Like Lust Queen, Elliott/Silverberg takes on the shallow world of Hollywood, Beverly Hills, filmmaking and the pursuit of stardom, and what women will do (or some women) to obtain fame.
Working now and then in Tinsel Town, this one hit some familiar notes with me.
Kevin Lyle, 38, is “story editor” for movie mogul Leo Naumann, an Erich von Stromm-like European filmmaker now Hollywood blockbuster maker. Lyle used to be a freelance scriptwriter, but makes better money finding properties for his boss — he reads tons of books, recommends which ones to option, and wields large sums of money to get the rights…in this case $300,000 for a novel on Africa, which was three million bucks in 1962 money.
The novel opens with Lyle driving around and giving a woman a ride at Wilshire and La Cienega Boulevards (near the tar pits). The woman is 22-year-old Lorayne Winnant, aspiring actress, working as a stripper for the moment. Lyle is in the middle of a heated divorce and custody b battle for his two kids, his lawyer has told him to keep his nose clean, but he simply cannot resist getting Loryane into bed and doing what men and women do, especially after he sees her strip act and gets in a fist fight with a drunk ex-boyfriend of hers.
She has a penchant for the rough stuff:
Pain and sex seemed all mixed up in this girl’s mind. She was savage. She enjoyed inflicting hurt during the act of love, and she enjoyed being hurt. For her sex wasn’t simply a stately gavotte with prescribed rules, as it was for a lot of women. It was a knock-down drag-out orgiastic revel, with no holds barred. (p. 69)
Lyle thinks shes the kind of woman his boss will like. He already has a young actress, Audrey, living with him, whom he has promised a great part in his next movie set in Africa. But once he gets a gander of Lorayne, and gets her in bed, he dumps Audrey, asks Lorayne to move in, and offers her the part. Lorayne jumps for it, grateful to Lyle for the connection.
Audrey, however, does not take this well, and shows up at the hotel room Lyle is staying, drunk, accusing him of ruining her life. She then jumps off the balcony of his fifth-story room, landing with a splat.
This is not good for Lyle — not for his job, not for his divorce and custody battle.
People seem to commit a lot of suicides in Silverberg’s novels, both erotica and science-fiction (see Thorns).
Silverberg’s send up of how books are optioned and made into movies is right on the, uh, money:
“That was New York,” he [Naumann] said. “The publishers. They’ve just clinched a paperback reprint deal for the book, and they wanted to know when the movie was going to be released. I told them next March at the latest and they blew their stacks. The paperback people want to put their edition out the day the movie opens. And the hardcover boys figured they had at least fifteen months to peddle their edition first. Now they’ve only got six or seven.” Naumann spat. “The hell with them. Money-grubbing bastards. They’re getting half the author’s share of the movie money, and half the paperback money, and they’re worried what’s going to happen to their lousy trade edition yet.” (p.98)
A note to any new authors out there: if you give the publisher dramatic (film, tv, net) rights, they will take 50% of the money and won’t pay up on your 50% until the next bi-annual royalty/sales statement, so don’t think you’re going to get a fast paycheck from any film option deal — and you’re fucked if, say, you have a $20,000 advance, and your half of of an option is, say, $15,000, you won’t see a dime because it will be absorbed into paying off your advance. This is why I never give publishers film rights, unless they are willing to pay for it.
Back to Lyle — his life falls apart more. When Lorayne finds out about Aundrey’s suicide, she has second thoughts about being Naumann’s mistress, afraid he will dump her the same sometime. Besides, she is now in love with Lyle, and she moves in with him. This causes Lyle to lose his well-paying Hollywood job. Can he start over? Will Naumann blackist him? Can he afford Lorayne?
A damn fine little novel, high recommended.