Hollywood Savage by Kristin McCloy

July 27, 2010
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Hollywood Savage
Kristin McCloy

Simon & Schuster

07/27/10

Hardcover/328 pages
ISBN: 978-0-743286473

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". . . is a creditable novel from a writer with something to say . . ."

Slow moving stream of consciousness.

In Hollywood to write the script for his best selling novel, Miles King calls home to check messages and hears Connor’s voice, “Meet me at five.” The message wasn’t meant for him but for his wife, Maggie, and suddenly Miles’s thoughts are all of betrayal.

Connor was one of Miles’s brightest students, and the most promising, a frequent visitor in his home and someone to whom Maggie is immediately drawn. It all seemed so innocent until Miles began looking back and dissecting his memories.

As if Maggie’s infidelity and growing coldness isn’t enough, Miles is having trouble writing the script. Movie scripts are not his forte. He begins taking long drives in the hills to clear his head of the turmoil of thoughts about his marriage and his work and meets Lucy and her son Walter. What begins as curiosity becomes an affair that makes Miles re-assess his life and future.

I am not a big fan of stream of consciousness novels and began Hollywood Savage with a heavy sigh and an open mind. I was reasonably certain I would not like the mélange of dialogue and thoughts without traditional punctuation and grammar, but found myself slowly, very slowly, becoming immersed in Kristin McCloy’s tale of betrayal, love and longing.

Miles vacillates between anger and tender memories of his wife, becoming colder and colder toward Maggie even though he cannot prove his belief that she and his friend and one-time student Connor, a writer with a bright future, are having an affair. The tone is off and, had it been me listening to the message, I doubt I would have jumped to the conclusion that my spouse was having an affair with my best friend. McCloy weaves hints throughout the novel, but there is no clear-cut proof of betrayal, except on Miles’s part, and that may have been intentional to give Miles a reason to fall for the open and unpretentious Lucy. Walter is charming and winsome and perfectly encapsulated, but a minor character, even though Miles thinks about he and Lucy marrying and bringing up Walter together.

What Hollywood Savage is really about isn’t betrayal or infidelity or love; it is about the insecurities that plague a writer forced to tread unfamiliar ground and finding it difficult. There are the obligatory bombastic producer and barely intelligible Italian director who is more interested in living and his vision than in anything that Miles produces. There is a drunken brawl and near orgy at an industry party fueled by cocaine and alcohol and marijuana. Alcohol fuels many of the scenes and seems to be Miles’s drug of choice, when he isn’t smoking Lucy’s home grown organic marijuana planted at his Hollywood hills rental. McCloy drops names of places and faces like a pro almost as if she feels they are necessary to the plot, and yet the Hollywood trivia and background read more like perfunctory bows to the film industry and have no lasting effect.

I was taught that if you take out an element and the story does not suffer, the element isn’t needed.

McCloy should have stuck with what she does best: creating atmosphere and writing glittering prose. Characterization is uneven with Connor, Maggie and the Hollywood types coming off as unfinished sketches while Lucy shines clearly. Miles is confused and erratic and seems to revolve like a secondary planet around the sun that is Lucy. In that at least, McCloy got it right.

Hollywood Savage is a creditable novel from a writer with something to say and who brings the considerable weight of her background in philosophy to the table. While the novel could stand with some judicious pruning, there is gold in these hills and a story that every writer will feel is plucked from their own experience. While not brilliant, Hollywood Savages is far above average and, when it gets going, is wonderful.

Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell

 

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