The Shooting Script


"Establishing shot: New York City, present day. Zoom in on a run-down tenement building, somewhere west of Times Square, the home of Roy Milano, a thirtyish, divorced typesetter who lives for the movies. In fact, by pursuing the legendary uncut print of Orson Welles's The Magnificent Ambersons, Roy has become something of a minor celebrity among the fellow misfit film fanatics he caters to in his homemade newsletter, Trivial Man. But there's nothing trivial when Roy's old rival Abner Cooley shows up with a check in his hand and the words "Someone ...
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"Establishing shot: New York City, present day. Zoom in on a run-down tenement building, somewhere west of Times Square, the home of Roy Milano, a thirtyish, divorced typesetter who lives for the movies. In fact, by pursuing the legendary uncut print of Orson Welles's The Magnificent Ambersons, Roy has become something of a minor celebrity among the fellow misfit film fanatics he caters to in his homemade newsletter, Trivial Man. But there's nothing trivial when Roy's old rival Abner Cooley shows up with a check in his hand and the words "Someone is trying to kill me" on his lips." "With his mother ailing, Roy needs the money as badly as Cooley needs someone to head off a trigger-happy stalker who's determined to put both him and his controversial new screenplay into permanent turnaround. And though Roy does his best, like many a private eye before him he quickly finds his head turned by an enticing distraction. Not a femme fatale, but a flick." "Roy is all but powerless to resist an e-mail from a mysterious fan that lures him with the promise of an elusive treasure as fiercely sought after by the celluloid cognoscenti as the Ark of the Covenant was by Indiana Jones. It's Jerry Lewis's famous unreleased drama, The Day the Clown Cried. But when he arrives at a rendezvous too late to save a dying man, Roy realizes he's stumbled into a dangerous race to possess a piece of cinema history. To catch up, he'll have to match wits with a rogues' gallery: a bored and bitter superstar comedian, a hotshot producer turned drugged-out has-been, a ferocious German actor who likes to role-play off-camera, a mercurial director with a scary sense of humor, and a hard-bitten cop who's mad about movies." Meanwhile, Roy will be tempted by the wiles of three fetching females - and tormented by a single-minded psychopath with more faces than Lon Chaney. He'll even go on location, pursuing and being pursued from the mansions of the Hamptons to the harbors of Maine, the boulevards of L
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A whirlwind of movie trivia whips up Klavan's (The Cutting Room) second hyperactive, hilarious yarn starring Roy Milano, the hardcore film fanatic last seen gleefully pursuing Orson Welles's lost treasure The Magnificent Ambersons. But Roy is now facing desperate times as a walking billboard for the Union Square Farmer's Market to pay for his suddenly mute mother's convalescence. Roy's unrewarding pavement pounding brings him face to face with the ultimate "trivial person success story," arrogant Abner Cooley, who brags he's been commissioned to write a script for the 12-part cult fantasy novel The Seven Ordeals of Quelman. Abner's stroke of fortune has made him a target for fanatic Quelman fans, one of whom is trying to kill him. Abner hires Roy to find his attacker, but Roy is soon sidetracked by the prospect of obtaining a priceless copy of Jerry Lewis's unreleased Nazi drama The Day the Clown Cried . The plot thickens when Roy finds the movie's owner, Ted Savitch, dead of a heart attack-or was it murder? A retired television star, Savitch's daughter, Dena, and a whole gaggle of oddballs sweep Roy from Manhattan to the Hamptons, on to Los Angeles and a bicycle built for two in Amsterdam, and all the while he's dodging bullets and Oscar statuettes in hectic hot pursuit of the elusive stolen videotape. A gratifying ending drops the curtain on this wholly entertaining sequel: a frenzied encore for suspense fans and an edifying indulgence for seasoned film buffs. Agent, Victoria Sanders. (Mar. 1) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Another madcap adventure for the self-described "trivial man," a specialist in finding hopelessly lost films. Who cares if Roy Milano's archrival, Abner Cowley, is ascending to the lofty heights of la-la land by snaring a scriptwriting assignment for all 12 parts of the blockbuster fantasy The Seven Ordeals of Quelman while Roy's carrying a sandwich board in Union Square to pay for his mother's medical treatment? Having already dug up a copy of Orson Welles's cut of The Magnificent Ambersons in his debut (The Cutting Room, 2004), Roy's on the track of this year's Holy Grail: Jerry Lewis's unreleased Holocaust feature, The Day the Clown Died. Unfortunately, Ted Savitch, the crazy old man who dangles the rarity in front of Roy, dies just as Roy's arriving to look at his treasure, sending Roy on a madcap chase after the stolen videotape. His quest will take him from Hollywood to Amsterdam and bring him into full-body contact with a cast and crew of zanies who cap Roy's incessant memories of which star replaced which other star in which movie by acting out scenes from their favorite classic films, from Double Indemnity to Psycho. Much of what follows is very funny; all of it is manic, and none of it takes much account of what Alfred Hitchcock used to call the "plausibles."Think It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World of Movie Trivia and you'll know right away whether you want to look further. Agent: Victoria Sanders/Victoria Sanders & Associates
From the Publisher
Praise for The Cutting Room

