one sitting.
The first time I had watched Pulp Fiction, I was apprehensive and curious until the infamous “Bonnie Situation.” I felt the same way about Toxicity, and all the humor and dialogue began to make sense within the framework of the novel. None of it seemed out-of-place or inconsistent. This is an accurate depiction of a book that would be a Cohen Brothers-directed movie with Tarantino penning the screenplay. Instead of providing a convoluted review, I decided to track down the author and ask him about the film version of his book, which should be coming to theaters sometime in 2019. Max Booth III is the rare author who has been afforded the luxury of choosing the cast himself before he sells his stake in his intellectual property. Booth promised we wouldn’t be forced to watch an Anne Rice-style bastardization.
SOMETIMES, THE BOOKS IS BETTER THAN THE MOVIE. CLICK HERE TO READ IT, FIRST!
What is the title of your latest book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
I was a 12 year-old kid bored out of my mind. I wanted to write. I'd written before, but never anything I felt (at the time) was worth a damn. I wanted to write something I truly understood. So, I picked up a notebook and pen and began writing about a dysfunctional family. The family was basically my own family. Each character was a doppelganger of someone I already knew. I made them win the lottery, because at the time, I would daydream about winning the lottery and escaping the suburban ghetto. So, the initial idea came from my own attempt to predetermine a ridiculous yet fantastic future for myself and my family. I realized not too long into the story that my family would never spend their lottery winnings wisely, so that is where much of the humor and absurdity originally sprung from.
After so long, I also realized I had no idea where to go with the story, so I brought in gangsters with guns. They came into the family's house mean and blood-hungry. These gangster characters were largely underdeveloped and stereotypical, so I went back to the beginning of the story, and told it through the gangsters' POV, what they had been up to while the family won the lotto and destroyed their newfound fortune. Just by exploring these other characters I was able to discover a whole new plot to intertwine with the existing lotto story. I made these characters breathe and, as one crazy thing after another occurred, the overall plot showed itself to me.
I rewrote the book many, many times throughout my teenage years. I’m 21 now, and the book was published this April. It's been a long road, and the book is nowhere like what it once was back when I first started writing it. I know each character inside and out. I am proud of them. None of them are flawless, and that is what makes them beautiful.
What genre does your book fall under?
I’ve been marketing it as a dark comedy crime novel. It’s much more than that, I think. “Insanity” is not a genre, though, but it totally should be. A lot of reviewers like to compare it to Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers, so I guess Toxicity has the same sort of ultra violence/absurdity/humorous style.
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
Maddox Kane – Timothy Olyphant
Maddox is one of the three main characters of Toxicity. He’s an ex-con trying to reconnect with his daughter, Addison, while dealing with his massively idiotic and annoying brother, Benny. Things quickly go bad for Maddox in the novel, and only get worse as the story progresses. Timothy Olyphant would be the perfect actor for this role. I’ve been a big fan of his for a while now, but his strength in Justified fully…uh, justifies his ability to play the badass tough protagonist that is Maddox Kane.
Addison Kane – Tatiana Maslany
Addison is the 17 year-old daughter of Maddox. Early on in the novel, her and her boyfriend, Connor, find themselves into some deep shit involving a corpse decomposing in the woods behind a local drugstore. They do whatever they can to scavenge up enough cash to skip town, even if that includes taking advantage of her father, who until recently she thought was dead. Tatiana Maslany would be a good fit, I think. She’s in her late ‘20s now, but she still could pass for an older teenager. I recently started watching Orphan Black, and she is goddamn amazing in it.
Johnny Desperation – Evan Peters
Johnny is the third main character of the novel. He’s a teenager stranded in the ghetto with his trailer trash family until, one day, his mother wins the lottery and they become millionaires overnight. Johnny quickly progresses from “punk rocker” to “snob” as his new surroundings corrupt him. He also becomes addicted to a new drug called “Purple”, which allows him to see the Fly, who is quite possibly the second coming of Jesus Christ. I am a huge fan of American Horror Story and I’ve always thought Evan Peters kills each role he’s given. He plays the disturbed teenager well. Plus he looks exactly how I pictured Johnny when writing him.
Benny Kane – Steve Buscemi
Benny is Maddox’s younger, stupider brother. He’s pretty much Steve Buscemi. I don’t think I need to explain much more than that.
Connor Murphy – Robert Sheehan
Connor is Addison’s boyfriend. Typically immature, his heart is in the right place. He would defeat the universe if it meant saving Addison’s life. But he would be cracking dick jokes pretty much through the whole battle. I used to love the show, Misfits, and Robert Sheehan’s character on it is a strong comparison to Connor. He’d do this role justice.
The Fly may or may not be an omniscient being who has arrived on earth to convince Johnny to jumpstart the Apocalypse. The Fly knows all. The Fly is you and the Fly is me. Do not fuck with the Fly. Obey the Fly or all will die. Obey the Fly or all will die. Obey the Fly or all will—oh, wait, anyway. Yeah. Jeff Goldblum.
What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
The world is shit but sometimes it is not.
Is your book self-published or represented by an agency?
Toxicity was released by a small press called Post Mortem Press.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I’d say anything by Carl Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
The flies, baby. The flies inspired me.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I don’t know. The pages give you a decent paper cut if you hold them a certain way, if you’re into that sort of thing, I guess.
Max Booth III is the author of two novels, TOXICITY and THE MIND IS A RAZORBLADE, along with a collection of flash fiction called THEY MIGHT BE DEMONS. He is the co-founder of Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing and the assistant editor of Dark Moon Digest. The editor of numerous anthologies, he has studied under Craig Clevenger and award winning editor, Jennifer Brozek. He writes columns for Litreactor. Raised in Northern Indiana, Max currently works as a hotel night auditor somewhere in San Antonio with his dachshund and life partner.