Death by Hollywood

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Overview

From the acclaimed co-creator of Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, and NYPD Blue, Death by Hollywood is a suspenseful, shocking, and darkly comic crime novel about a screenwriter, a billionaire's wife, a murder, and, of course, a cop.

"There used to be a writer by the name of Merle Miller, who wrote that people in Hollywood are always touching you--not because they like you, but because they want to see how soft ...
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Death by Hollywood

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Overview

From the acclaimed co-creator of Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, and NYPD Blue, Death by Hollywood is a suspenseful, shocking, and darkly comic crime novel about a screenwriter, a billionaire's wife, a murder, and, of course, a cop.

"There used to be a writer by the name of Merle Miller, who wrote that people in Hollywood are always touching you--not because they like you, but because they want to see how soft you are before they eat you alive."
So begins this seductive and surprising novel by two-time Edgar Award–winning writer Steven Bochco, in which a down-on-his-luck screenwriter named Bobby Newman tries to turn a brutal murder into his next movie payday.

One day, while spying on his Hollywood Hills neighbors through his $4,000 Bushnell XR90 electronic telescope, Bobby sees a beautiful socialite making love to a handsome Latin actor named Ramon. When their pillow talk takes a turn for the ugly, Bobby watches in horror as the woman bludgeons her lover to death with his own acting trophy. Deciding to write about it instead of reporting it to the cops, Bobby insinuates himself into Detective Dennis Farentino’s murder investigation, forging an unusual friendship with the cop that turns out to be more complex than either of them had bargained for. Before long, Bobby has dragged the detective, his estranged wife, his lover, and his agent into a Hollywood fun-house hall of mirrors, where only the most manipulative player will survive.

Savvy, funny, sexy, and streetwise, Death by Hollywood is the tale Steven Bochco couldn't tell on television. It is the work of an ingenious storyteller, certain to enthrallreaders from beginning to end.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
The novel is so utterly saturated with sex, duplicity, cynicism and worthless human beings that I cannot recommend it to decent people. The rest of us, however -- and despite all the moral-majority, family-values rhetoric, we remain the majority in this great land -- will wallow in it quite contentedly. — Patrick Anderson
The New Yorker
Writers, by definition, are voyeurs,” Eddie Jelko, a Hollywood agent and the cynical narrator of this steamy thriller, explains. One of his clients, a screenwriter named Bobby Newman, peers through his state-of-the-art telescope one night and spies a billionaire’s trophy wife murdering her Latin lover. This being Hollywood, he doesn’t call the police but, desperate for a good story to revive his flagging career, decides to write about the crime and befriends both the killer and the detective by way of research. Bochco delights in Hollywood sleaze, and his years in the industry (he co-created “NYPD Blue” and “L.A. Law”) have given him a good ear for its vicious banter. The conniving characters, though shamelessly stereotypical, are painted with exuberant vigor, and, as the plot accelerates to its inevitable twist, Bochco maintains a seductive atmosphere where nothing is what it seems and someone is always watching.
Publishers Weekly
This clever debut novel by the creator of Hill St. Blues, NYPD Blue and other hit TV shows is as smooth and rich as the name-brand Chardonnays preferred by many of the book's fabulously conflicted Tinseltown characters. Narrator Eddie Jelko, an A-level agent, sets the stage by declaring, "It's a tough town and a tough business, and if you don't watch your step either one'll kill you, which I guess is what this story is actually about." Eddie's screenwriter client Bobby Newman's career is fading fast: he can't get a handle on a long-overdue screenplay, his drinking is out of control and his wife is having an affair with a sleazebag director. One drunken evening, Bobby sits down with his Bushnell telescope and spies on a couple making love in a nearby house. When they've finished, they begin to argue, and the woman, whom Bobby recognizes as a wealthy socialite, hauls off and kills her lover with an acting trophy. In any other town, Bobby would report the crime, but instead he sees it as both the solution to his writer's block and a vehicle to the top of the Hollywood heap. The story proceeds apace; the twists and turns are predictable but amusing, the agent jokes are funny and the O. Henry-style ending ties everything up with an attractive bow. A publisher's letter and star-treatment interview with Bochco attempt to add weight to this pleasing, slick-as-silk fiction, but there's no need for such addenda. The book is fast, fun, sexy and delivers plenty of inside dope on movie stars and their wacky lives. That's enough for millions of readers who aren't interested in slogging their way through War and Peace. Relax, guys, it's gonna be a hit. Agent, Mort Janklow. (Sept. 16) Forecast: Television watchers who have followed Bochco's career since Columbo will relish the roman clef elements as the author settles a few scores, and major promotional moves by Random House will get books moving fast and early. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Television writer/producer Bochco (L.A. Law, NYPD Blue, etc.) draws on his Hollywood experience to write a knowing first novel about a screenwriter on the downward slope who witnesses a murder-and gets the break of his career. Mid-level agent Eddie Jelko narrates with a seedy eye for depravity the story of his client Bobby Newman, a screenwriter of some success inexplicably stalled on a couple of projects. On the same day that Eddie tells him to screw off, Bobby (who could charitably be described as lacking social skills) finds out that his wife Vee, a struggling actress, has been sleeping with a producer for whom her husband has just been hired to do a rewrite. Vee moves out, and that night, scanning windows with a powerful telescope as is his wont, Bobby catches another married actress, Linda Paulson, briskly committing infidelity with an acting teacher named Ramon, then killing him with an award statue. Being an imaginatively amoral sort, and spotting the premise for a screenplay, Bobby dashes down to the apartment and retrieves Ramon's little black book (which reveals that Bobby's wife was one of his conquests), a videotape the dead man was secretly making of his tryst with Linda, and another video of Ramon with Vee. Inspired by this sordid little event, Bobby starts pounding out a screenplay that looks as if it'll have him back on top of the Hollywood heap in no time at all. His love life also improves after he strikes up a relationship with the murderess. Complicating the happy story is detective Dennis Farentino, who starts nosing around in Bobby's affairs and develops an interest in Vee. Bochco has a real talent for pulp melodrama, mixing in plenty of dirty jokes, insider industryriffs, and even a few shameless references to one of his earliest shows, Columbo. A vulgar, sex-filled romp-in the best sense: good, nasty fun. Agent: Mort Janklow/Janklow & Nesbit
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400061563
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/9/2003
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 9.48 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Meet the Author

