Out of work in The Industry, Mark Hayes decides he’s desperate enough to hitch his wagon to the dubious star of Clyde McCoy, a hard-drinking veteran screenwriter known only too well for being difficult. Clyde has secured the backing to produce his latest script, a noir homage called Blonde Lightning. With a popular action star and a sexy up-and-comer on board in the lead roles, he’s cleaning up his act, dusting off his director’s chair, and is determined to make the picture happen.
For investing the last of his savings into the production, Mark gets the title of associate producer. However, his real job is on-set troubleshooter–his duties ranging from keeping a randy old character actor on a short leash to caring for and feeding some very high-maintenance investors. But the real trouble starts when a crewmember is nearly electrocuted. Clyde suspects sabotage, compliments of Mace Thornburg, an industry bottom-feeder with a grudge against nearly everyone in Hollywood, including Clyde’s martial-arts-actress girlfriend. After she’s almost killed in another suspicious accident, Clyde and Mark resort to drastic measures to exact revenge. But when the payback plot takes an unscripted turn, the deadly drama is suddenly no longer in front of the cameras.
Now, trapped like a pawn in a classic double-cross scenario, Mark realizes the only way out is for him and Clyde to wade deeper into a violent nightmare of treachery, lies, and murder as black and inescapable as the La Brea tar pits. It’s a trip Clyde seems more than willing to take . . . and that Mark discovers is part of the high price for finally getting his name on the silver screen.
From the Hardcover edition.
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||4.22(w) x 6.85(h) x 0.98(d)|
About the Author
From the Hardcover edition.
Read an Excerpt
When you first get to Los Angeles, it does not take long to realize that the ground you walk on is untrustworthy, even when it is not moving underfoot. On June 17, 1994, precisely six months to the day after the Northridge earthquake rocked the city off its foundation, a very different kind of shock wave ripped through the land. This event would not attack the city’s tectonic plates but split the people of L.A. along racial and economic lines instead. It started far more subtly than the 6.7 ass-kicker of a temblor we had survived, but the effects of this event would be even more long lasting and psychologically destructive than the physical scars left on the city back in January on Martin Luther King’s birthday.
I was sitting on my favorite barstool at my favorite bar, Viande, having my favorite meal (Cajun blackened steak), and enjoying my favorite beverage (Tanqueray and tonic), watching the Rockets battle it out with the Knicks in game five of the NBA finals on the big-screen TV when the Juice made a run for the border. We found out the hard way. The network suddenly put the game in a little box in the corner of the TV screen and made O. J. Simpson’s slow-speed chase the main attraction. This did not sit well with the hoops fans gathered at Viande.
We were five days into the Simpson saga, and already we had seen enough. O.J.—or someone—had killed his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and a waiter friend of hers named Ronald Goldman who had stopped by her condo to drop off a pair of glasses that Nicole’s mother had left at the restaurant where he worked in Brentwood. It looked like Goldman had caught the killer in the act and had gotten himself killed for his troubles. Talk about bad timing. O.J. was on a Chicago-bound plane ninety minutes later, as if that would make a good alibi. I guess he thought the cops had never seen his Hertz commercials. Now, five days later, he was interrupting a championship basketball game with this silly-assed attempt to flee justice. As Charles Barkley would say, it was outrageous.
The motley bunch gathered around the bar cursed and screamed and shouted—like that was all it would take to get the network executives to pull their heads out of their asses and put things into proper perspective. The Game was news; O.J. running for the hills was inevitable. If we had to track his progress, that was the picture that should be down in the corner of the screen. Not the Game. Bob Costas was on the tube calling the whole thing “surreal,” but it would take more than that to alter the network’s priorities.
I finished my steak just as Orenthal James Simpson crossed back over the city limits into Los Angeles. Realizing the jig was up, he had changed his plans to visit Mexico and was crawling back to his plush Brentwood crib. He was being driven in a white Ford Bronco by fellow ex–football player Al Cowlings who had gotten on the cell phone with the police to let them know that the Juice had a gun and would use it on himself if they tried to pull them over. O.J. had taken himself hostage, just as Cleavon Little did in Blazing Saddles—with similarly impressive results.
