THE ROAD THROUGH WONDERLAND: Surviving John Holmes by Dawn Schiller

PUBLISHING INFO: Medallion Press, 2010
GENRE: Nonfiction/Memoir
AUTHOR SITE: link
PURCHASE: link
MY GRADE: A

From Publisher: Painstakingly honest, this chilling memoir reveals how a teenager became immersed in the bizarre life of legendary porn star John Holmes. Starting with a childhood that molded her perfectly to fall for the seduction of “the king of porn,” this autobiography recounts the perilous road that Dawn Schiller traveled—from drugs and addiction to beatings, arrests, forced prostitution, and being sold to the drug underworld. After living through the horrific Wonderland murders of 1981, she entered protective custody, ran from the FBI, and turned in John Holmes to the police. This is the true story of a young girl’s harrowing escape from one of the most infamous public figures, her struggle to survive, and her recovery from unthinkable abuse.

MY THOUGHTS: Dawn was just 15 1/2 years old when she met 32 year old John Holmes in 1976. She’d moved to California with her father and younger sister after her parents recent divorce. John and his wife Sharon managed the apartments Dawn and her family were living in. Though John was married, and Dawn knew it, they began ‘dating’ each other and later began using drugs together.

The book tells of all the drugs Dawn used with John and physical abuse she took from him and John’s decent into heavy drug use, from 1976-1981. I feel the book was very well written and detailed. Dawn definitely has a knack/talent for writing. I really enjoyed the book and rate it 4 stars.

What keeps me from giving it five stars is the story basically ends in 1981 with the Wonderland Murders then briefly jumps ahead to 1988 with John’s death from an AIDS related illness. There is no mention of Dawn’s life between 1988-2010. For some odd reason, she doesn’t want us to know about her life after John died. I’m assuming her life from 1981-1998 was consumed with drugs and bad relationships with men but I’m just guessing.

Also, there are no updates about the people we’ve read about like her younger sister Terry, John’s ex-wife Sharon, or John’s brother and sister in law, Karen. I’d really like to know what ever became of them and was really let down by Dawn leaving all that out of the story. I’m really disappointed. I’d really like to know why in the world she’d put into writing that Sharon murdered a man, in self defense, when the law knows absolutely nothing about it…until now. Dawn is the one and only person Sharon has ever told that to, when they met in 1988 after John died, and now it’s in writing. What’s going to happen to Sharon now? Why would Dawn tell on her? I’m really confused by that. Puzzled, actually.

Dawn mentions her daughter and has a photo of her in the book but never mentions how the daugher came to be. We are told nothing about the girls father, when the met, nothing. Dawn is a bit of a mystery. Did Dawn ever ask her horrible father why he did drugs with his underage children and was just an overall horrible father? I guess she didn’t. I’ve read elsewhere that Dawn didn’t mention another of John’s girlfriends, one he dated while married to Sharon and dating Dawn. Why/how could Dawn not mention that at all? Why did she (intentionally) leave all that out? I do have a problem with Dawn saying John forced her to prositute herself. I saw no signs of force. I’m sure she felt like she had no choice but to do it but still, the choice was her’s. She never said how she felt about John getting AIDS or how she even found out about it. Did she ever want to visit him? We’ll never know. I want to know why John and Sharon had such an odd relationship and why they stayed married. Did Dawn ever ask him about it? Did she not care that he had sex with other women (and men) for money? We don’t learn her thoughts about any of that.

Overall, I was pleased with the book despite the lack of updates on some of the people. If you like biographies, you should really enjoy this one. It’s a hefty, trade paperback. I found an online interview with Dawn that you might enjoy.

You can watch a documentary on the Wonderland murders here. It’s the British airing of E!’s True Hollywood Story from 2001. Dawn and Sharon are interviewed.

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

18 Comments

  1. October 28, 2010 at 7:39 PM

    The answers to your questions regarding people and significant elements left out of Dawn’s (well written) memoir are answered in John Holmes: A Life Measured in Inches, 2008. The book contains extensive interviews with Sharon Holmes, Dawn Schiller, Julia St. Vincent (one of John’s primary girlfriends who was not mentioned in Dawn’s book) and many, many others.

    • ✿Terri said,

      October 29, 2010 at 3:54 PM

      Hello Jill! You’re not going to believe this but I’m currently reading your book! I got it last week and I’m really liking it so far.

      I was so thrilled to see that you’d interviewed Sharon. I’d have liked to have seen a photo of her.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. October 29, 2010 at 5:28 PM

    Glad to know you are enjoying the book. The “Cast List” found at the front of the bio will help you to learn who are the players are and their connection to John. Jennifer and I interviewed 35 people for “Inches” and also had permission to use additional material that also included Sharon Holmes and Dawn’s Schiller’s interviews derived from the original script text from the documentary WADD: The Life & Times of John C. Holmes. If you visit the ‘Galleries’ section at our website and look under ‘John Holmes: The Man’ you will find a few pictures of John and Sharon from the early years of their marriage. They were quite happy. We were also able to interview John’s second wife, Laurie, who was with him from 1982 (after his acquittal) until his death from AIDS-related causes in 1988. Very few people were aware (before our book) that John had been a step-father to Laurie’s little boy. Enjoy.

  3. October 30, 2010 at 1:05 AM

    I’m honestly not sure how to intrepret that story or understand why it would have been included in the book when it was explained that Sharon had sworn Dawn to secrecy. It certainly would be interesting to ask Tom Blake about it since he allegedly “got rid of the body”. It didn’t seem necessary unless Sharon had wanted it out there, but that’s not the impression given. Sharon and Dawn actually met up again in 1988 before John passed away (and not after) as is described by both women in our book.

