Category Archives: Book Excerpt

Le Jet Lag
Part Four

by Peter Lefcourt

The Cannes Film Festival ends and with it the escapades of a film publicist, journalist and producer. See Part One and Part Two and Part Three. 3,614 words. Illustrations by Mark Fearing.


The next morning, American film publicist Erika Marks sat down with Crimea star Hanna Lee Hedson in the luxurious Carlton Hotel on La Croisette and said, choosing her words carefully, “Do you want the film to win the Palme d’Or?”

“Why else would I have shown up in this fucking country?”

“We may have a little obstacle. The French like low-budget art films and this is a budget-busting Hollywood movie. We’d like you to do a news conference today. This will be the last one, I promise. But you’re a fifteen-minute appearance at the Palais away from winning the Cannes Film Festival. With that, you can do any picture you want.”

This thought penetrated deeply into the soft tissue of actress Hanna Lee Hedson’s ego, the place where she lived most of the time. What Erika didn’t tell Hanna was that her film career probably would never recover from all these Crimea press conferences demonstrating her lack of compassion for minority groups. Or that the actress definitely would lose a large chunk of her gross-profit participation revenue when the movie tanked at the box office.

But neither Erika nor her PR boss Larry Moulds cared. They were still focused on ensuring Crimea didn’t win the most prestigious festival award. Or any Cannes award, for that matter. “The Armenians could picket the event. It’d be great pub,” Larry said to Erika an hour later.

“We don’t want overkill. These people get very excited. They could do something really stupid,” Erika reminded him.

“Like what?”

“I don’t know. Some crazy could take a shot at her.”

“So? Could you buy that type of ink?”

In spite of all her years in the business, Erika never ceased to be amazed at what people would do to promote a movie. Kill off the star? Why not? The movie was in the can, and they had all the loops they needed. So who needed Hanna?

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Le Jet Lag
Part Three

by Peter Lefcourt

The further Cannes Film Festival adventures of a film publicist, journalist and producer. See Part One and Part Two and Part Four. 3,024 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


The Cannes Film Festival jury president, Matthieu Brioche, wasn’t used to getting turned down by women. And he certainly was not used to being left standing in a hotel hallway at two in the morning after an American publicist pushing a film in contention had given him her room number. That was not simply rejection — that was a disgrace. So when his phone rang and he heard the femme in question, Hollywood film publicist Erika Marks – slightly past her prime but enticing none the less, like a bottle of 1975 Chateau Margaux with a leaky cork — inviting him to breakfast, he told her that he had a screening to attend. Erika Marks was proving to be, if not devious, then clueless. He liked that piece of American slang. Though he thought the film with Alicia Silverstone was a turkey. He liked that word, too. He just wouldn’t eat one.

Erika Marks didn’t blame Matthieu Brioche for being pissed. She had given him every indication she was interested. And she hadn’t even been particularly subtle about it. But now that her express orders from her studio boss were to not sleep with the Frenchman, thank God she hadn’t made things worse by jury tampering. Instead, she was just guilty of cock teasing. A misdemeanor.

Outside her door, next to the complimentary copy of USA Today, someone had left that day’s Screen International. Grabbing it, she got back into bed with the trade paper, eager to read the expected hatchet job that film critic Harry Harrington had done on her studio’s picture Crimea. The piece turned out to be great press. It fostered a want-to-see in the reader, which was the name of the game. Her boss Larry Moulds back in Beverly Hills would go ballistic. God forbid, the review could even result in Crimea winning the Palme d’Or. Then they’d really be fucked since their marching orders within the last 24 hours were to kill the film’s Cannes chances.

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Le Jet Lag
Part Two

by Peter Lefcourt

Craziness continues for a publicist, journalist and producer attending the Cannes Film Festival. Part One. Part Three.  4,208 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


Larry Moulds, studio Vice President for Publicity and Marketing, had been there and done that. As a unit publicist, he had accompanied movies and worked his tail off, coming home exhausted, sick, and, worst of all, empty-handed. The Cannes Film Festival was an all-or-nothing deal. No matter how you spun it, if you weren’t a winner, you were a loser.

His boss, studio head Vivian Rakmunis, had threatened to send him but she hadn’t actually sent him. Yet. But if his publicist Erika Marks didn’t produce some buzz soon, his ass was on the plane. He picked up his office phone and dialed the Hotel Carlton. Larry realized that he’d be waking up Erika in the middle of the night in France. Fuck her. It was her job to be on call 24/7.

