A collection of short stories explores Hollywood’s underbelly.
The film and TV industry isn’t all glitz and glamour; it’s also cutthroat, madcap, and violent. Copelan (The Greatest Stories Never Sold, 2010) pulls back the curtain on some of Tinseltown’s most unflattering characters in a dozen tales of crime, passion, and otherworldly bizarreness. Switching between first- and third-person narration, Copelan introduces readers to the likes of former TV star Captain Dan, who takes a shady hustle to make ends meet; film cutter Nick Hunt, whose bipolar disorder plummets him to frightening depths; and Dirk Krieger, whose acting career gets a boost when a newspaper erroneously prints his obituary. Some of the dark and often funny stories veer into sci-fi territory: Swede Burton’s vow to revive the town of Apricot Springs with a Hawaiian-themed drive-in takes an extraterrestrial detour. In another tale, Field Agent Berryhill executes the dirty work of the Department of Media Destruction in the distant future. Copelan’s characters are quirky yet believable and his visceral descriptions are downright cinematic: “Blood exploded from her neck like an active volcano.” Ironic humor is subtle but effective, as when Burton nicknames two Spanish-speaking contractors “Hey” and “You.” In “Analysis of a Salesman,” psychiatrist Dr. Joel Goodman’s secretary claims she’s “not really good with names” and asks her boss to bring her coffee. That said, Copelan’s 12 stories are decidedly male-oriented. Each one is told from the male point of view and women are little more than projection screens for men’s desires and furies. Female characters include stereotypes like the “class bitch” and an abusive mother. The only female player with any agency is a serial killer who murders men with tainted pie. In “Red Car,” hardware store employee Sully masturbates to fantasies of strangling a woman: “He wants to cum, blow his top, but he pulls the wire tighter, tighter, until she gurgles, slumps over and dies.”
A wacky, sometimes unsettling trip through the most disturbed male minds in Tinseltown.