STEVEN BOCHCO is the winner of ten Emmy Awards--six for Hill Street Blues, three for L.A. Law, and one for NYPD Blue, now in its eleventh year on ABC. In 1996, he was inducted into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences' Television Hall of Fame, and he was the first television writer/producer to receive the Writers Guild Career Achievement Award and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Fellowship Award for his outstanding contribution to his craft. The Mystery Writers of America have honored him with a Raven Award for lifetime achievement as well as two Edgar Awards. He lives in Los Angeles.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

There used to be a writer by the name of merle Miller, who wrote that people in Hollywood are always touching you—not because they like you, but because they want to see how soft you are before they eat you alive. He was right. It’s a tough town and a tough business, and if you don’t watch your step, either one’ll kill you, which I guess is what this story is actually about.

By way of formal introduction, my name is Eddie Jelko, and I’m an agent. I represent screenwriters, primarily, and a few important directors. I used to represent actors when I first started in the business almost twenty years ago, but it didn’t take me long to figure out that actors are crazy. They tend to be paranoid, narcissistic, and, in general, oblivious to the needs and feelings of others. The good news is, they can also be charming, seductive, charismatic, and, in the case of the very few, so genuinely gifted that simply being in their presence is a privilege. That said, celebrity, for the ego-challenged, can be as destructive as heroin. A little is too much, as they say, and too much is never enough.

In my naïveté, I thought writers and directors would be different. Fat chance. They’re just as loony. In fact, the entertainment industry as a whole is one giant dysfunctional family. Everyone’s terrified—of their own failure, or of everyone else’s success—and as a general rule, you can assume that everyone lies about everything. (Have you ever looked at an actor’s résumé—at the bottom, under special skills? Speaks three languages. Black belt in martial arts. Rides horses andmotorcycles. Juggling and acrobatics. The truth is, you’re lucky if they can drive a fucking car.)

And agents? By and large, we’re nothing more than well-paid pimps who represent our pooched-out clients as if they’re beautiful young virgins, offering them up to a bunch of jaded johns who know better, but these are the only whores in town. As the saying goes, denial is not a river in Egypt. It’s a river in Hollywood, and it runs deep, and brown.