“Klavan gleefully slices and dices every known specimen of the Hollywood film trade. . . . Worth its weight in popcorn.”
–The New York Times Book Review

“Highly entertaining . . . Klavan knows his turf. . . . Sure to put a smile on any movie buff’s lips.”

“Brimming with engaging tidbits of movie trivia . . . This tongue-in-cheek whodunit marks the long overdue second coming of a gifted novelist.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A lightning-paced, high-concept thriller . . . Astonishingly inventive . . . one of the best mysteries of the year!”
–TESS GERRITSEN, author of Body Double

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345462763
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/1/2005
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.42 (w) x 9.46 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Meet the Author

LAURENCE KLAVAN won the Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original for Mrs. White, written under a pseudonym. He is also the author of The Cutting Room, the first novel featuring Roy Milano. His work for the theater includes the librettos for the Obie Award—winning musical Bed and Sofa and the acclaimed Embarrassments. He lives in New York.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

The Shooting Script

By Laurence Klavan

Random House

Laurence Klavan
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0345462769

Chapter One

SEQUELS ARE AS OLD AS MOVIES THEMSELVES, IF YOU COUNT A SERIAL LIKE The Perils of Pauline. The first sequel to win the Best Picture Oscar, though, was The Godfather Part II in 1974. The first one to be nominated in that category was probably The Bells of St. Mary's in 1945, the sequel to Going My Way, which won the year before. Bing Crosby repeated his role as...

Sorry. Occupational hazard.

A year ago, I had discovered the most sought-after "lost" film, the full version of Orson Welles's The Magnificent Ambersons. I thought I would like being a movie detective. After all, it beat just being what I was: a "trivial man," a person devoted to finding, hoarding, and recounting arcane movie information-in other words, a loser, I think it's generally called.

Word of my discovery had spread through the "trivial" community like a virus that caused self-loathing. From obscure fan Web sites to tiny film festivals to dusty memorabilia stores, it was rumored that I had found, then given up-without even seeing!-Ambersons. In the trivial world, which is populated by people even less socialized than I, the rumor led to incredulity, awe, and (of course) jealousy and hatred.

My little newsletter, Trivial Man, which I publish out of my jammed apartment on West Forty-third Street in New York and subsidize through typesettingwork, suddenly exploded in popularity, which meant it actually sold a few copies. I began to receive phone calls from trivial people seeking my deductive services, people not accustomed to navigating in the real world.

"I've got a movie I want you to find," they'd say.

"For how much?" I'd ask, now priding myself as a professional.

Then there'd be a pause, and then I'd hear a dial tone.

