THE MANHATTAN BEACH PROJECT by Peter Lefcourt

THE MANHATTAN BEACH PROJECT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Another Hollywood romp from Lefcourt (Eleven Karens, 2003, etc.), who takes us on the road with a washed-up TV producer trying to jump-start his career with a reality series in Uzbekistan.

Charlie Berns, like every has-been in LA, was a serious player not so long ago. But for the past four years Charlie has run out of ideas—at least the sort anyone in town wants to buy. Broke and homeless, Charlie has been reduced to living in his nephew’s pool house and driving a borrowed Honda to his DA (Debtors Anonymous) meetings. At one of these, he meets a shadowy character named Fenster, who claims to work for the CIA and pitches Charlie one of the strangest story ideas he’s ever heard: a reality show about a Central Asian warlord. It’s an indication of how desperate Charlie is that he not only hears Fenster out but signs on for the pitch, which he takes to a secret subsidiary of ABC called (what else?) ABCD. They snap up Fenster’s treatment, and soon Charlie and Fenster are trekking deep into the mountains of Uzbekistan to meet Izbul Kharkov, a rebel warlord who rules over a godforsaken region of the former Soviet Union that’s about the size of Montana. A big fan of The Sopranos, Izbul is delighted at the thought of appearing on TV and gladly agrees to allow a crew of Polish cameramen to follow him and his family around all day as they work, eat, argue, copulate, kill camels, fight off hand-grenade attacks, assassinate rivals, and shake down old men and children who owe them money. The show is an immediate hit, but Charlie is the victim of his own success when the Georgian mafia, the State Department, the IRS, and the US Special Forces become involved. No such thing as bad publicity? Maybe in LA, but not Uzbekistan.

Outrageously funny, deftly narrated, but spun out for too many pages, tripping up on its own tangled plot.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-7432-4920-8
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2004




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