L. A. Times

L. A. Times

3.7 15
by Stuart Woods

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Deadly Ambition

After turning a film student's directorial debut into a hit movie, New York mobster and movie fanatic Vinnie Callabrese takes off for the bright lights of Hollywood, where he begins a new life as Michael Vincent, Producer. A natural born wheeler-dealer, he lands not only a major studio deal, but also a gorgeous actress girlfriend.

It isn't


Deadly Ambition

After turning a film student's directorial debut into a hit movie, New York mobster and movie fanatic Vinnie Callabrese takes off for the bright lights of Hollywood, where he begins a new life as Michael Vincent, Producer. A natural born wheeler-dealer, he lands not only a major studio deal, but also a gorgeous actress girlfriend.

It isn't long before Michael Vincent is one of the most successful producers in town, given his knack for bringing in films under budget — not too difficult when you're willing to lie, seduce, intimidate, and even kill to get what you want. But some of the people from his past have long memories and a far reach, and now it's Michael's turn to watch his back. Because even in the land of make-believe certain enemies — and their bullets — are very real.

Author Biography: Stuart Woods was born in Manchester, Georgia, a small town in the American South. He was educated in the local schools and at the University of Georgia, where he graduated with a BA degree in 1959. He served in the United States Air Force, in which he says he "...flew a truck," as an enlisted man during the Berlin Wall crisis of 1961-62.

He devoted his early adult years to a career in advertising , as an award-winning writer for agencies in New York and London. It was while living in London in 1973 that he decided to pursue an ambition held since childhood, to write fiction. he moved to a flat in the stable yard of a castle in south County Galway, Ireland, and while working two days a week for a Dublin ad agency to support himself, began work on a novel. Shortly after beginning, he discovered sailing and , as he puts it, "Everything wentto hell." The novel was put temporarily aside while he spent all his time, "...racing an eleven foot plywood dinghy against small children, losing regularly."

In the autumn of 1974, a friend invited him to help ferry a small yacht up the west coast of Ireland, and the bug bit even harder. Shortly thereafter, his grandfather died, leaving him "...just enough money to get into debt for a boat," and he immediately decided to go to the 1976 Observer Single-handed Transatlantic Race (OSTAR). He moved to a gamekeeper's cottage on a river above Cork Harbour and had a boat built at a nearby boatyard. He studied navigation and sailed on other people's boats every chance he got, then, after completing a 1300-mile qualifying voyage from the Azores to Ireland, he persuaded the Race Committee to accept him as an Irish entry.

He completed the race in good form, taking forty-five days, and in 1977 his memoir of the Irish period, Blue Water, Green Skipper was published in London and New York. While sporadically working on the novel, he completed another book, A Romantic's Guide to the Country Inns of Britain and Ireland, published in 1979.

Chiefs, Woods' long-awaited novel, was published in 1981 to wide critical and popular acclaim, garnering excellent reviews and winning the Edgar Allan Poe Award. Chiefs was filmed for television as a six-hour drama starring Charlton Heston. Following his success with that novel, Woods published a string of fiction that established him as one of the most popular writers in the world.

Orchid Beach is Stuart Woods' eighteenth novel. His previous books, Run Before the Wind (1983), Deep Lie (1986), Under the Lake (1987), White Cargo (1988), Grass Roots (1989), Palindrome and New York Dead (1989), Santa Fe Rules (1991), L.A. Times (1992), Dead Eyes (1993), Heat (1994), Imperfect Strangers and Choke (1995), Dirt (1996), Dead in the Water (1997) and Swimming to Catalina (1998) have been translated into Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, Serbo-Croatian, Czech, Japanese, and Hebrew and there are millions of copies of his books in print around the world. Several of Stuart Woods' novels have been optioned for feature films and television movies.

Stuart Woods lives on the the Treasure Coast of Florida and Litchfield County, Connectict. He still flies his own plane, and sails.