It took seven rings before Erika picked up the phone.

Oui?”

“I love it when you talk dirty.”

“Larry? It’s…three-thirty in the morning.”

“Vivian isn’t seeing any ink on the picture. You don’t start producing, Vivian is going to send me over there. And you don’t want me there, do you? So what about jury tampering? You invite the Cannes jury president back for a shtupp?

“Larry, I’m not having sex with anyone on the jury. Can I go back to sleep?”

When he hung up, Erika was sitting up in bed, wide awake and furious. The digital bedside clock read 3:40 a.m. She had to be up at seven to flack the studio’s entry Crimea. If Larry arrived, she’d give him the keys to the car, kiss him on both cheeks, take a plane home, and sell real estate. Between the stress and the jet lag, she was not looking forward to the all-important interview with Paris Match for the film’s spoiled star, Hanna Lee Hedson.

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Quixote Jones

by Eric Layer

A film update of Don Quixote from the Star Wars director and Indiana Jones hero? 2,049 words. Excerpted from the 2018 book Critically AcclaimedIllustration by Mark Fearing.


Quixote Jones

Directed by George Lucas. Written by Charlie Kaufman. Starring: Harrison Ford, Benicio Del Toro, Helen Mirren, and Arnold Schwarzenegger as Jürgen Von Himmelmacher.

Quixote Jones, an adaptation of the formerly un-filmable Don Quixote, arrives in theatres today as one of the most highly anticipated films of all time — for all the wrong reasons. It’s the movie equivalent of a freeway pileup: we can’t help but gawk, especially after the controversy that preceded its release.

From the inception, it had all the makings of a financial and artistic bomb.
We were all so sure it would fail.

And we were all so wrong.

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The Essential Failure Of The Universe

by Kevin Wilson

A space movie with a $2.5 billion budget? That blew up a planet? Excerpted from the 2018 book Critically Acclaimed. 1,505 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


Essential Target

Directed by Naylon Beauregard. Starring: Angelina Jolie, Toni Collette, Jude Law, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Tom Cruise, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Zhang Ziyi, Robert Duvall, and Jason Robards.

There are few things that end up being worth the wait, the gradual buildup of expectation until it outpaces whatever the final product could ever become. And, yet, Essential Target was poised to top even our own outsized hopes. The pedigree suggested as much. Writer and director Naylon Beauregard’s previous movie, Acceleration Homeward, netted just shy of $900 million in foreign and domestic box office totals. That film, an epic story of an entire civilization’s lifespan aboard a spaceship the size of a planet, revitalized the sci-fi genre and made stars of Jude Law and Toni Collette. It changed the way special effects can enter the storytelling process, reminded us how a singular vision can speak to so many people, and, most importantly, altered our perceptions of our place in this universe. It was, to say the least, as life-changing as film can be.

Essential Target, I must confess, does not succeed as a film in any traditional (or even nontraditional) sense of the form.

It is so ponderous and overwhelmingly large in its focus that our current screens simply cannot accommodate it. I sense that, even if a screen were made that encapsulated the entire dome of the sky, it would not do justice to the aims of this film. What the film does accomplish, through means that may or may not revolve around the act of filmmaking, is to once again cause us to question our necessity in the universe, our need to exist, our possible movement toward a deserved extinction.

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Sundown At Sundance
Part One

by Duane Byrge

A noted film critic arrives for what he expects to be just another Sundance Film Festival. 2,544 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


“Are you going to Shoot Mom?”

Ryan Cromwell pulled off his headset and glanced 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3up from his airline seat. A guy in a blue Cubs cap hovered over him.

A stewardess came forward, looking alarmed.

Shoot Mom — are you going to the screening?” the Chicago baseball fan repeated.

“Sir, you’ll have to sit down,” the stewardess commanded. “The warning light is on.”

The guy retreated back down the aisle. Ryan Cromwell settled back into his seat. He turned to the woman next to him who’d been watching the incident unfold.

“Sorry about that. Occupational hazard,” he said.

“You must be in a dangerous profession,” she said. “Homeland Security?”

Ryan smiled: “No, more dangerous. I’m a film critic.”

