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A lively but disappointing parody of Hollywood life and its family values, Craig’s first novel pits an over-the-hill alcoholic action-hero against his illegitimate teenaged son, who’s come from the hinterland to claim his birthright. Charlie West’s career may be headed south, but he still carries on as if all L.A. were at his feet. Just behind the bluster, however, lurk insecurity and paranoia, and these (combined with his substance abuse) make him a potential conflagration waiting for a match. That’s supplied by young Matt Ravendahl, who arrives on the bus from rural Washington with scrapbooks full of clippings about the father he’s never met. Long ago Charlie had checked into a discreet detox center run by Matt’s grandmother, and while his stay didn’t do much to dry him out, it did bring him into contact with Sadie, who seduced him and was left carrying his child. Matt now has questions only his dad can answer (Sadie has died in an accident years before), but he doesn’t know quite how to pose them. Sneaking into Charlie’s house isn’t the answer (though he tries that), so Matt turns to his older half-sister, Ava—who doesn’t even know she has a sibling until Matt appears at her yard sale. Once the shock wears off, she cooks up a plan to bring father and son together, but Charlie’s booze-fueled, incendiary response makes toast of it. So Matt steals Charlie away in the old man’s RV and drives back to Washington in hopes of having a heart-to-heart when his dad sobers up. Once they arrive, though, Charlie panics at the memories, and a tense standoff ensues, ending only after both Matt and Ava put their lives on the line. The process is amusing, but what’s left once the rich and famous have their glamour stripped away isn’t much, and the story suffers further from its improbable, Hollywood-style finale.

Pub Date: Sept. 8th, 1998
ISBN: 0-688-15658-4
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1998


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