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Woods—an off-again (Santa Fe Rules, etc.), on-again (New York Dead, etc.) writer—is very much on here, turning his big weakness—stagnant characters—into a strength. In this enjoyably high- sleaze potboiler about a mafioso who conquers Hollywood, there's no need for character growth: Every member of the cast is a blackhearted villain, and the great fun is watching them claw each other as the author spins out one unexpected twist, loop, and climax after another. "You have the single most important quality that a successful producer can possess...you are a complete sociopath." When his sexy assistant says that to Michael Vincent, she isn't kidding. Born Vincente Michaele Callabrese in N.Y.C., Michael is a mob- connected hustler who parlays his passion for movies into fame and fortune when he bankrolls a superior indie feature that lands him a producing deal at a top studio—and never mind that he has to kill two fellow mafiosi to get the funds for the film. In L.A., the comer wallows in the lavish life, investing his money with a loan- shark. When the rights-holder on the novel he plans to film next refuses to sell, Michael calls on his old mob-pal Tommy Pro for help, leading to the release of the rights—but only through a murder that leaves Michael's fingerprints at the scene. A nosy cop realizes that Michael's guilt, so the producer simply buys him out—and kills him after a second blackmail attempt. And so Michael leaps up the ladder—conning actors and writers, ruining lives, cuckolding and then killing his boss—but always making good films (and winning a Best Picture Oscar for one), until his greed gets him in trouble with Tommy Pro, who'snow a Mafia don—and who arranges the harsh yet poetically just fate that closes the book on Michael. With a villain as charismatically coldblooded as this one, who needs a hero? Not Woods—and not readers of this devilishly entertaining thriller. (First printing of 100,000)

Product Details

Smithmark Publishers, Incorporated
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Chapter One


Vinnie Callabrese stood on the southeast corner of Second Avenue and St. Marks Place in New York City and watched the candy store across the street. The fat man was due any minute.

Vinnie felt neither guilt nor anxiety about what he was going to do. In fact, the only emotion he felt at that moment was impatience, because he could see the marquee of the St. Mark's Theater 80 in the next block, and he knew that Touch of Evil started in eight minutes. Vinnie didn't like to be late for a movie.

Vinnie's nose was Roman, his hair and beard thick and black, his eyes dark. He knew how to concentrate those eyes on another man and induce fear. Vinnie wasn't the heaviest muscle who worked for Benedetto, but he stood six-two and weighed a tightly packed one hundred and ninety pounds.

The fat man weighed more than three hundred pounds, but he was soft to the bone. Vinnie wasn't worried, except about the time.

With six minutes left before the movie, the fat man double-parked his Cadillac Sedan De Ville at the opposite corner, struggled out of the big car, and waddled into the candy store. Vinnie gave him long enough to reach his office, then crossed the street. The place was empty, except for the old man who made the egg creams and sold the cigarettes. Vinnie closed the door, worked the latch, and flipped the OPEN sign around. He looked at the old man and gave him a little smile. "You're closed," he said, "for five minutes."

The old man nodded resignedly and picked up the Daily News.

Vinnie strode past the magazine racks, his leather heels echoing off the cracked marble floor,and put his hand on the doorknob of the back room. He opened it very gently and peeked into the little office. The fat man sat, his gut resting on the battered desk. With one hand he was flipping quickly through a stack of small bills, and the fingers of his other hand flew over a calculator in a blur. Vinnie was momentarily transfixed. He had never seen anything quite like it, the fat man was a virtuoso on the calculator.

The man looked up and stopped calculating. "Who the fuck are you?" he asked.

Vinnie stepped into the office and dosed the door behind him. "I'm a friend of the guy who loaned you five thousand dollars nine weeks ago," he said. His accent was heavy -- New York and Little Italy.

The fat man managed a sour grin. "And you've just come to make a polite call, huh?"

Vinnie shook his head slowly. "No. The polite guy was here last week, and the week before that, and the month before that."

"So you're the muscle, huh?" the fat man said, grinning more widely and leaning back in his chair. His right hand remained on the edge of the desk. It was a long reach over his gut, and it didn't look natural. "You ever heard of the law, guinea? You ever heard that what your friend does is against the law? That he has no legal claim on me, not even a piece of paper?"