The story I want to tell you involves, among other things, a screenwriter whose career is fading out more than it’s fading in, a billionaire’s wife, and a murder—which means, of course, there’s also a cop. Plus, the story has one other thing going for it. It’s true.

Would I lie to you?


From the Hardcover edition.
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First Chapter

CHAPTER 1

There used to be a writer by the name of merle Miller, who wrote that people in Hollywood are always touching you—not because they like you, but because they want to see how soft you are before they eat you alive. He was right. It's a tough town and a tough business, and if you don't watch your step, either one'll kill you, which I guess is what this story is actually about.

By way of formal introduction, my name is Eddie Jelko, and I'm an agent. I represent screenwriters, primarily, and a few important directors. I used to represent actors when I first started in the business almost twenty years ago, but it didn't take me long to figure out that actors are crazy. They tend to be paranoid, narcissistic, and, in general, oblivious to the needs and feelings of others. The good news is, they can also be charming, seductive, charismatic, and, in the case of the very few, so genuinely gifted that simply being in their presence is a privilege. That said, celebrity, for the ego-challenged, can be as destructive as heroin. A little is too much, as they say, and too much is never enough.

In my naïveté, I thought writers and directors would be different. Fat chance. They're just as loony. In fact, the entertainment industry as a whole is one giant dysfunctional family. Everyone's terrified—of their own failure, or of everyone else's success—and as a general rule, you can assume that everyone lies about everything. (Have you ever looked at an actor's résumé—at the bottom, under special skills? Speaks three languages. Black belt in martial arts. Rides horses and motorcycles. Juggling and acrobatics. The truth is,you're lucky if they can drive a fucking car.)

And agents? By and large, we're nothing more than well-paid pimps who represent our pooched-out clients as if they're beautiful young virgins, offering them up to a bunch of jaded johns who know better, but these are the only whores in town. As the saying goes, denial is not a river in Egypt. It's a river in Hollywood, and it runs deep, and brown.

The story I want to tell you involves, among other things, a screenwriter whose career is fading out more than it's fading in, a billionaire's wife, and a murder—which means, of course, there's also a cop. Plus, the story has one other thing going for it. It's true.

Would I lie to you?
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Interviews & Essays

A Conversation with Steven Bochco, author of DEATH BY HOLLYWOOD
Q. What inspired you to write this novel?
A. It started life as an idea for a movie, the treatment for which I wrote as a short story. My friend and colleague David Milch read it and urged me to write it as a novel. Though I'd never written one before, it had always been a fantasy of mine, so I decided to give it a whack. Four months later, I had a first draft completed.

Q. How is this novel different from the kind of story you might tell on one of your TV shows?
A. Obviously, the story is somewhat more complex, it's considerably sexier, the language is far more colorful, and the narrative isn't nearly the slave to story that it is in TV. I've always thought that a good novel is (among other things) an exercise in the art of digression.

Q. Passages of the novel read like the testimony of an insider who is finally free to tell the truth.
A. Let's just say that these passages are fiction informed by experience.

Q. You like to write about sex, don't you?
A. Not as much as I like to have sex.

Q. You also like to write about cops, and there's a fascinating one in this novel. Is he based on anyone? How do you research police work?
A. Dennis Farentino isn't based on anyone, but certainly my sense of him is informed by the many cops I've known over the years, including, probably most importantly, Bill Clark, one of the executive producers of NYPD BLUE, a retired NYPD homicide detective, and a very special friend.

Q. Were there any books you sought to emulate as you were writing Death by Hollywood?
A. No. The voiceand tone of the book just seemed to emerge spontaneously, without any conscious sense of imitation. I'm a huge Elmore Leonard fan, and I think I've read most if not all of his books, so if there's a literary tradition I'm following, I suppose that's a pretty good one.

Q. You've written (and supervised the writing of) a lot of TV scripts in your time. Can you estimate how many you've been directly involved in? Which ones stand out in your memory?
A. I've written, co-written, or directly supervised the writing of literally hundreds of scripts over the last thirty years in television. The ones that stand out for me are the first few Columbos I wrote, the pilots for Hill Street Blues, L.A, Law, NYPD BLUE, and our two most recent shows, NYPD 20069, which is a cop show set in the future, and MARRIAGE, a one hour drama for HBO which will debut next January.

