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Star, London, 1976
price: 60p; 144 pages

The blurb on the back:

Once starry eyed figure of a bygone era when luscious starlets dripped from trees, the Boy Wonder now receives a meagre stipend from Big Mac (his bootlegger employer turned producer) to make pornographic films.
When fading ex-starlet Harlene O.D.'s on set Big Mac arranges to dispose of the body leaving his fiancé Cathy Cake alone with Boy Wonder... Not the pristine innocent he had assumed, Cathy takes command and a psycho-sexual drama ensues which outstrips anything our hero could have imagined.

opening lines:
It was just like any other crummy old blue movie you ever saw. As it flickered and popped and flashed its way on to the screen, you could tell that it had ground its way around stag parties, motor courts, lodge meetings and lobster shifts.

I've never seen the film, but I rather wish that I had. Partly, of course, because Richard Dreyfuss is a great screen actor, who's always worth watching, but also because this is such a damn fine little book: much, much better than 95% of movie novelizations.

The year is 1933 and the arrival of talkies has destroyed the careers of many of those who rode high in the Hollywood of the previous decade. Amongst the fallen is a genius director, known only as the Boy Wonder, who's now an alcoholic agoraphobic, living off three bottles of cognac a day and the money he earns from making blue movies, all of which have to be filmed in his own home, because he doesn't dare go out. Effectively a stage-play (though I don't believe it ever was), the action seldom leaves the one room, and takes place in what is effectively real-time, giving a claustrophobic, seedy intensity to the book. It's a great setting, and the story doesn't let us down. It revolves around the Boy Wonder and his relationships with two women: firstly, an erstwhile starlet turned coke-head and porn actress, and then, the girlfriend of his mobster employer - a brittle gold-digger in thrall to the legend of Hollywood.

None of it's too startling, and the basic theme of the washed-up star is hardly original, but it's very nicely done indeed, and there's a real sense of ruined glamour to the Boy Wonder - a wasted, desperate intellect - that makes me very keen to see Dreyfuss bring him to life. I was wondering why it was that this novelization is so successful, given that there's no glittering word-play, nothing too tangible to make it special. Then I realized that it's because we're in the hands of a very competent writer indeed - Anton Rimart is yet another pseudonym of Graham Masterton. And for those of you keeping track, there's a paragraph here about the fact that 'Hollywood is made of mirrors' that Masterton later turned into the novel Mirror.

The screenplay was written by the director John Byrum, and the rest of the cast featured Jessica Harper, Bob Hoskins, Veronica Cartwright and Stephen Davies.


from the maker of...

The Hell Candidate