One of the best Hollywood-screenwriter self-pity arias since Bruce Wagner’s Force Majeure and Michael Tolkin’s The Player. Also a huge leap in sensibility over Lankford’s The Shooters and Angry Moon (both 1997).
Lankford deserves rosettes for avoiding nearly all the clichés of the LA suspense novel. He starts big, with the 1994 earthquake, as Hollywood development deals fall like the freeway and studios try to recover from the disaster. Mark Hayes is a creative executive for Dexter Morton’s production company—offices at Warner Brothers. At 35, Mark heads toward middle age without a single film credit. He reads lousy scripts and galleys all day, writes critiques, takes pitches from screenwriters, directors and producers. Morton, his boss, an ogre, has risen from cheapo flicks during the 1980s videotape boom to one big hit that gives him clout and a fancy house. We get plenty of pitches that Mark and his fellow slush pile slug Alex face daily. Alex’s gorgeous blond lover, Charity James, is stolen from him by Morton, who puts her up at his mansion and, rumor has it, pimps her out to big execs for production favors. Morton is perhaps the most despised man in Hollywood (when he gets hate letters, he posts them on the office bulletin board). When he throws a big party at his mansion for folk who sometimes bad-mouth him to his face, a fight erupts with Charity and he tosses her out. Next morning, Mark finds Morton doing a William Holden in his pool, dead, a big gash in his head where he was hit by a bust of Apollo. Mark knows the police think he’s guilty; finds himself saddled with Charity in his apartment—and subplots abound. He’s befriended by his neighbor Clyde McCoy, a failed screenwriter writing a life of Raymond Chandler full of rant against Chandler’s genius. And Mark is sure someone’s out to kill him.
You’ll never write a screenplay again after reading this.