He was one of Hollywood’s chief film critics, headed to Salt Lake City from L.A. for the Sundance Film Festival. His reviews of independent film could make or break the pictures as well as launch or end careers. They were especially important at an indie film festival like Sundance where the discovery of new talent was the paramount focus. Ryan’s film reviews at previous fests had helped catapult first-time filmmakers such as Gina Prince Bythewood (Love & Basketball), Kevin Smith (Clerks), Justin Lowe (Better Luck Tomorrow), Quentin Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs) and many other rookies. January was his favorite time of year because he was reviewing films that were not just vampire, zombie, special-effects and franchise movies that were critic-proof and, in Ryan’s view, brain resistant.

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A Hollywood Kid
Part Four

by Maureen Harrington

Is Jason going to spy on his celeb friends for a gossip mag? 2,304 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Beverly saw Jason sitting at a corner table under the heavy drape of bougainvillea. He looked like his 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3dad with some of his mother’s refinement thrown in. He definitely wasn’t movie star material but he was cute. Beverly didn’t like her staff to be too great looking. It made them memorable. Memorable was definitely not good. A few years ago, she’d had a reporter with a purple streak in her hair. Jenifer Lopez referred to her on the red carpet as Juicy’s Miss Purple. Subsequently, the reporter had been thrown out of a posh hotel in Cabo because Jennifer’s security people recognized the hair and knew she was a gossipmonger.

Looks are fine, but not too out there. Jason could blend in wherever he went.

He stood up when she approached the table. She never saw that anymore, thought Beverly, who would have raised an eyebrow but that expression had been wiped out by Botox long ago. Melody must have been awake enough during his childhood to get some manners pounded into him, Beverly surmised. Actually, he’d learned that from Big Jack. Stand up, look them in the eye and shake hands, but only if they offered theirs first. “It’ll get you laid, I promise you." Big Jack had been right.

Beverly went into her no-nonsense mode, shotgunning questions at him. Asking Jason what he did for fun. What he read. Where he went with his friends. And what he was studying. Then she got down to it. Did he know Selena or Kendall? What about Demi’s kids? Does anybody still care about Britney Spears anymore? Is Jennifer Lawrence going to keep so private she’ll fade? Which clubs were hot right now?

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A Hollywood Kid
Part Three

by Maureen Harrington

Jason is down but not out yet after growing up too fast. 1,902 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Four tomorrow. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Melody Alden had no idea that studio execs, actors and other big deals in Hollywood don’t give out their 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3cell numbers. They preferred to torture supplicants by having them talk to their self-important assistants, who then made them wait for a return call. It was all about timing, and how miserable and nervous can you make the next guy. The underdog waiting game.

Her son knew better. But right now, Jason was on his way out the door – he’d get to it whenever. Whenever came a lot sooner than he’d anticipated. The next morning the Korean landlady was knocking on his door at the break of noon, asking to inspect the place and get it ready for the next rich kid tenant. That was when Jason made his first mistake. He called Beverly less than twelve hours after she’d given his mother her cell number. Jason knew it was a sign of desperation to call this quickly. Hopefully she wouldn’t realize how uncool it was.

Unfortunately for Jason, Beverly had read those social tea leaves just fine. This could be interesting, she thought to herself when her assistant handed her his message. She’d given Melody her work cell. Not her private number, the one she answered herself. But even giving a business cell number was what passed for intimacy in this town.

“Tell him I’m on a call and I’ll get to him when I can.” When I’m good and ready, she thought to herself. Melody’s kid can wait. More to the point, Teddy’s kid can wait.

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A Hollywood Kid
Part Two

by Maureen Harrington

A top gossip editor is asked to help Jason get a job. 2,176 words. Part One. Part Three. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


While Jason was asleep across town, the West Coast Editor of Juicy Magazine was in the midst of her 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3Wednesday morning meeting with editors and reporters. The top dog on the manure pile known as celeb reporting. Beverly Jones (once Jankovitzki) was having a tough day. But then all her days were tough. Her idiot husband and whiny kids had no idea what she had to go through to pay their personal vegan chef to put the bok choy on the Philippe Starck knock-off table. She let them know every day and night on the rare evenings she was home. She texted them about her suffering for her foul working life. She loved it, of course. They knew it. She knew it. But it was their family myth: Mommy is killing herself for us.

Beverly sighed loudly and farted silently. She was on a raw vegetable diet.

Beating the other tabs was the name of Beverly’s game. Her take — a cool million dollars a year, an unlimited expense account and the various perks of the job like travel, access to the famous, stock options. But, most importantly for Beverly, all the ass-kissing that went along with her title. The agents, the studios, the celebs paid her homage despite the fact that they knew her to be ruthless as far as scandal went. No one was off-limits, so best send a case of trophy Pinot Noir at Christmas and ask her to the exclusive Oscar parties. And more importantly, attend hers.

