When a long-running documentary series is cancelled, the show’s filmmakers must navigate a new reality TV landscape in this satiric novel.
Marty Maltzman’s award-winning prime-time series Lights and Sirens has been following emergency responders such as police, paramedics, hospital ERs and the Coast Guard for 16 years, telling dramatic stories of injury and danger. Now, the show’s been axed, a victim of a shift in reality TV toward the Kardashians, celebrity weight losers and spoiled “housewives.” Hunter Marlow, a producer on the series, would like to revisit her documentary Second Sex (widow-burning in India, clitoridectomies in Sudan), but she needs funding. She has a new and well-paying reality TV–producing offer from Ian Rand, CEO of RandWorld Productions. But he betrayed her in the past; can she trust him? Can Marty trust the gorgeous, much younger actress Crimson Fennel, who’s making a play for him? Can anyone trust anyone else in Hollywood? Peltier, herself an award-winning producer and writer (Dog Whisperer With Cesar Millan, Secrets of the Pyramids, etc.), uses her insider knowledge of Los Angeles, the TV industry and its players to craft a zinging satire. When Marty pitches a show following smokejumpers, a young exec replies, “[O]ur audiences tend to gravitate more to, say, the crazy pyros who are setting the fires, not the guys who just go around putting them out.” Hunter, starting work on a new series, is shown the secrets of Frankenbites: chopped up, remixed and enhanced editing used to create a more dramatic but false story out of raw “reality” footage. As a colleague explains to an appalled Hunter: “Sometimes I do just want to go home and take a shower. But you know, it’s only television. It’s not like anyone takes it seriously.” But in this smart, funny, insightful novel, reality TV becomes all too real, forcing several characters to confront their decisions. Peltier examines the Hollywood world of writers, producers, rich kids, actors, wannabes and con men with a keen and often compassionate eye.
A dead-on satire—with a heart—of the reality TV scene from a knowledgeable, witty insider.
A highly organized, informative discussion of the immigration system in the United States.
In this politically charged environment, Afrasiabi manages to broach the volatile issue of immigration in a well-rounded, surprisingly effective framework that combines case studies, historical research, statistical analysis and personal anecdotes to detail the current issues and propose solutions. Invocations of Kafka, “The Twilight Zone” and “Alice in Wonderland” prove warranted as illustrations of the often surreal circumstances that confront immigrants facing deportation. Immigrants usually lack access to quality legal representation, while their situation can be made doubly difficult due to language barriers and significant cultural differences. Afrasiabi incorporates his work with colleagues and students at the Chapman University School of Law to deftly weave together the facts of several compelling cases and their underlying legal issues, with a genuine sense of suspense as readers wonder if justice will be truly be served. Occasionally, though, the narrative becomes overwrought—two federal laws passed in 1996 are “dark storm clouds depositing their sleet”—although, considering the life-changing effects of court decisions, it’s difficult to overstate the ramifications: extralegal rendition of individuals with pending cases and the de facto deportation of native-born children whose parents are deported. Afrasiabi also addresses the legacy of various anti-alien laws in California, as well as marriage equality for same-sex couples when one partner is a noncitizen. As the subtitle asserts, Afrasiabi employs his additional experience in the field of property law to contrast the stark differences between immigration judges and constitutional judges, like their qualifications, vetting processes and even the oaths they take. His arguments culminate in seven concrete reforms proposed in the conclusion. In order to make the immigration system more just and effective, Afrasiabi claims the solutions are closer than we may think; we can implement procedures and safeguards already in place within the constitutional courts.
A persuasive, valuable addition to the ongoing immigration reform debate.
Walkley pits CIA agents against a maniacal Saudi prince intent on starting World War III in this debut thriller.
Delta Force operative Lee McCloud, aka Mac, finds himself in Mexico, trying to rescue two teenage girls kidnapped by a drug cartel. But things go from bad to worse when the villains don’t play by the rules. Framed for two murders he didn’t commit, Mac has two options: go to prison or go to work for a CIA black-op group run by the devious Wisebaum, who hacks into terrorists’ bank accounts and confiscates millions of dollars. However, there’s more going on than meets the eye; Saudi Prince Khalid is in possession of nuclear canisters, with which he hopes to alter world history. Khalid also dabbles in trafficking young women, and harvesting and selling human organs. When Wisebaum’s black-op team targets Khalid’s father, the action becomes even more intense. With so many interweaving subplots—kidnapped girls, Israeli undercover agents, nuclear weapons and a secret underwater hideout—it could be easy to lose track of what’s going on. But the author’s deft handling of the material ensures that doesn’t occur; subplots are introduced at the appropriate junctures and, by story’s end, all are accounted for and neatly concluded. Mac is portrayed as a rough and ready action-hero, yet his vulnerabilities will evoke empathy in readers. He finds a love interest in Tally, a hacker whose personality is just quirky enough to complement his own. All Walkley’s primary characters are fleshed out and realistic, with the exception of Wisebaum—a malicious, double-dealing, back-stabber of the worst ilk; the reader is left wondering about Wisebaum’s motivations behind such blatant treachery.
Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.