Muddled MindBy DAVID C. HAYES, HAYDEN DAVIS (Ramble House; 2001/2010)

A most welcome volume—an essential one, even, due simply to the fact that MUDDLED MIND was the first, and still most worthwhile, book devoted to the writings of the inimitable Edward D. Wood, Jr. (1924-1978).  Ed Wood is famous as the “Worst Filmmaker of All Time,” but he also wrote, or contributed to the writing of, around 80 books for the smut market during the years 1963 to 1977.

MUDDLED MIND is something of a hodgepodge, being an early publication by Ramble House (who make sure to include a lengthy blurb for themselves on the back cover!).  Its text runs to barely 100 pages, with highly uneven prose riddled with embarrassing attempts at Ed Woodian comedy (whereas Wood’s particular brand of “humor,” let’s not forget, was unintentional).  Yet David C. Hayes and Hayden Davis are extremely knowledgeable about Wood and his books, and their commentary is quite authoritative (enough so that the text of the 2013 volume ED WOOD’S SLEAZE PAPERBACKS is said to rely extensively on quotes from MUDDLED MIND).

Included is extensive information—quotes, plot summaries, etc.–on Wood opuses like KILLER IN DRAG, DEATH OF A TRANSVESTITE, RAPED IN THE GRASS, BYE BYE BROADIE and HELL CHICKS, whose subject matter, unsurprisingly, includes sex, death and transvestitism, related in prose that can safely be termed overripe (sample sentence: “Crud! Lice! Vermin! Maggots! Germs! Take up your Roget’s Thesaurus and grab any like adjective and you have them summed up”).

Also featured is an extensive bibliography of Wood’s output, three stories by the man himself and a brief essay about the making of the 1999 Wood-inspired flick DEVIL GIRLS, as well as an article on the 1978 PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE soundtrack, another about Wood’s long-lost Bela Lugosi biography, and an explanation of what happened to the short-lived Woodpile Press, which in the early 00’s issued new editions of quite a few Wood novels but has ceased production—leaving behind 20 volumes that are now “so rare that only Dan Brown knows where they can be found.”

The only real drawback to MUDDLED MIND is that it was published in 2001—and revised in ’10—and so is now quite dated.  This means you can disregard the authors’ advice at the end of each chapter on tracking down Wood’s books, as (aside from a few scattered reprints) nearly all of them are impossible to find nowadays, and ungodly expensive if you manage to do so.