I already had something over many of my colleagues: I was presentable-imagine Zeppo Marx crossed with John Garfield-had even, amazingly, been married, and still stayed in contact with my ex-wife, Jody. If you can't deal with the present, you can always depend on the past. In our own ways, Jody and I both knew this.

It was during one of Jody's usual phone calls-to ask me who was playing whom in an old movie we both, by chance, happened to be watching-that the whole thing began.

"You mean, the bandit?" I asked, muting the volume. "Akim Tamiroff." Then Call Waiting, a recent upgrade to my phone system, clicked in. "Hold on. Hello?"

There was a pause. I heard a voice I recognized. It was old, and it was downbeat.

"Roy? It's about your mother."

I don't mention my parents too often, and for good reason. Neither has the faintest idea what I'm doing with my life. Make that singular: my mother doesn't, my father's dead. But before he died, he didn't have a clue about it, either.

It always surprised me about my mother, because she loved movies, so I'd assumed my obsession had some genetic basis. (My father, who worked in insurance, never liked to leave the house for any reason, let alone movies. His usual review after seeing one consisted of three words: "Piece of crap.") My mother, however, persisted in hoping that my vast store of trivial information could lead to gainful employment, marriage, and DNA propagation. No such luck.

"What do you do with a thing like that?" she'd usually ask after I'd made the mistake of sharing some little-known fact with her, like, for instance that Maggie Smith had replaced Katharine Hepburn in Travels with My Aunt. "Why don't you write your own column?"

"I put out my own newsletter," I'd reply. "I sort of do that already."

"No, I mean, you know, for real."

I assumed she'd be encouraged by my discovery of the complete Ambersons, and the idea of dealing with her ("What do you do with a thing like that? Why don't you join the FBI?") caused me to stay mum.

Now Mom was the one who was mum.

Apparently she-as my aunt informed me on the phone-was no longer speaking. There seemed no physical problem; it was apparently a head thing. It wasn't unprecedented-once, my mother had hidden under the kitchen table all afternoon; another time she'd been found wandering the neighborhood in her nightgown-but this event, or so my aunt believed, was a keeper. No amount of medication mattered. My mother was no longer a moving picture; she was a still.

"But what do you want me to do?" I asked Aunt Ruby, as I followed her down the stairs. I hadn't been in the old family house in the Westchester suburbs since Thanksgiving; now it was March.

"Help pay for the upkeep," said my aunt. She was a frighteningly practical and direct woman, a registered nurse, and my mother's only other relation. She referred to her kid sister as if she were no different from the familiar, crumbling home we were in. That was life to Ruby: we all just became a question of maintenance.

"Well...for how long?"

"For as long as it takes."

"But-" I stammered lamely, "she's only seventy. She could live another twenty years."

My mother was no vegetable. Lying silently in bed, she still showed a hearty appetite and flicked efficiently through TV stations. Her eyes had even sparkled a little when I walked in. Still, none of my small talk had brought a response.

"Twenty years or even twenty-five," Aunt Ruby agreed, unhelpfully.

"Well, she's got health insurance-Medicare-doesn't she?"

"These days you can never have enough."

This was true. I myself at thirty-six-the time everything "starts to go," my aunt once remarked-was uncovered. I was running out of reasons to resist. "But things are just starting to pick up for me."

"Good. Then it shouldn't be a problem."

I stopped at the front door. "You have no idea what might have caused her to become like this?"

My aunt only shrugged. "Something must have rubbed her the wrong way."

For Aunt Ruby, the comment summed up diseases, accidents, even death itself. It made a funny kind of sense, yet I had to keep fighting this lost cause.

"Look, let me know if she says anything, okay?"

"Don't worry, Roy. You'll be the first to know." It was the only time I had ever heard Aunt Ruby laugh.

I had no siblings, so I had no choice.

As usual, remembering trivia was my way to deal with anxiety. Standing outside the house, I remembered that the original stars of Sons and Lovers were supposed to be Alec Guinness and Montgomery Clift. The film was finally made with Trevor Howard and Dean Stockwell.

