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The Road Through Wonderland: Surviving John Holmes

The Road Through Wonderland is the haunting memoir of a young girl sucked into the gritty world of drugs, abuse and John Holmes

“The most mesmerizing memoir since Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle.”
—Dana Kennedy, AOL News

“Gritty and starkly honest; it is at once a horror tale and a story of triumph.” —Mike Sager, writer-at-large, Esquire and author of Scary Monsters and Super Freaks

CHICAGO – By age 20, Dawn Schiller had been prostituted, raped and nearly kidnapped; linked to the 1981 gruesome Wonderland murders; and chased cross country by federal officials and drug lords. She had also been the girlfriend of the legendary porn star John Holmes for nearly five years—a disturbing relationship centered on her yearning for love and eventual fear, and his desire for power and drugs.

In her disquieting memoir, The Road Through Wonderland: Surviving John Holmes (Medallion Press, August 2010) with forewords by Val Kilmer and Kate Bosworth, Schiller offers a candid and shocking account of the troubling childhood that led her to Holmes and how her fragile emotions and his addictive persona thrust her into an unsettling and brutal world of abuse, cocaine, prostitution and murder.

A child of the ‘70s, Schiller recalls her youth spent in a broken home in a rough neighborhood of Carol City, Florida, “listening to heavy metal, getting high and hating life.” With the return of her hippie-pot-smoking father, 15-year-old Schiller hoped for a better life and followed her father to Southern California—an ensuing marijuana-fueled journey that ultimately ended at a home managed by the “king of porn,” John Holmes.

As Schiller recalls in The Road to Wonderland, Holmes—then a 32-year-old married man who, as Schiller embarrassingly remembers, was immediately disappointed in her young age—quickly became an odd but caring father figure to her.

Writing with a blend of adolescent perspective and regretful hindsight, Schiller divulges how her feelings for Holmes shifted from a protective friend—initially helping him and his wife with their garden for extra money—to a dominant lover, recalling their first sexual encounter in which she “remained deathly still, pinned immobile under John’s strength.”

In The Road Through Wonderland, Schiller heartbreakingly reveals how John’s “presence, words, and actions filled every lonely, dejected void [she] harbored inside,” ultimately leading her down a path of seedy motels, the drug underworld and perpetual fear.

With heartrending and frightening detail, she exposes how John’s raging temper and addiction to freebase cocaine transformed him into a paranoid maniac, who—after beating her up and forcing her to prostitute herself—would viciously scrub her clean in the bathtub while sobbing with apologies.

By turns salacious, by turns tender, this honest account also lends insight to the dynamic of Schiller’s bizarre but touching relationship with Holmes’ wife, candidly detailing their Christmases spent together and how she taught Schiller how to cook John’s favorite meals and fold his clothes to his preferences.

The Road Through Wonderland also traces Schiller’s time on the run after the famed Wonderland Murders and her journey to self-acceptance, forgiveness and clarity that birthed Throwaway Teens, a program that brings awareness to kids who are targeted and influenced by predators, and E.S.T.E.A.M., a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting teens who are struggling to find a safe and successful path to adulthood.

A harrowing and surrealistic story of power, control, love and false hope, The Road Through Wonderland lends startling insight into the mind of a teenage girl whose desire for affection, meaning and love fueled her trust in a man that would haunt and scar her life forever.

Dawn Schiller was an associate producer and consultant on the 2003 movie Wonderland, which depicted the life of John Holmes in and around 1981. She is a member of a variety of committees—including the President’s Commission on the Status of Women and the National Center of Victims of Crime—and she has developed a program called Throwaway Teens: Who Are They and How Can We Help?, which brings awareness to the experiences of kids targeted and groomed by predators.

Schiller is also the founder of E.S.T.E.A.M. (Empowering Successful Teens through Education, Awareness and Mentoring), a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting teens who are struggling to find a safe and successful path to adulthood.

For more information on Dawn Schiller, please visit Also visit her nonprofit organization at

Dawn’s book “The Road Through Wonderland: Surviving John Holmes” can be purchased at:


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