THE PLAYER by Michael Tolkin
Kirkus Star


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First-novelist Tolkin delivers a short, quick-witted novel that captures the paranoid machinations of a movie executive who, harassed by a frustrated writer, turns to ritual murder. Young Griffin Mill, senior V.P. of production at a major Hollywood studio, is filled with paranoia because the head of the studio had a meeting without him. When studio chief Levison made him second-in-command, everyone in Hollywood whispered that Mill would leapfrog over the boss and run the studio. Now, because of the less than spectacular profits of the past year, both Levison and Mill are in disfavor, and the secret meeting confirms Mill's worst fears: Levison is trying to save his own skin by bringing aboard a new golden boy, Larry Levy. On top of everything else, Mill has been getting unsigned postcards from a disgruntled writer--each one says: ""You said you'd get back to me. I'm still waiting."" One day, as Mill sits at his desk worrying about how to outmanipulate Levison and Levy, he gets another postcard--this one adding ""And now I'm going to kill you."" Crazed with fear (and too worried about his reputation to contact studio security), he hatches a half-baked plan: He picks a writer he rejected with his trademark--the curt, offhand ""I'll get back to you""--and tracks him down, thanks to the writer's playful-sounding girlfriend. Mill plans to give the writer his first big break--as a ritual atonement to the postcard writer (he hopes the good deed will get communicated through some kind of magic telepathy). What he doesn't count on, however, is the writer's icy indifference. Face to face with a man who throws the power of his job back in his face, Mill suddenly expresses all the hatred and emptiness in his heart. A fresh, intriguing, beautifully rendered tale of the deals, the schemes, and the eerie emptiness of the Hollywood heart of darkness.

Pub Date: June 30th, 1988
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly--dist. by Little, Brown