  4. ✿Terri said,

    October 29, 2010 at 6:05 PM

    Jill,
    Yes, I’ve found the cast list to be very helpful. When I can’t remember who’s who I just check that list. When I finish the book I’ll visit your site. I’m anxious to explore it.

    What do you think of Dawn, in her book, telling everyone that Sharon killed someone? I’m still stunned by that. Why do you think she did it knowing Sharon could get in trouble? Was it her way of getting back at her for something?

    Thanks!

  5. August 15, 2012 at 7:35 PM

    I was there at the beginning of Dawn’s first steps, not only as a child but as an adult. The first steps she walked with John. I have a side. Things were twised not how he treated her, but other things. Maybe one day someone will want tohear what I know.

    • ✿Terri said,

      August 15, 2012 at 11:34 PM

      Terry, I’m going to have to ask you to stop replying to this topic, as this is your THIRD reply.

    • Tina said,

      March 6, 2013 at 8:47 PM

      I would be interested to hear your side Terry…. I would love to hear about how you and your mother and brother Are doing…. I read Dawn’s book and have seen the movie but was more concerned about you girls and how you came out of it…..after she left with your dad, there isn’t much more said about you and the other family members…..would love to hear your story…please respond if you would like to chat….

      DO NOT POST YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS ON A PUBLIC FORUM!

  6. Angel said,

    October 2, 2012 at 4:17 PM

    You say in your comments above that law enforcement didn’t know that Sharon killed a man, but if you had paid attention in your reading of that epilogue, you would remember that Sharon called the police and they took him away. She tells Dawn that she called “Big Tom” who was a police officer, and that he and guys came and picked up the body from her house.

  7. ✿Terri said,

    October 2, 2012 at 5:05 PM

    Sharon called one man. He took care of things. If she did indeed kill a man, it was covered up. Obviously.

    • October 14, 2012 at 6:01 PM

      I have a hard time believing this story and never understood why it was included in Dawn’s memoir when Sharon had “apparently” sworn Dawn to secrecy. It would have been one thing if Sharon had written a memoir and included the story herself, but that is not the case. I noticed there are errors in Dawn’s book regarding people, places, and time frames. As an example, Schiller cited Tom Blake as one of the arresting officers in Florida, along with Tom Lange. Lange’s partner in Florida was Frank Tomlinson (who we interviewed for “Inches”). Tomlinson is the detective who was responsible for tracking John and Dawn in Florida after the Wonderland investigation had gone cold and John was AWOL. Blake was not involved in the Florida arrest at all. This leads me to believe that perhaps the story about Blake “taking care of the body” in Dawn’s book is misconstrued somehow. Blake was a vice cop, not a homicide detective. If Sharon had indeed called Blake to “take care of the body” and he acted independently without the knowledge of the L.A.P.D,, it would be incriminating (to him) and unlawful.To the best of my knowledge, Tom Blake is still alive. It would be interesting to ask him about this as it’s a very curious story. It’s unfortunate that Sharon Holmes is not well. She would be able to shed light, I am sure. Sounds like something out of a B movie.

  8. ✿Terri said,

    October 14, 2012 at 9:01 PM

    Hello Jill! Do you plan on contacting Tom? He obviously wouldn’t admit to knowing what you’re talking about.

    What’s wrong with Sharon’s health?

    • October 15, 2012 at 10:46 AM

      Hi Terri, I don’t plan on contacting Tom Blake. It was more of a rhetorical comment more than anything else but it certainly would be interesting to hear his reaction. That’s a pretty hefty allegation to make against someone. Like you said, even if there is some validity to the story, he would not admit as much. Perhaps Sharon said it was the truth, but in my opinion, I seriously doubt the claim is factual. And whether or not the anecdote is true, it still seemed a rather odd and unnecessary item to incorporate into the book.

      Regarding Sharon’s health, a couple of years ago, Dawn had reported on her website that Sharon was suffering from Alzheimer’s which is very sad. In many respects, I feel bad for Sharon. I’ve always believed she is as much an enigma as her late ex-husband.

  9. Terry Schiller said,

    November 21, 2012 at 1:21 PM

    Up date on Sharon, I thought maybe Dawn would have posted this. Since she did not I will. Sharon has recently passed away. From my understanding it was from alzheimer’s. This has happened within the past 2 months. Rest in peace Sharon.

  10. November 21, 2012 at 6:33 PM

    Thank you for confirming Sharon’s passing, Terry. I had heard the same news but wasn’t sure if it was definite. RIP Sharon.

  11. gwynne g said,

    November 27, 2012 at 2:00 PM

    I have just started to read about this story again, I was in college when the wonderland crimes happened and never forgot it. I am sorry to hear of Sharon’s passing, but hopefully she is at peace now. I will read Dawn’s book soon as I now have time, am retired from nursing. From what I have read on line Dawn’s story is so sad but also uplifting for others. I have friends who were involved in the drug scene of the 70’s and some are gone now.looking forward to reading the book!!

  12. Kerry said,

    April 2, 2013 at 9:26 AM

    Hi all. I am actually reading Dawn’s book atm and am so glad to know that you Jill had written a book with interviews from key persons in the story. I’m an author myself and in goodreads i was looking up information about John Holmes, I’m going to grab a copy of your book Jill (thanks) and thanks Teri, Terry, angel and Tina aswell for this interesting conversation. Bless Sharon aswell. I look forward to discussing more soon.
    Kerry

    • April 2, 2013 at 1:24 PM

      Hi Kerry,

      It’s always nice to meet fellow authors. :) I hope you’ll enjoy reading “Inches” and I’ll look forward to your thoughts, particularly if you read our book after completing Dawn’s. Our mandate was to present John Holmes in a fair and balanced light which includes the good, the bad and the ugly.

      Have a great day.

      Jill


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