Q. Did writing the novel require different writing skills or perspective?
A. I suppose it did, though the skills and perspective required to write DEATH BY HOLLYWOOD came naturally to me, and for the four months it took me to write the book, I was able to slip into its voice happily and easily every time I sat down to write.

Q. In Death by Hollywood, one of your characters expresses great admiration for Columbo, one of your first writing writing gigs. Is there a reason why you've singled out that TV series?
A. Columbo was the first real success I had as a writer, and Levinson and Link, the creators of Columbo, were great friends and mentors to me. Also, Peter Falk became very special to me, and he and the character were as one. He's probably the most memorable cop I ever had the privilege to write, and the things that made him so unique are exactly the virtues I extol in the book when I describe Dennis Farentino's feelings for him.

Q. Charles McGrath, the editor of The New York Times Book Review, has made the case for the cultural primacy of certain works of episodic television. Would you put TV writing on par with fiction and film?
A. Absolutely. There is an ever growing library of great television literature .TV writing is at least on a par with film and fiction, given that it's both.

Q. Is it possible to have a successful career in Hollywood without resorting to an occasional lie or act of betrayal?
A. Mine is the only one I know of.

Q. There are some classic Hollywood jokes in the novel. Are there any favorites you had to leave out?
A. I love jokes, and seem to have total recall of every joke I ever heard before about 1990. Most of the ones since then aren't worth remembering. I also think jokes are a wonderful way to illustrate something, or clarify a point. If I ever write another novel, I'm sure a few more of them will find their way into the narrative. Here's one for the road: An agent dies and, amazingly, goes to heaven. When he gets there, he's shown around by the admitting angel. After a while, the agent says, "Look, I don't want to be rude or anything, but I'm still a young guy, and this place seems kind of dull." The angel says, no problem, and pops a tape into a VCR, telling the agent if he wants to be re-routed to Hell, this is what it looks like. He presses PLAY, and the angel is thrilled at the sight of sumptuous feasts, gorgeous, big-breasted women, endless orgies, and every other pleasure imaginable. The agent says, "no offense, but I really think Hell is the place I'd rather be." "No problem," says the angel, walking the agent to the Down Elevator. The agent gets in, thanks the angel, the door closes, and Whoosh! Down he goes. When the door opens, he's greeted by the worst nightmare one could imagine: fiery hell, people wandering about helplessly, blistered and screaming in pain, people in loin clothes being mercilessly whipped by leather clad guards, moans of anguish everywhere. Greeted by an emissary of the devil, the agent looks around, terrified, and says, "what the hell is going on here? I was up in Heaven, and they showed me a tape of Hell, and there were orgies, and feasts, and naked women all over the place." "Yeah, well," says the emissary of the devil, "that was the pilot. This is the series."
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Customer Reviews

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( 16 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 16 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 3, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Loved this book!

    An absolutely brilliant satire. I'm not much of a TV viewer -- at least, not of the shows that Bochco writes scripts for -- but this novel totally rocks; Bochco is brilliant. Great story, clevery dialogue, and funny, funny, funny. By the time I hit Chapter 6, I'd sent a copy off to my daughter. Her comment back: "I stayed up half the night reading. It's like eating peanut butter straight out of the jar." This is not a novel for readers who are offended by 'language'or graphic descriptions of sex, or for those who anticipate that the book is a straightforward murder mystery. It is a book for readers who appreciate style, form, ingenuity, humor, and keen insight.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2006

    Really exciting

    this is not like any other book it is soooooo hard to put down, and you think like any other book that you would get to a really exciting part and then it would get slow. not with this book. you would get to an exciting part and then next would be an even more exciting part.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2005

    Great Book!

