Oh, the characters who appear in Stephen Geller's novels.
They are as varied as Sookie the Human Torch, William Shakespeare, Johnny Mercer, Mister Jesus and the three former Moseses, now Muses. While comic, the novels deal with profound issues, making readers think, as well as laugh out loud.
Geller is an international award-winning screenwriter, novelist and director.
He is best known for his screen adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five," which won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
He also received the Silver Bear Award for Best International Miniseries for "Warburg: A Man of Influence." Geller also has done screen adaptations of novels written by Joseph Heller, Anne Rice, John Kennedy Toole and Tom Robbins.
Geller's first novel, "She Let Him Continue," was made into the cult film classic "Pretty Poison" starring Tuesday Weld and Tony Perkins. He also wrote and directed an independent film, "Mother's Little Helpers."
In addition, Geller has directed his own plays and screenplays as an independent in film and theater. Presently, he is a professor of writing at the Savannah College of Art and Design.
Geller's latest novels all were written in Savannah and will be available at a book signing Aug. 4 at Barnes & Noble. He will sign his books "Feist," "Jews on the Moon," "Jews Beyond Jupiter," "Jews in Black Holes," "Jews and the Theories of String," "Jews at the Table, Volumes 1 & 2" and "A Warning of Golems."
IF YOU GO
What: Book signing with author Stephen Geller
When: 2 p.m. Aug. 2
Where: Barnes and Noble, 7804 Abercorn St.
Geller's fertile imagination was nourished as he grew up in the Hollywood of the 1940s and '50s. He was born in Los Angeles, where his father was a musician and his mother a former screen actress.
"A couple of years after I was born, my dad became an arranger for CBS," Geller says. "He played the horn for the radio programs and arranged music for them.
"I grew up in orchestra pits and sound stages. And I loved to perform.
"Any time a kid was needed to do a gig, I was picked," he says. "A lot of my time was spent on back lots and sound stages and watching my dad."
"It was a very different time and LA was a very different place," Geller says. "The studios were making 1,200 or 1,400 movies a year.
"Now, if they make 45 a year, that's a lot. I wanted to be a composer and a musician like my dad, but both my parents said it was a terrible life.
"I certainly didn't believe that for one minute," Geller says. "The people around me were so interesting and so much fun and so immensely gifted."
Fortunately, Geller loved writing as well as music.
"I wrote all the time and my mom kept encouraging that," he says.
In the 1950s, Geller's father was a victim of the infamous Hollywood blacklist, and when he was subpoenaed by the House Committee on Un-American Activities the family moved to Paris.
"I'm probably the only person who can thank the Un-American Activities committee for such a wonderful childhood," Geller says.
After writing poetry and short stories, Geller decided he wanted to write for musicals.
"The first real job I had was writing lyrics for Gene Kelly," he says.
Geller was 13 at the time.
"By the time I was in college, all I was doing was writing and acting and directing," he says. "I majored in theater and playwriting."
After so much work, Geller tired of theater.
"By the time I got to drama school, I was really in love with film, in particular European film," he says. "Ingmar Bergman and Fellini were my gods and still are."
After graduation from Dartmouth College and Yale University, Geller moved to Rome to work for producer Dino De Laurentiis. While there, he wrote the screenplay for "The Valachi Papers" and other films.
In addition to working in the Italian, French, British and independent film industries, Geller wrote screenplays for every major studio in Los Angeles. He returned home in 1986.
"I lived in Los Angeles and hated it, I hated the industry," Geller says. "They weren't making movies, the only thing that mattered was the deal."
Geller left Los Angeles to found screenwriting programs at Arizona State University and the Boston University College of Communication. In addition to several plays, he is the author of nine novels and a book on screenwriting.
When Geller and his wife, Kae, saw the film "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," they were stunned.
"We sat there and asked, 'What is that place? That is amazing!,'" he says. "We didn't care about the story; we were looking at Forsyth Park."
"We stayed twice in the theater just to watch it," Kae says.
"When Savannah called, we ran," Geller says. "I immediately fell in love. SCAD was everything Boston was not.
"SCAD was so exciting and so edgy. I loved the faculty. They bring the world and art to the classroom. What fun is that!
"Most importantly, there is so much work and the bar is as high as it gets," he says. "The kids are so highly motivated and thinking constantly."
Savannah also inspired Geller's latest novels.
"That was the first time I'd ever been to the Deep South," he says.
"I was born in LA, I spent so much time in Europe. Suddenly, I'm in a new world."
Geller began to read about the Civil War.
"I discovered so much that had never been discussed in any history class I ever had," he says. "I was getting angrier and angrier.
"Suddenly, the South was like the Weimar Republic in Germany. The terrible penalties there gave rise to Nazism, just as Reconstruction gave rise to the Klan."
That led to Geller's novel "Feist," about a man who believes he is Moses and sets out to free the South.
"He's out of his nut, kind of a Jewish Faust, but instead of an alliance with the devil, he has one with God," Geller says.
"Jews on the Moon" came about after Geller heard someone remark that the Holocaust never happened.
"I found I could really spill my anger out and have fun at the same time," he says.
Currently, Geller is working on a novel titled "Jews in Black Holes." His books contain autobiographical riffs about his own life and experiences.
"I used the riffs at first as a joke, then discovered they're very important parts of the books," Geller says. "They form a love story to my parents and an LA that doesn't exist any more, and an homage to memory."