The cops took Simpson very seriously. They were giving him plenty of space. They did not want him to hurt his prisoner. Crowds of Angelenos were gathering on freeway overpasses—cheering him on. Bozos! I just wanted him to drive faster so the cops could arrest him and we could watch the end of the game. Would that start another round of riots? Possibly. But let’s settle this NBA dispute first, please.
I saw my neighbor Clyde McCoy enter through the front door of Viande. I hadn’t spoken to him since the night of the Simpson murders—not because he had anything to do with the crimes, but because he had shown a chilling insensitivity to the fact that a friend of mine had died the night before (of completely unrelated causes, of course).
Charity James had been my roommate—after a fashion—for a few months and my friend for even longer, and she had died under sordid circumstances. But when the police came to inform me of the details of her passing, all Clyde could think about was a stack of his screenplays he had asked me to read, hoping I might option one. I was pissed at him—for that and a number of other reasons too complicated to think about—and I had no intention of rekindling our friendship over drinks. I was hoping he wouldn’t pull up a stool next to mine, but, as so often happens in life, my hopes were dashed.
“Hey, man,” he said as he scooched up to the bar, “can you believe this shit?”
I grunted and pulled thirty dollars out of my pocket and paid my tab. I started to stand up, and Clyde grabbed my arm.
“Where you going?”
“What’s the hurry?”
“I just want to go.”
“Wait a minute. Sit down and have a drink with me.”
“I’ve had enough.”
“To drink or of me?”
“C’mon, don’t be like that. Give me a chance to explain.”
“There’s nothing to explain.”
“You think you know me? You think you know why I do the things I do or say the things I say?”
“Why should I care?”
“We’re neighbors. And I thought we were friends.”
“I thought so, too. But friendship with you seems to be a one-way street.”
“Sorry. But that’s been my observation.”
“Listen, if this is about your friend, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to seem callous, but I don’t do well around death. I’ve kind of developed automatic blinders.”
“Some kind of allergy?”
“You could say that. I’ve lost a lot of people in my day. And now, when people I know lose loved ones, I’m not a good shoulder to cry on. I shut down. I’m sorry. Stay and have a drink with me. I’ll buy.”
I looked at his face, searching for any hint of disingenuousness or trace of ulterior motive. He appeared to be sincere, but with Clyde McCoy, anything was possible. He was an onion with layers upon layers of façade.
“One drink. But then I’m leaving.”
“Whatever you say.”
He motioned for the bartender and said, “Two more of whatever he’s having.”
The bartender, a hot French Canadian brunette name Maryse, nodded and went to work. Clyde was a binge drinker who seemed to have the ability to turn his addiction on and off at will. He was known to be trouble when it was on.
“I’m drinking gin,” I warned.
“Gin’s fine with me. Hope it’s good gin.”
Maryse set the two drinks in front of us. Clyde sipped his hesitantly at first, trying to get the taste for gin back on his tongue. He was a bourbon, whiskey, and rum man by trade.
“Just like lemonade,” he said.
“Yeah. With a kick.”
The awkward conversation I was expecting didn’t materialize. Clyde seemed content to sit silently, sipping his drink and watching the idiots on the TV cheer for O.J. The Bronco had pulled off the freeway now, and it was winding through the streets of Brentwood, followed by more cops than were on Goldie Hawn’s ass in The Sugarland Express.
Emily Woolrich, Clyde’s girlfriend, a third-degree black belt turned martial arts movie star, entered the restaurant and squeezed in next to Clyde. “Let’s go, Clyde. The movie starts in ten minutes.”
“We can’t go to the movies. They’re about to shoot O. J. Simpson.”
“They’re not going to shoot O. J. They just want to question him.”
“Yeah. With Tasers.”
“He lives in Brentwood. They don’t use Tasers on the citizens of Brentwood.”