While her twentysomething staffers vied for her attention, recounting tales from last night’s clubbing and speculating on the drug consumption of the famous, Beverly was thinking about her future. She was damned if she was going to allow herself that long slide toward the humiliating bottom-feeding of celeb reporting. She shuddered, imagining a future of covering movie junkets for the wires or filling in at Entertainment Tonight. Beverly thought about the pile-up of aging media people – Katie Couric, Mary Hart, even Billy Bush was sounding like an altercocker until he got busted encouraging Trump. On camera, no less.

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A Hollywood Kid
Part One

by Maureen Harrington

This "son of" is smart and celeb-connected but desperate. 1,965 words. Part Two. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Dude, I am so screwed, Jason Alden muttered to himself as he sat up in bed alone late Wednesday afternoon 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3to find his apartment trashed, as usual, his grubby sheets kicked to the floor. Earlier he’d had a fight with his girlfriend, Nicole, and she’d thrown him out of her Santa Monica beachfront condo, which her daddy, the guilty party in her parents’ nasty divorce, so generously paid for. That was considered only fair in a L.A. divorce war: he’d been caught sleeping with Nicole’s tennis teacher, then was stupid enough to knock her up and marry her.

Nicole never did get her backhand down.

Jason had slammed out of Nicole’s posh apartment’s parking lot at 5 a.m. in his three series BMW – overdue to the leasing agency, with no replacement in sight. Now he was in his own apartment on the wrong side of town. His study pad, as he described it to his parents when they rented it for him in a sort of safe neighborhood near USC. But even that was about to come to an end. Daddy Dearest wasn’t going to renew the lease and had told Jason in no uncertain terms that he’d have to cover any damage that had been done. There was plenty of that, for sure. Holes in the walls and carpets, vomit in the closets. It was a sty and now he was stuck with the clean-up.

A lot of things were coming to an end for Jason. His dad, Teddy Alden, was a washed-up director-writer-producer who was still talking about his glory days with Spielberg in the 1980s and 1990s. But the senior Alden never made Spielberg money, never had his drive and most importantly hadn’t had the sense to hire his accountants. Teddy Alden had been a partier of the first degree. Right up there with Don Samuels, the producer who famously died on his toilet, stoned on a pharmacy worth of drugs. It was a miracle Teddy was alive, but as he hit his fifties he’d started to slow down. Jason wasn’t sure it was because of the natural inclination of the elderly to get to bed early, or, that he had blown through a Hollywood-sized fortune and had to stop leasing jets to go for lunch in San Francisco.

Whatever.

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Recent Fossil Evidence

by Jay Abramowitz & Tom Musca

A TV exec hears a comedy pitch from a couple of over-50 showrunners she’s never met. 5,110 words. Illustration by Mark Fearing.


Calling in his last ancient chit, Warren had talked a former junior colleague into issuing a drive-on to get 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3them through the front gate.  The rest would be up to him.

He piloted his old BMW convertible, its torn roof folded down out of view so as not to humiliate its occupants, toward the visitors’ lot. Fifty-eight and no longer an athlete –- he was even done with pick-up basketball, the risk of injury now far outweighing the pleasure he got from playing — Warren wore a sports jacket, faded jeans, and a bright new T-shirt with a hip (his son Clay had assured him) image of an audio cassette above the slight paunch that poked over the top of his seat belt.  After extensive experimentation with hair coloring he’d left the gray specks in his beard, which he’d carefully trimmed to look untrimmed.  Just this morning he’d noticed the beginnings of what he’d assumed were facial warts.  Warren, once a Golden Boy, had begun to believe he’d be an odd-looking old man.

Mitch, four years younger, nearly a foot shorter and more informally unshaven, with hair another former colleague had described as “bozine” after her favorite frizzy-haired TV clown, wore red Converse sneakers and a flowery Hawaiian shirt that most people who’d never known a joke writer would consider antithetical to his dignity. Under the shirt, on his left shoulder, the Charlie Chaplin tattoo he’d treated himself to upon moving to Hollywood decades earlier had aged to look less like Chaplin and more like Hitler.

Mitch glowered at the dashboard clock.  “We’re over an hour early,” Mitch said.  “I told you there’d be no traffic.”