    I am surprised at all the negative reviews this book got. I really loved it. I read it in one sitting in less than 4 hours. It was funny, yes vulgar too but that's part of the fun. It had me till the very last page. I highy recommend it to anyone who has a few hours to kill and doesn't mind the bad language.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2005

    Book Blues

    I purchased this book because of the author¿s television successes. Unfortunately, Bochco¿s demonstrated writing abilities for the small screen do not translate to the printed page. I wish that I had obtained the book from a library.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2005

    Mysterious funny, page turner

    I loved this book. It was funny and shocking. I couldn't put it down. I can't wait for the next book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2004

    Was Excited to Read...Disappointed

    I read alot of mystery/thrillers and when I came to find out he wrote a book after being a fan of every TV Show I was so excited. The story was good but the language was way out of line. I don't mind some raw language but this was over the top. Would look elsewhere first before reading this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2004

    Don't waste your time

    I bought this book because of the Author's name. Well don't waste your time. Bochco should stick to TV. Poorly written, in fact confusingly written. Does not gain your interest at all. Great idea just written really bad. I am so disappointed because the story line sounded so good! Oh well...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2004

    LOVED IT

    Yes, I will admit, this book is a light read. It won't change your life. You really won't learn anything from it. But guess what--I still loved it! I found it to be very well written. I couldn't put it down and I finished it in one day. Very fast paced, colorful book. I tend to read books that are much more emotional, deep and dramatic, but this was a nice, fresh break from my normal reading pattern.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2004

    Ridiculous

    One of the most boring, ridiculous books I've ever read. I felt like it was just a long and boring ride up and down Hollywood Blvd. I think Mr. Bochco reads too many Jackie Collins novels. A Typical Hollywood smut

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 2003

    What a Hoot!

    I greatly enjoyed this tale of Hollywood murder, greed, and immorality. One drawback is that it's hard to find anyone in the story to like - I gather this is a reflection of Mr. Bochco's sour take on people in the entertainment world. I kept erupting in laughter at some of his hilariously nasty one-liners. I recommend not taking it all too seriously; just go along for a fun ride.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2003

    Waste of time

    Hated this book, the language was horrible. I got it from the library on tape, glad I didn't pay for it. I had to turn off the tape whenever my kids were in the room. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone. Save your money.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 5, 2003

    Glad I didn't pay for this one!

    Got it from the library on audio. I think it is worse hearing it. The vulgarity was horrible. The first 1/2 was better than the 2nd half. I am glad I didn't sit and waste time reading it, I listened to it while cleaning the house. I'd never recommend this to any of my friends.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2003

    Murder ¿ Hollywood Style

    Screenwriter Steven Bochco, co-creator and executive producer of 'Hill Street Blues,' 'NYPD Blue' and 'L.A. Law' has turned out a book that only he could write. A book by a screenwriter about a screenwriter that is a sexy romp through the Hollywood scene that includes among it¿s cast, a screenwriter on the skids, a trophy wife, a murdering actress, a blackmailer and, of course, the literary agent who tells us the story in a way that had me laughing the night away. Screenwriter Bobby Newman is drinking too much and his career is on a downward spiral to nowhere, when one night, while spying on his neighbors with a high powered telescope, he sees a couple in the naked throws of passion in a house across the canyon. When finished they fight and the woman bashes the man¿s brains in with an acting award. Instead of calling the cops, Bobby decides to write a screenplay about it and he does his research by getting close to both the movie actress killer and the Colombo type cop investigating the case. I found his agent-narrator's jokes witty and funny. The plot was a twister, the characters entertaining, the ending satisfactory. What more can you ask from a book? I give it five stars because the second I finished it, I started it again.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2003

    DEATH BY HOLLYWOOD Amazingly Poor

    Luckily I got this from the library and didn't pay for it. If I had, I would have been livid. First, it was printed about 4 inches wide--hardly anything to it. Secondly, it was a rehash of old agent jokes and euphemisms from 'NYPD Blue,' such as 'pop a chubbie' and 'get hit in the seat' (in prison). The plot was mundane, the so-called twist not in the least twisty. I think Bochco got this published on his name only. For one thing, almost every sentence contains a clause in parentheses. Just say it the way you want to--if you are capable of it--and don't keep adding little things in. My advice, if you insist on sufffering, get a couple of root canals instead of reading this.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2003

    Decent plot

    I'd say a good airport read, Bochco is a TV writer - his book reads like a TV show - which is cool, but once you get into this mode, even the plot becomes predictable. His use of explicit language is somewhat excessive and at times sours the reading.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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