“They might make an exception in his case. He did kill two people, you know?”
“No, I don’t know that. And neither do you.”
“Please. Don’t get crazy.”
“I’m going to the movies. With or without you.”
“I’m staying. This is news. Besides, Mark and I are having a drink and making peace. Aren’t you going to say hello to Mark?”
She looked over at me and said, “Hello, Mark.” She didn’t sound like she meant it.
“Hi, Emily. Nice to see you.”
She went back to ignoring me and pulled on Clyde’s sleeve. “Let’s go. You promised.”
“Damn, woman, can’t you see I’m having a drink?”
“Clyde, you get your ass off that barstool right now or the last you’ll see of my ass will be when it walks out that door.”
“Well, if you’re going to get selfish . . .” He gulped down the last of his drink, stood up, and pulled out his keys. “I’ll go get the car.”
She took the keys from his hand. “I’ll drive.”
“You’re pushy tonight. I’m going to hit the head before we go.”
He tossed some money on the bar, walked down the hallway toward the back door, and disappeared into the men’s room.
Emily looked over at me with disdain on her pretty features. “He’s been drinking for three days straight. I wish you wouldn’t encourage him.”
“I was just sitting here, minding my own business, trying to watch the game.”
“Just don’t enable his bad behavior.”
She walked down the hallway to wait for Clyde by the bathroom door. Up on the TV, O.J. Simpson was pulling into the driveway of his Brentwood mansion. His grown son ran out of the house to try to convince him not to kill himself. I couldn’t see the score of the basketball game, and at the rate things were progressing, I had a feel-ing that it wasn’t going to matter anyway. We were now living in Juiceland.
From the Hardcover edition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Lankford's conclusion to the story he began in Earthquake Weather reads like a combination of Joe Lansdale and Charles Willeford, though not as over the top as Lansdale or as sociopathic as Willeford--which isn't to say it doesn't still fit both categories. If I were writing a cover blurb for this twisted tale of film making, it would be, "The exceeded their budget--for mayhem!"Lankford throws everything he can think of into this one and it just gets wilder as it goes along. On the one hand, it is a primer on low-budget film making; on the other, it is a tale of a lot of dysfunctional people, with one or perhaps two exceptions, operating in an industry and a city where nothing is really ever real or what it seems. Along the way, Lankford drops a few names and observations about real people, such as Madeleine Stowe. All in all, it's a bit of a hodgepodge, but an enjoyable one nevertheless. The movie industry stuff seems very real, and one assumes it comes from Lankford's own experiences. If true, he can't be all that popular in Hollywood!It's hard to fault an author who puts so much of himself between two covers for not knowing when to stop. If you enjoyed any of Lankford's other novels, you'll enjoy this one as well. And you might even learn a few things about the motion picture business and the people who work in it.
This was a great sequel to TLL's earthquake weather. It had a good pace, and interesting characters and plenty of LA to for the local readers.
Hollywood studio executive Mark Hayes is angry with his neighbor screenwriter Clyde McCoy for ignoring his grief at the death of his last conquest. However, Clyde apologizes insisting he does not do death well even as his girlfriend black belt Emily Woolrich blames Mark for Clyde drinking................... Clyde tells Mark he has a great script that has backing. Mark is interested because he read Blonde Lightning and thought this had good possibilities. As they begin production on the film, accidents occur that Mark thinks is deliberate; Emily believes it is her former ¿agent¿ Mace Thornburg a nasty person feeling she jobbed him out of a fee. Not willing to sit idly by as his movie is being ruined; Mark investigates the incidents that have escalated into murder and sent Clyde into hiding....................... Terrill Lee Lankford cleverly uses the opening reels to set the stage for the key players in such a manner that the audience knows how they tick and understands the relationships between them; this comes in handy later in the tale. Once the movie starts shooting, the action takes over and goes non stop as Mark tries to save his film from ruin. Fans of Hollywood amateur sleuth tales will want to read the breezy BLONDE LIGHTNING.............. Harriet Klausner