Q & A with Matthew Banks: Where Does Imagination End and Reality Begin

 Nominated for the 2023 Rondo Award 

     1. How long did it take you to research and write the book? 

That’s a good question, that’s actually hard to answer because each piece took a different time to do. For example, Dracula’s Daughter took me two years to research and write. It was initially only meant to be a 3-thousand-word article, but it kept growing and growing. I think the final version rests at just over 17, thousand words. Could there be a ‘director’s cut’ – possibly, but not by much. Whereas ‘I Married A Witch’ which runs in at around 15,000 words was written entirely during the first lockdown. The whole book is an absolute labour of love with each piece being worked on, corrected and in several chapters, extended. There are about 6 different versions of The Invisible Ray for instance – so that will never be worked on again. lol


        2. Which horror film do you consider the best and why? 

Night of the Demon (US Curse of the Demon) 1957 is an absolute masterpiece and such a multi-layered film. I have written about it twice – the first piece is included in this book.  Why is it my favourite – because it is very clever, the clear difference between the literary Karswell and his cinematic counterpart, knowing that the disbelieving Holden is wrong as we have already seen the demon, to the final shot of the empty railway station, thus implying that the demon got them all. It is based on a short story by M R James, ‘Casting the Runes.’


  1. How did you come to choose the title? 

The title comes from 1957’s Night (Curse) of the Demon, Directed by Jacques Tourneur and stars Dana Andrews, Peggy Cummins and Niall MacGinnis. The scene in question is where John Holden (Andrews) and Joanna Harrington (Cummins) have gone to Lufford Hall to borrow a book from Julian Karswell (MacGinnis). During a discussion between the two men, Karswell questions, “But where does imagination end and reality begin? What is this twilight, this half world of the mind that you profess to know so much about?” I really liked that unworldliness of that questioning and thought that it would make a good title, which I used for my comparison between the literary Karswell and his celluloid counterpart.


      4. The last chapter of your book is a comparison between the literary Karswell and the cinematic version. Obviously, this is different to the rest of the book, why did you decide to include this, rather than a re-examination? 

This was the first piece that was published by We Belong Dead and one of my favourite pieces that I have written, and in a round about way it is a re-examination as I compare the two versions of the character of Karswell. It is fascinating to see how ‘humanised’ the celluloid Karswell is, which is very clever. He is shown as being just as trapped by the dark magic that he uses, just as much as his disciples are. Whereas the literary Karswell is just evil, for the sake of it. 


  1. Why is I Married a Witch included when it is considered a romantic comedy? 

Have you ever had one of the Eureka moments? We were in the first lockdown, and I had put down the chapters that I wanted included in the book, but I wanted something different, something new and not extended and I was in the shower and boom! It dawned on me that at its heart ‘I Married A Witch’ was a horror film, wrapped up in the candy coating of romantic comedy – in much the same way as ‘Silence of the Lambs’ is considered a horror film, when in fact it is a disturbing psychological thriller.  


     6: Why BearManor Media? 

I was talking to my friend, the late and sorely missed Scott Allen Nollen about publishing and stuff and he highly recommended Ben Ohmart and BearManor Media to me, of whom I knew of as I have several books published by him. I sent an initial email outlining my proposal and from there sent him in the full version of Dracula’s Daughter and fortunately from that, I was offered a contract. 


     7: Tell us a bit about the production of the book

 I was fortunate to have the amazing Stone Wallace as my editor and he was patient and encouraging, and Ben Ohmart was just as supportive. Having an article published in a magazine, I found is totally different to having your own book and I have always had a very set idea of how I wanted my first book to look. For example, the cover – I always wanted Dracula’s Daughter to take centre stage (as it is the longest chapter) and initial designs had Frankenstein Monster strangling the Wolf Man – but it just did not work. I talked a lot with the students that I work with, and they gave me some valuable insight in that too much can just be that, too much – so I decided to go with the two longest chapters to be on the front cover. I also tend to double up on what I write as my mind races ahead of itself, and Stone was able keep that in check. When you see the book, it is exactly how I intended it to be. I am very proud of it 😊 The only thing that I would have liked in the book is an index – but I don’t know how to do them and was worried that if I attempted it, I’d screw it up – but all the sources are there for each chapter. 


     8: Which areas did you find most challenging while researching and writing the book? 

Getting the facts straight is very important to me, so I cross-reference everything, with all available resources that I have at my disposal. If I don’t have the material, I track it down and buy it. I have asked for help from other scholars. The   Witches and Witchcraft in Film 1896 -1941 was probably the hardest thing researched as a lot of the films no longer exist, the same film being released under several different titles over the years and trying to figure out if they are one in the same was a complete nightmare. I’m pretty sure that I have missed some out and doubled up on others – but it is a good starting point for any serious researcher looking into that area of film. I initially thought about putting a contemporary review with each entry, but soon realised that that would be a book in itself and detract away from what I was doing with this work. 


     9: Do you have a follow-up book in the works? 

 Yes I do. It is provisionally titled, “Morbid Curiosity: Re-Discovering the Horror and Sci-Fi Classic.” It consists of around 23 to 25 chapters of films ranging from Jean Epstein’s Fall of the House of Usher up to modern day films such as Rogue One. A lot of this book comes from limited run books that are no longer available as well as unpublished pieces, revised pieces and magazine articles. It is a worthy follow-up to “Where Does Imagination End and Reality Begin: Re-Examining the Horror Classic.” I have not offered it up as yet as I am busy promoting that book (at time of writing.) 


  1. Talking of promotion, how can we find out more about you and the book and classic horror film? I have had a few podcast interviews that you can listen too or watch on Youtube.

 I had an interview with Jerry Knaak on his podcast ‘Get the Knaak earlier this year: https://soundcloud.com/.../get-the-knaak-s5ep28-talking...

 or https://podcasts.apple.com/.../get-the-knaak/id1146999891...

 And here is (a more visual) podcast with the Grim and bloody podcast team of Kevin NickelsonAnthony De RouenJoe Flynn and Al Omegahttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_v5QgeB_ir4.

I have another podcast with Morbid Planet – but that has not been released yet. As soon as it is, it will be all over social media

You can find me on Twitter as @thedoctor67 On Instagram as @thedoctor1972 and on Facebook

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