An entertainment lawyer’s movie-business venture takes an unpleasant turn that could land him in prison in McInerny’s (Bond Hunter, 2012) novel.
In 1979, New York City attorney Maxwell Rider moves to Los Angeles, inspired by his friend Irving Fain’s recent investment in a low-budget film. Irving brings Max in on his latest idea: Filmland Credit, effectively a bank that loans productions a small percentage of a film’s budget, while the bulk is covered by investor partnerships. It sounds good to Max, who’s already a producer on a remake of Italian filmmaker Alex des Prairies’ commercial hit, Danse du Sang, aimed at American audiences. As Filmland rounds up investors, Max meets twins Winton and Susie Grass, minority shareholders in a family-owned gold mine in Bakersfield, California. They tell Max that they want an investment from Filmland to secure control of the mine. Max, distracted by Susie’s beauty, wants to find a way to help; meanwhile, Alex nearly uses up his $2 million Filmland credit line. Things eventually go wrong, and federal agents armed with handcuffs come for Irving and Max. Meanwhile, Alex, charged with fraud, among other things, sets about trying to get out of his financial hole—without digging himself further in. The story’s emphasis on white-collar crime, in lieu of murder, gives it an old-Hollywood feel, as a perpetual fear of betrayal replaces potential violence. McInerny effectively highlights the vibrant California atmosphere (such as a Pasadena garden of “waxy magnolias and draping bougainvillea”) and avoids harsh language in clever ways, as when a character shouts a Belgian-accented “Fock you!” Max is pure dynamism as a character struggling with being an outsider: an American, with European parents, torn between Hollywood and his family in Santa Monica—estranged wife Mona and young daughter Lainie. The characters’ patter is sometimes heavy with financial jargon, but McInerny’s tale remains easy to follow and engaging throughout; it’s always abundantly clear, for example, when Filmland’s losing money and who’s likely responsible.
A potent novel about one man’s search for identity in Hollywood.