Books by Richard Walter

Released: July 1, 1999

The chairman of UCLA's film- and television-writing program debuts with (what else?) the story of a hapless film student who stumbles into fortune and, eventually, modest fame. Queens-born Stuart Thomas is fleeing the Vietnam-era draft when he bursts into the University of Southern California's Department of Cinema in August of 1966. He's just looking for a place to hide, but he winds up with a student deferment and work on a student-made porn film. The director is gorgeous Veronica Baldwin, who cheats Stuart out of a writing credit on their surprise exploitation hit, Brutal Bad-ass Angels, then marries him. Years pass in a whirl of canned background bytes (—and that was in Gerald Ford dollars—; "by this time my Kaypro had been left at the curb and I worked on an IBM that had something called a hard drive—) and various trendy therapies whose proponents always pause, on the tantalizing verge of providing Stuart with life-altering wisdom, to say, "That's all the time we have for today." Another tedious running joke involves the relatively law-abiding Stuart perennially getting accosted by cops who read him his Miranda rights. Presumably the author intended the plot to be a tissue of absurdities and wanted to create characters as nutrient-deprived as L.A.'s soil—it's a satire, after all. But a few mildly amusing episodes involving real-life movie names (Mike Ovitz, Mike Medavoy, John Milius) don—t make up for the fact that the tale of Stuart's decline into well-paid scriptwriting anonymity while Veronica's directing career flourishes simply doesn—t engage our interest, let alone our hearts. Walter certainly knows a lot about Hollywood—there are some very obscure in-jokes and references—but he doesn—t put it to fruitful fictional use. And starting off with a variation on Sunset Boulevard's famously macabre opening voice-over is an invitation to damning comparisons. Not especially funny, and not much fun. Read full book review >