How a coma took man to writing and Hollywood deal

A PITSEA father of three has gone from deathbed to signing a Hollywood film deal thanks to the advice of his doctor after coming out of a 29-day coma.

Garry Johnson needed two triple heart bypass operations at Basildon Hospital in January 2014, and caught septicaemia, with his children on two occasions told to expect the worst.

But Garry pulled through the ordeal, with doctors nicknaming him ‘the miracle’, and after months of physical rehab, he was advised to start writing to exercise his mind and help with the memory and concentration problems he was still having post-coma.

“To begin with I just started writing lists because I found it difficult to read a newspaper or even follow what was going on on television,” recalls Garry. “Eventually I began writing loads of short stories. I was alright to write as long as I did it in short stints. I’d get exhausted and it would feel like I’d just run a marathon after just sitting in front of a laptop for a couple of hours, but it got better.”

One of these short stories was Serial Killer – about a female serial killer seeking revenge. After impressing several people with it, he decided to enhance and re-write it into a novel, and in October 2016 sent the final edition to New Haven Publishing.

Garry, 51, who previously worked as a painter/decorator, mini-cab driver and at Butlins, and had no previous novel-writing experience, had Serial Killer published in March 2017, but unbeknownst to Garry his publisher had also sent the manuscript to a Hollywood producer just after Christmas, and things were about to get even better.

“I couldn’t believe it! The film producer loved it and the book hadn’t even come out yet,” said Garry. “Beach Dancer Films sent me a 12-page contract to turn it into a movie and apparently Alicia Silverstone has even expressed an interest!”

The book is set in East London and the Essex borders, with the main character setting up a string of hairdressers in Southend, and Garry says the film, which could be out within 18 months, would be set in the same areas for authenticity.

Garry added: “I spoke with the film producer on the phone who said she loved my cockney accent and even asked me to write dialogue for two of the East End characters. It’s much more difficult though. I wrote for four hours and it turned out I’d only written four minutes of dialogue.”

His ideal casting would include Ray Winstone as one of the gangsters and has asked for the novel to be sent to his production company.

Garry intends to keep writing novels, and is planning a sequel to Serial Killer, saying it is amazing luck how his life has been transformed.

He added: “It’s the first thing I’ve ever done that the kids have been impressed with, especially when the film contract turned up.

“I used to write a lot of poetry and hoped it would get me somewhere but it never did. This is the first big successful thing that I’ve done and it was fate that stepped in to get me there. Going into hospital has worked out well in the end.”

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