These 10 interconnected stories trace a web of Hollywood relationships, revealing how careless decisions can have repercussions for decades—on and off the big screen.
The book opens with 72-year-old Lee Rockwell, an over-the-hill actor who used to star in Westerns in which his characters often died. His one-time affair with his co-star, Harry, broke up both their families—a doubly painful memory now that Harry has just died of old age. Harry’s funeral also haunts other characters, who go on to make cameos in one another’s stories. Thonson offers acrobatic dialogue in scenes that feel both realistic and satirical. Many of his interactions have the terse, economical style of the late Raymond Carver’s work. Even the subtlest lines carry power and significance: “You have to come all the way out here just to see the stars these days,” ponders Pettus, a homicide detective who drives into the country for target practice in the middle of the night. Thonson’s Los Angeles is a place of dysfunctional, pill-popping families and sociopathic drifters. In “Western,” a wayward youth squats at a dead man’s house before ultimately deciding to burgle it. The protagonist of “Montage” gets into a fistfight in the middle of the highway with a group of privileged Iranian thugs. That same story features the recurring line, “Never take a meeting with the man who has murdered your wife,” which sounds figurative at first—until the murder turns out to be literal. Hope and reconciliation seem unlikely in such a sordid world, but Thonson sprinkles his stories with moments of moving decency. The final tale, for example, depicts a startling tryst between Victor, a polio-afflicted seismologist, and Nora, his childhood neighbor; their meeting is desperate, unexpected, and perfectly encapsulates the book’s sad romance. At first glance, the book’s title has the noirish ring of a B movie. But as these world-weary characters discover, dying of love would be a blessing.
A sharp, melancholic, and knowing addition to the long shelf of Angeleno literature.