"You gave my friend your word," Vinnie said slowly. "That was good enough for him. Now you've disappointed him." The fat man's fingers curled over the top of the desk drawer and yanked it open, but Vinnie moved faster. He caught the fat man by the wrist, then turned and drove an elbow into his face. The fat man grunted and made a gurgling sound but didn't let go of the desk drawer. Without a pause, Vinnie lifted a foot and kicked the drawer shut. A cracking sound was heard in the room.

The fat man screamed. He snatched his hand from Vinnie's grasp and held it close to his bleeding face. "You broke my fingers!" he whimpered. He wouldn't be doing any calculating for a while.

Vinnie bent over, grabbed a leg of the chair in which the fat man sat, and yanked. The fat man fell backwards into a quivering heap. Vinnie opened the desk drawer and found a short-barrelled .32 revolver. He lifted his shirttail and tucked it into his belt. "This is a dangerous weapon," he said. "You shouldn't have it; you'll end up hurting yourself." Vinnie reached for the stack of bills on the desk and started counting. The fat man watched with an expression of pain that had nothing to do with his bleeding face or his broken fingers. Vinnie stopped counting. "Five hundred," he said, sticking the wad into his pocket and returning a few ones to the desktop. "My friend will apply this to the interest on your loan. On Friday, he'll want all the back interest. A week from Friday, he'll want the five grand."

"I can't raise five thousand by then," the fat man whined.

"Sell the Cadillac," Vinnie suggested.

"I can't; it's got a loan on it."

"Maybe my friend will take the Cadillac in payment," Vinnie said. "I'll ask him. You could go on making the payments."

"Are you nuts? That car is new -- it cost me thirty-five thousand."

"Just a suggestion," Vinnie said. "It would be cheaper just to come up with the five grand."

"I can't," the fat man whimpered. "I just can't do it."

"I'II tell my friend you promised," Vinnie said. He left the office and closed the door behind him.

Vinnie was in his seat, eating buttered popcorn, in time to raptly watch Orson Welles's incredibly long, one-take opening shot of Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh crossing the border into Mexico. He'd seen it at least a dozen times, and it never failed to amaze him. So much happening all at once, and yet the...

L.A. Times. Copyright © by Stuart Woods. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Stuart Woods is the author of more than forty novels, including the New York Times bestselling Stone Barrington and Holly Barker series. An avid sailor and pilot, he lives in New York City, Florida, and Maine.

Brief Biography

Key West, Florida; Mt. Desert, Maine; New York, New York
Date of Birth:
January 9, 1938
Place of Birth:
Manchester, Georgia
B.A., University of Georgia, 1959

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L. A. Times 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read more Stuart Woods novels than I'd care to admit. L.A. Times isn't a Stone Barrington book; I DON'T like the Stone Barrington series because I really don't like the "Stone Barrington" character... self-serving, somehow sexist, and perpetually presented in a conceited light--once you've stopped and untangled it all. That said, the protagonist in L.A. Times is all these things but in an ever so subtly more sinister way. The plot of this book slowly simmers to a boil as you find yourself more and more deeply immersed into the socipath's mind. Perhaps I was just expecting something else from this author basing an assumption on my previous experience with him (Dead in the Water, Swimming to Catalina) but the plot's acrobatics culminate into a genuinely dark and supremely executed conclusion. This is a book you'll think about for weeks long after you've finished it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was rooting for the hero/villain in this thoroughly engaging story. It appears Woods has been a good writer from early 1990's as well.
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Highly entertaining
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N_M_K More than 1 year ago
Haven't read much of his stuff recently - but he never dissapoints!!!
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Christopher Flynn More than 1 year ago
It looks like most Of the reviews that were posted when I added this to my wish list a few months back have been removed and replaced with more facorable ones. Much of the criticism was regarding stagnant characters andrecycled plot. I have read thebulk of this series and know this to be somewhat true. However, paet of the appeal or risk of reading a series isthat they do, by their very nature, fall into a formula type pattern. Having said that, this book and the rest ofthe series can be judged as decent summer reading and nothing more glamorous than that. Those of you offended by Barringtons' arrogance need look no further than Woods' post script to figure howthat came about.