Books by Michael Covino

THE NEGATIVE by Michael Covino
Released: July 1, 1993

An odd couple ``kidnap'' the final cut negative of a Hollywood blockbuster in this overblown caper novel—Covino's first, following his story collection, The Off-Season (1985—not reviewed). Frank Furio is the Ivy League yuppie son of a New York mobster; he has just done two years for masterminding a real-estate scam. Wilbur Blackfield is a down-at-heels professor of film who proposes they steal the negative of the soon-to-be-released, $67 million-dollar sequel to The High Plateau of Stars, the film that established Doug Lowell as a ``world-class moviemaker.'' The heist goes smoothly, but the blackmail attempts go nowhere because Lowell, holed up on his Santa Cruz mountain estate, has become convinced that his endlessly delayed, way-over-budget movie is ``rank with death-stench'': he would rather collect the insurance than get the negative back. Stalemated, Frank then kidnaps two San Francisco movie critics, hoping that, after their very private screening, they will convince Lowell of his mistake. Does this sound like the ideal fast-paced caper? It's far from it. Covino alternates narrators, first Furio, then Lowell; all that distinguishes them is Lowell's gabbiness. His long, narcissistic ruminations on creativity are one strike against a successful caper; the blink-of-an-eye speed of the kidnappings is another; and the third is that many later developments are reported on TV news while the kidnappers watch. As Furio says lamely: ``The story seemed to have passed from us.'' Covino's larger purpose is to demonstrate ``gangsterism as artistry—opposite sides of the same crazy coin''—but to get mileage out of this unoriginal proposition, you need credible gangsters and artists, those being not the case here. (First printing of 50,000) Read full book review >