Toronto copywriter Dunford’s first novel, original published in Canada in 1998, presents the allegedly hilarious misadventures of an aspiring Toronto screenwriter.
Three weeks a month, Mitchell Draper labors as an office temp; the rest of the time, he slaves over pornographic sketches he sells to gay magazines and such ennobling screen projects as Hell Hole. One fine day he gets a call from nouvelle producer Carmen Denver, who thinks despite his lack of credits that he’s just the guy to write the screenplay for her first film, A Time for Revenge, the saga of a Mafia princess determined to make her father pay for his misdeeds. Mitchell’s ensuing roller-coaster alternation between conviction that the scenes he’s writing to Carmen’s measure are brilliantly successful and his certainty that her criticisms are right on target and he’ll never be a screenwriter is the best thing about this Horatio Alger update. The worst is the mirror-image of Mitchell’s manic-depression: Dunford’s vision of Toronto as a town in which every passerby looks just like a movie star, and every coffee-shop manager is secretly waiting to break through as a painter or actor. When Mitchell’s exuberant paranoia about whether Carmen is really on the up-and-up after all, and why she’s being trailed by a man who’s the spitting image of Antonio Banderas, combines with Dunford’s split-level group portrait of Mitchell’s friends Ingrid and Ramir as menials and little businesspeople just waiting for their chance to become the stars the rest of the cast so closely resembles, the result has all the coy depth of an extended game of Spot the Celebrity.
Fairy-tale breakthroughs to riches and fame, on-the-spot reversals, melodramatic unmaskings, interpolated scenes written as unfailingly good-natured screen dialogue: Dunford provides everything for a sitcom pilot except the laugh track—and the laughs.