The picture had been nominated for the Oscar; my fate would be less prestigious. Just as I was on the verge of a new career in detection, I had to do something that I'd never done before, something truly frightening. I had to get a real job.


Trivial people take all kinds of part-time, low-paying jobs, some more humiliating than others. Through contacts, I'd managed to secure employment at the Farmer's Market in Union Square. Here, upstate farmers sold produce to gullible urbanites willing to shell out exorbitantly for organic goods. A friend who'd been laid off from a film journal had been helping out at several stands and tipped me off to similar opportunities. I could do pickles, pretzels, or bread. The latter was a staple and so seemed the least demeaning.

"U-shin sent me," I'd said, mentioning my friend.

Annabelle, the young lady farmer at the Nature's Meal booth, had a pretty face the color and texture of a leather belt. She looked at my pale skin and slender frame with amusement.

"Okay, pavement boy," she said. "Here you go."

Then she handed me the balloon and the loaf. She pinned a button on my chest that read RISING BREAD, FALLING PRICES! Her bakery, located in Millwood, two hours from Manhattan, was having a sale.

"Just stand there," she said, in a gruff and grizzled rasp. "And look pretty." Then she shook her head in dismay, as she might have at a newborn calf too weak to survive.

I was secretly hoping that my city ways and her country manner would cause romantic sparks, as in a Tracy and Hepburn film. But Annabelle quickly moved away from me and arranged some zucchini and pear muffins.

As I stood there, mortified, I recalled that Spencer Tracy had been replaced by Gregory Peck in the movie of The Yearling. The whole film had been remade from scratch, just like, well, a burnt loaf.

Then, to my horror, I saw Abner Cooley.

Abner, of course, was the original trivial person success story. His Web site, PRINTIT!.com, had grown from a homemade operation-done, literally, out of his parents' house on Long Island-into a grassroots phenomenon. It mostly featured negative gossip on forthcoming films secretly slipped to him by bitter studio underlings. Frightened and annoyed executives had seduced Abner with consulting jobs, and then he'd parlayed his popularity into a book deal and a TV hosting gig. The latter came courtesy of his boyfriend, Taylor Weinrod, recently promoted to V.P. at Landers Classic Movies, or LCM, the old movie cable network.

As his success had-you'll pardon me-ballooned, so had Abner. Never a sylph, he now threatened to topple over from his own girth, and a wispy blond beard, as ever, couldn't give shape to his face. Formerly obnoxious, he was now unbearable, and never more so than today, when he saw me...and my balloon.

"Milano!" he said, with barely disguised glee. "What a pleasant surprise!"

Abner had never forgiven me for my Ambersons coup, and seeing me in my current position clearly warmed his overgrown heart.

"I'm sure it is," I said.

"A loaf of bread, a red could be the star of, what was that French film?"

"The Red Balloon?" I asked.

"Yes," he said, unpleasantly. "So, fallen on hard times?"

"I'm just helping out a friend," I lied.

Just then, Annabelle called over, "Hey, what's-your-name, watch your loaf! It's trailing in the dirt!"

Exposed, I cursed under my breath and said nothing more. Abner chuckled, his cheeks expanding, his eyes disappearing.

"How generous of you," he said.

I could have told him the truth-Abner would be chastened by my helping out my mother; God knows he'd lived long enough with his own- but I didn't want to give him the satisfaction. So I didn't take the bait.

"Well, I'm sure you'll get back on your feet in no time. Now," he said, mischievously, "may I have some miche?"

"You'll have to ask her," I said, through my teeth, and gestured with my balloon at Annabelle.

"Actually, what am I saying? It'll only go bad in my fridge. I'm flying out to L.A. tomorrow."

"Bon voyage."

Though I hadn't asked him why, he went on to explain. "Maybe you read the trades. I've been hired to adapt The Seven Ordeals of Quelman."