If Warren had told his partner the real reason he’d picked him up at 9 AM for an 11 AM meeting less than half an hour away -– that there was no 11 AM meeting and they were in the midst of a con job that Warren had been meticulously planning for months in an effort to resuscitate their drowned careers -– Mitch’s pride and rage would never have permitted him to get into the car.  “I knew they’d make us park out where the slaves are picking cotton,” said Warren as he drove them farther and farther from their destination on the lot.  “And you have to get into costume.”

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Journey Of The Villain

by Michael Tolkin

EXCLUSIVE: Michael Tolkin debuts the beginning of his novel-in-progress about a veteran executive’s humiliation when he has to start over in Hollywood. 2,974 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Chapter 1 – Out With A Scream

For thirty-five years, I was the right hand man to John Brine Trubb, the legendary producer who would 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3have been immortal if he hadn’t died. I had the privilege of being at the old man’s side when he went out with a scream. It’s the great puzzle of Rosebud that no one was in the room to hear Kane’s last word, but three of us were there to hear the Trubb’s final adios. JBT’s attorney, Redoubtable Maize, always too fancy with his allusions, heard in the old man’s dying expression the horror of Don Giovanni dragged into Hell at the foot of the Commendatore’s statue, agony after defiance. JBT’s special friend Auspicia Renn, his Abishag, said that it was the sound her rather older lover made when he was in ecstasy on Ecstasy.  A logical guess, but wrong; from my catbird seat forward of the curtain that hid his day/nite bed on the Gulfstream, I knew too well the shape of the sordid bellow she was able to draw out of him and I can arbitrate the credit for his final yodel; she loses. No, JBT’s death shout was a blend of the old man’s two favorite moments in all of cinema, opening with the start of the cattle drive in Red River, the close ups of cowboys waving their hats in the air, calling Yee-Haw! And blended with the "Yah-hoo!" at the end of Dr. Strangelove, when the great Western actor Slim Pickens rides the nuclear warhead out of the bomb bay, setting off the end of the world. I kept this observation to myself, as JBT would have wanted. “Hum this every morning when you brush your teeth: never share your personal taste,” he used to say to the people he knew in the business, the people who looked up to him. It was a ridiculous mantra, bad advice, meant to send his enemies, which meant all of you, in pursuit of wasting someone else’s money. Pursue failure. That was the message inside the advice however justified by the circumstances. He had plenty of good advice, too, look at what he did, but he never shared it, not even with me.

The funeral service was austere but per his manifesto, surprisingly well catered for a crowd of three hundred or so, although I had no appetite after my first pass at the pastry table, when attorney Redoubtable took me aside. When his first words were, “Look, Martin,” I could have written the rest of what he said, or hired a writer to do it, at scale.

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The Fatal Allure

by Allison Silver

An ex-studio boss hosts Hollywood’s hottest acting couple at a dinner party that turns disastrous. 4,268 words. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


Ben Robbins was sitting at his desk, considering the best approach to take with Rob Tracey. Many in Hollywood had 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3tackled this test. Few had passed.

Tracey was nothing if not elusive. He had been pursued for many projects over many years. Early on, he had learned always to say yes. So he did. The most seasoned veterans would heed his siren song. Even those who knew that “yes” was his fallback position could not resist. Having Tracey star in a movie was worth any amount of effort. Years were lost, sometimes the entire project, as filmmakers tried to get a script into the shape he wanted. He seemed far too young to have enticed so many pictures onto rocky shoals.

But getting him from that first “yes” to the first day of shooting could prove a treacherous, even deadly, effort for any project.

Tracey, was a serial enthusiast, warming up to an idea quickly, only to drop it without a backward glance. That’s what lawyers are for. He was a master juggler – keeping projects in various stages of limbo, as directors or producers or studio executives or other bankable stars waited for him to decide up or down on moving forward.

He was the Svengali of reworking. Subplots were changed, or added, or subtracted; supporting roles beefed up – unless they cut, changed from men to women or women to men. Or he might want the location shifted to Europe or China or New York, with appropriate supporting roles and accents gained or lost; or moved from mountains to coastline or small town to megalopolis – or the reverse. He might need key plot points re-focused or details blurred. Or positive traits made provocative, or negative traits written out.

Many movies had improved during this process of trying to lure him in – emerging as better iterations. Some hadn’t. Projects could be caught in the Tracey quagmire for years, only to be substantially overhauled for another actor or actresses. But many other projects died waiting for him to commit.

