Red-hot novelist/screenwriter Tolkin comes up with an equally affectless twin to Griffin Mill of The Player (1988): music-store owner Frank Gale, whose plan to rekindle his marriage by breaking off with his mistress runs into the kind of cosmic bad luck only a master of black comedy could invent. The night before he's to fly to Acapulco with wife Anna, Frank writes a letter confessing his sins and naming insurance-assistant Mary Sifka as his lover. His plan: to hand Anna the confession after they've been in Mexico for a few days and he's made nice to her. But when a farewell lunch with Mary keeps him from making his flight, Anna finds the letter in his luggage, tells him off by phone, then boards the plane—only to die in a ``massive fireball'' when a disgruntled former employee shoots up the plane and it comes down on a San Diego street. For two days Frank floats in an aura of martyrdom as the airline employees, worried that he'll join a lawsuit against them, ply him with room service and grief-counseling as he's constructing elaborate what-if scenarios based on Anna's not finding that letter and wondering why his brother and partner Lowell—who's fighting to take charge of the lawsuit—has always been so much more effective than he has, what advantage he can get out of widely being thought dead (his name was published on the passenger list), and whether his bereavement will give him more opportunities to hit on women. Entranced by the need to make his calamity more real, he wanders back to San Diego, sneaks onto the crash site, and is arrested rifling his own luggage. But the crowning irony is still to come.... A high comedy made even darker than The Player by Tolkin's eye for the cold-water detail that strips Frank naked—from the Ford Explorer he imagines Lowell to be crying in to his description of the standard configuration of a 737.
Read full book review >