My only response was silence. Here was the most famous and beloved cult fantasy novel-four sets of trilogies, actually-of all time. And Abner Cooley had been hired to write the script! I had never been able to finish the first book. I had no interest in, intention of, or talent at being a screenwriter. Still, I was boiling with anger at the injustice.

"Good for you," I choked out.

"Yep. They decided to go right to the source for once. The producers want a few changes that might not sit well with the fans in geekville. But"-he shrugged, cavalierly-"that's the difference between film and book."

Film and book! Abner wasn't even using the proper plurals; he was talking like one of the studio scum he had started his career by skewering. He had fully completed his duplicitous journey to the other side, where people made a living wage. And geekville? Where did Abner think he got his own birth certificate?

"Good luck with that," I nearly whispered.

"Thanks. It'll be twelve films in all. They'll release the first one next Christmas, then three a year until the end of the decade."

"Can't wait."

Abner heard the sarcasm in my voice and, if anything, it made him even more smug. "Look...there's nothing wrong with doing what you're doing. We all need to eat."

"Some more than others," I blurted out. I knew the remark was beneath me, but I didn't care. I realized that I was gripping the baguette-onion sourdough, I think-like a club.

"Hey, street life!" Annabelle yelled over at me now. "Quit flirting, and make that sale!"

The furious look in my eye made Abner cancel his order. With a muttered, "Good to see you, Milano," he walked away as fast as his giant legs could take him.

There was a brief, embarrassing pause. Then Annabelle, smelling of bread dust and denim, was suddenly at my side again.

"That's not exactly what I'd call good salesmanship," she said.

"Look," I answered, just about at patience's end, "I thought I was only supposed to look pretty."

"Oh," Annabelle said, "I say that to all the girls."

Then, with a sunburned little smile, she walked behind her booth again.

I stared after her. Despite her disdain for me, in her cruel, craggy, cowgirl way, Annabelle was growing more attractive by the minute. I noted with approval how she filled out her jeans. This job might not be so bad, after all.

When I turned back, I was staring at Abner's big face again.

"Look, Milano," he said, breathless now. "How'd you like to come work for me?"

The twist of personality had come so fast, I shook my head to clear it. "What?"

"There's something I forgot to tell you."

"And what's that?"

"Someone," he panted, "is trying to kill me."


We sat in a diner on Park Avenue South at Seventeenth Street, which was cheaper than anything he could now afford. And even though Abner spoke with a new beseeching neediness, he still insisted on separate checks.

Before he started, he looked around for eavesdroppers. "Here's the thing. The Quelman gig isn't exactly the joyride I'd been expecting."

I listened with reluctant sympathy. My tolerance for Abner was already limited and today he was adding a new unpleasant color to his palette: self-pity. Still, it was new.<<br>

Excerpted from The Shooting Script by Laurence Klavan Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    wild thriller

    Roy Millano considers himself a ¿Trivial Man¿, a person so obsessed with movie arcane that he doesn¿t have a life and his only source of income is a newsletter he produces. He considers himself a movie detective after finding the original long lost version of the movie ¿The Magnificent Ambersons¿ (See THE OUTING EDGE) even though he was almost killed while pursuing it.--- Now Roy¿s mother is ill and his aunt wants him to get a real job to pay for her care. When he gets an e-mail from an anonymous person telling him that he has a copy of the Day the Clown Cried, a Jerry Lewis drama, that was never released, Roy rushes to meet the man. When he arrives at his hotel room, the man is dead and there is no tape. Forgetting about his mother¿s illness Roy follows the trail to the tape and is stalked by another ¿Trivial Man¿ who is willing to kill anyone who gets in his way of finding and keeping the tape.--- THE SHOOTING SCRIPT is a story of what happens when obsession is taken to extreme; Laurence Klavan has a protagonist with a refreshingly unique voice who can quote movie trivia at the drop of a hat especially when he is nervous. The dangerous situations Roy finds himself in pursuing the movie does not deter him from going after what he wants even though he knows he might get killed by his obsessive stalker killer.--- Harriet Klausner

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