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Bathing & The Single Girl
Part One

by Christine Elise McCarthy

The life of an actress isn’t all glamour and  money. Often it’s about humiliation. 2,029 words. Part Two. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


So one morning later in the month, I was again facing the relentless onslaught of overdue bills. 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3And once again, I faced an unpayable mortgage. I managed to stretch a few paltry residuals and my unemployment benefits to cover my cell bill, utilities and the minimum payments on my credit card balances. It struck me that “balance” was an interesting word to call mounting debt. What would they call it once it came tumbling down all around me? Bankruptcy, I guessed. Foreclosure.

My chest began its now-too-familiar objection to thoughts of financial matters and squeezed in on itself while my heart sped to a dangerous pace. I tried some exercises to prevent the stroke that I was certain was coming, but I couldn’t even get air to fill my lungs let alone the deep breaths I’d been taught in yoga classes. I was becoming light-headed.

Then the phone rang. It was my agent, Kim.

“Hi, Ruby, good news! I have an audition for you. It’s a new show. Something about cops with ESP versus vampire teens. It’s actually called Sexy Dicks With ESP Vs. Gangster Vampire Teens.”

“You have to be kidding me.”

“It’s a Mentalist/Sopranos/Twilight hybrid with amazing buzz. You’re lucky I was able to get you in.”

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The Writer’s Cut
Part One

by Eric Idle

Book excerpt from the Monty Python legend: a wisecracking, ambitious and horny film/TV comedian goes to a pitch meeting. 4,096 words. Part Two. Part Three. Illustration by John Donald Carlucci.


Los Angeles – January 2003

My name is Stanley Hay and I’m a professional writer. I write movies, I write sitcoms, and I write gags 8547D799-C475-4659-B563-17A9A283F8B3for TV shows. You may have heard some of them. “I believe in the separation of Church and Planet.” That was mine. Caused quite a stir. I don’t mean to cause trouble. It just seems to be what I do best. I make a pretty decent living writing and rewriting, but I have always wanted to write a novel, and this year, in January 2003, I decided it was time.

It didn’t quite turn out the way I’d planned.

Steve Martin says that the problem with fiction is you’ll be happily reading a book, and all of a sudden it turns into a novel. You should hear the way he says that. “It goes all novelly.” He’s a hoot, Steve. He cracks me up. It’s the way he says things. “Alllll novelly.” But it’s true isn’t it? That is the problem with novels. They are so palpably fiction. Maybe we’re a bit sick of plots with stories and characters, the usual bull. Oh she’s going to end up in bed with him. He’s going to do it with her. They’re all going to run away and join the navy … After all we’ve been reading books for centuries and watching movies and TV for years, and we’ve sat through hundreds and thousands of tales by the time we’re adults, so we know all about plot twists, and sudden reversals of fortune, and peripeteia and all that Aristotelian shit they cram into you at college. But real life doesn’t have a plot, does it? It just kinda rambles on.

So that’s what I set out to write. A reality novel. A novel about a Hollywood writer who is writing a novel about a Hollywood writer writing a novel about Hollywood.

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Manhunt
Part Five

by Dale Kutzera

Cop turned screenwriter Nick Chapel finds another body and puts his own in danger. 3,036 words. Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Part Four. Illustration by Thomas Warming.


I’m riding shotgun in the LAPD department issue Ford Taurus going south on the 405 and trying not to imagine the sources of the stains, tears and burned holes in the fabric around me. The seats are wide and the suspension spongy. My slacks and blazer will have to be laundered and even that may not erase the smell of fried food and cigarettes. I crack the window, but it’s not big enough to air out this kind of stink.

For the longest time Ayers says nothing, focusing on the intricate sequence of lane changes required when traveling through West L.A. and Culver City. He’s a meticulous driver, head on a swivel, checking his mirrors. Perhaps he was in the military, or played ball in college. I sense team sports in his background, but the lanky frame that impressed high school recruiters has gone soft.

“So you and Brandt were a team,” the police detective finally says. “I hear you didn’t suck. A real hard charger.”

“I liked putting the cuffs on bad guys.”

“Hard chargers burn out. That what happen to you?”

I smile at the jab, then explain, “I got a job on a TV show and it stuck. Now I’m a screenwriter.”

“I need you to just remember one thing: you’re not a cop anymore. So who is this mook we’re trying to find?”

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