Hollywood film composer Ernie Mannix takes that idea and weaves into his lyrical and chilling novels. In the first, Six Devils in the San Fernando Valley, we are introduced to Truman Morrow. An east coast writer enticed to Hollywood by a stunning starlet and her savvy manager years earlier, Morrow’s work has dried up, his dreams are washed away, and he can’t make rent. Just as he’s about to end it all, he’s stopped by an archangel named Roberto.
Behind the studio walls there are devils and the desperate people they hold in their thrall. Truman is tasked with vanquishing the devils if they refuse to surrender, ultimately freeing their prisoners. In a world of artificial beauty, Truman’s journey takes him to savage and ugly places where he’s forced to address his own failings and search for meaning in things that are real.
If Raymond Chandler came back from the dead and absorbed Stephen King novels, C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, and the Harvey Weinstein trial transcripts, this is the story he’d tell. As it is, Mannix himself drew paychecks from some now notorious names and heard the horror stories before they made headlines. For all the fantastic elements, this unflattering picture of the film industry is rooted in reality.
Truman continues his journey with Six Angels in the San Fernando Valley. Literally seduced by an evil force, Truman questions his own sanity and wavers in his calling. Meanwhile, Roberto struggles to bring Truman back to reality, because this time souls are at stake, including Truman’s. Another devil seeks to defy time, warp reality, and eternally torture the weak for his own selfish satisfaction.
Reading the second novel is like playing Russian roulette with IMDB, where dead people live, the old are forever young, and the evil and the lonely broken wear the same smiles. It can be confusing, and this isn’t a story from which we should take our theology any more than we should take physics lessons from the latest Fast and Furious movie. Yet the undeniable truth is that evil is present and takes many forms.
“Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light,” Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians. “Therefore, it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.” So before we follow the stars that shine from the western hills, we might do well to question where that road ends.
Mannix has said in interviews that he believes in good and evil, so he tries to show the world in that light, with both R-rated (what he calls “racy”) sections and redemption without any preaching. You won’t see this in the church library next to Frank Peretti or adapted into a PureFlix movie. Yet this look behind the silver screen will forever change the way you see Tinseltown and the people who live there. (Opus Coast Publishing)