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On the road with a monster of an author

Gregory Lamberson may have only been 3 years old when he was introduced to movies, but he remembers it as clear as day.

There was his first film, a double feature actually, of "Bambi" and "Pinocchio in Outer Space." The regular walks he took with his mother to the old Regent theater in Dunkirk to watch movies, and, afterward, the visits to a nearby cigar store to buy a comic book.

Movies sparked the imagination of the young Lamberson, who would take his comic books and cut out the ads for glow-in-the-dark monster kits, sticking the photos of Universal monsters and other creatures to his television and making, in essence, "movies" as seen from a child's imagination.

Today, at age 44, Lamberson still plays with monsters but this time as a filmmaker, screenwriter and author. It's only fitting then, that Lamberson will see the publication of two of his books in October, the month that celebrates all things horror.

His novel "Johnny Gruesome," published as a limited-edition hardcover by Bad Moon Books in January, will be available in bookstores nationwide beginning today as a trade paperback published by Medallion Press. The book has drawn praise from such horror icons as filmmaker Herschell Gordon Lewis, who gives it his highest praise by saying, "I wish I had written it." Later in the month, McFarland & Company will publish Lamberson's "Cheap Scares! Low Budget Horror Filmmakers Share Their Secrets."

A book tour for "Johnny Gruesome," which takes Lamberson all the way to Burbank, Calif., begins Saturday at the Barnes & Nobel on Transit Road in Clarence. Earlier in the year, Medallion featured Lamberson at the BookExpo America in Los Angeles and in Toronto. Those two appearances gave Lamberson a boost of confidence, especially one book signing in particular with a large group of authors.

"I thought most of the lines were for sitcom actors signing their books, but as it turned out there was a nonstop procession of people to me," he recalls. "I think in an hour, I signed 400 books. What was nice about that was the majority of people were not horror fans but voracious readers who like to read anything."

The road from his childhood in Fredonia to being a Buffalo-based author and filmmaker has not been a straight ride down the Thruway. As a teen, Lamberson relocated to New York City to study filmmaking at the School of Visual Arts. He left school after a year when he realized that he wasn't happy making short films, the traditional way of getting started as a feature filmmaker, and became an independent filmmaker.

During a decade in New York City, Lamberson made three independent horror films that all were released as midnight movies or on DVD: the 1988 cult horror film "Slime City" (based on his first screenplay); "Undying Love," an anti-vampire film released on DVD as "New York Vampire"; and the thriller "Naked Fear."

Unfortunately, he says, none of the films led to a movie career. After his mother's death, he returned to the area with his wife, Tamar, and bought a house.

By then, Lamberson had decided to concentrate on writing fiction. First up: a novelization of his screenplay "Personal Demons." It was released as a limited-edition hardcover (and later a trade paperback) and won the Anubis Award for Horror, judged by acclaimed writer T.M. Wright. "It got great reviews, but it didn't get me anywhere. I still consider it my best work," Lamberson says.

So he went back to his drawer of scripts and tackled the novelization for "Johnny Gruesome." But life was changing for the Lamberson family with the birth of their daughter, Kaelin (two years and seven months ago, he says). He was managing a Dipson theater at night and Tamar worked during the day, allowing each of them to watch Kaelin.

"It took me a month to realize this wasn't going to happen. Someone should stay home, and it needs to be me," he says.

With the support of his wife ("it's been critical," he says), Lamberson left his full-time job to watch Kaelin and write. Though it's been tough at times, the family has remained strong. Lamberson supplements the modest advances he gets for his work with a part-time job as editor of the horror Web site, FearZone.com.

For Lamberson, gratification comes in e-mails from around the world, sometimes from youngsters who remind him of himself. "There's one kid in Ireland who swears he saw 'Slime City' 100 times, and that's very gratifying," Lamberson says.

"I'm doing what I want to do. I'd like to be doing it on a grander scale and have more to show for it," Lamberson says. "But I never gave up. I kept throwing things up in the air to see what would stick, and things are starting to pay off. The lesson is, if you really want something, keep working."

e-mail: truberto@buffnews.com

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>Local stops

Upcoming local dates for the "Johnny Gruesome" book tour include:

Noon to 2 p.m. Saturday: Barnes & Noble, 4401 Transit Road, Clarence.

7 to 9 p.m. next Wednesday: Talking Leaves Bookstore, 3158 Main St. (reading and signing).

7 p.m. Oct. 10: Titles Bookstore, McMasters University, Hamilton, Ont. (ghost walk, reading, lecture).

10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 11: Borders, Eastern Hills Mall. Live appearance at 10 a.m. by Ryan O'Connell, who played Johnny Gruesome in a music video, with a makeup demonstration by David Gray. Signing by Lamberson at noon.

7 to 9 p.m. Oct. 30: Talking Leaves Books Elmwood, 951 Elmwood Ave. (signing only).

6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 31: The Book Corner, 1801 Main St., Niagara Falls.

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