A Hollywood screenwriter follows her insider debut novel (The Cigarette Girl, 1999) with another girl-on-the-make story. This time the girl is 35 and what she’s trying to make is a documentary film.
Christine Chase is in a self-described lull. It’s the year leading up to the millennium and her career’s going nowhere, her six-year marriage to party animal, wandering-eye, gorgeous James is over, and her $50 visits to the Centerfold newsstand on Melrose and Fairfax for magazines and newspapers are the highlight of her week. She’s got a mild relationship with the clerk, William, irreverently dubbed “magazine guy,” but, ironically, it’s here with William that the quest for a new life takes shape. The keyword is Richard Gault, a ’70s rocker who made a small splash before disappearing into the void. And, well, this is a novel about celebrity. “I was obsessed with how obsessed people can get with celebrities,” Christine tells us, and her clever insights are on autopilot as she documents the fringe characters of Hollywood and their habits. There are the Hint-and-Deny girls who give you every clue about who they’re sleeping with, then insist you’re wrong when you guess right; the “def con four system,” involving namedropping in a complicated pattern; and the PDP thing—Public Display of Privacy. Christine collects a group of fellow seekers—William; a cameraman named Waz; Jennifer, an H-and-D girl whose body warrants third looks—and they set off to find Richard Gault, who slowly becomes so much larger than life that Christine refers to him as God. (Anybody remember John Galt in Atlas Shrugged?) Along the way, Christine finds time to feed her libido, muse endlessly on the LA scene, actually find Richard Gault—and the answer to her prayers.
Amusing riffs, sharp wit, and the search for a ’70s icon aren’t enough to keep the action moving. Sadly, Christine’s lull is far-reaching.