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 So many recent Hollywood novels rationalize the present state of moviemaking in America that it's refreshing to find this first novel by screenwriter Kaye set firmly in the tradition of Nathanael West. Here's the sordid underside of big-time film, incorporating that most elusive of qualities in movieland--a sense of history. Kaye also discerns the odd connectedness of lives in Los Angeles, and he astutely measures the degrees of separation linking everyone in a company town like Hollywood, where evil is blithely tolerated in the powerful, and everyone else seems to have a hard- luck story. Ray Burk, Kaye's troubled protagonist, is an aspiring writer whose life begins to fall apart when his wife, Sandra, takes a job as a stripper and starts to neglect their young son. Having abandoned a soulless job with a TV network, Burk mines his past for marketable screenplay ideas, and eventually he sells a fictionalization of a wild, formative night in his Los Angeles youth, a time marked by his abandonment by his own mother. As Burk restlessly drives the streets, fretting about his career and about Sandra, and reliving his youth, he stumbles across the story of Max Rheingold, a loathsome producer whose notorious pedophilia left many victims in his wake, including the vengeful Bonnie Simpson. The grownup Bonnie, whom Burk meets during his marathon drives, is determined to shoot Max, who in fact now suffers from prostate cancer and--worse--is broke and considered a bad joke by filmdom's powerbrokers. In the strange twilit world of the novel, it's Bonnie's son who eventually enacts revenge, helped by his lover, Ricky Furlong, Burk's teenage rival at baseball, whose major-league debut was climaxed (and his career ended) by a mental breakdown. Kaye may not possess West's savage anger, but he memorably captures the sprawling madness and demonic myths of America's dream factory.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-87113-691-0
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1997