Pay or Play, now in its first paperback edition, is a wickedly funny satire of the Hollywood film industry and its peculiar marriage of vision and ambition that breeds great accomplishment-and humiliating catastrophe. Screenwriter Elmo Zwalt, his psyche "like a clenched fist," was living on peanut butter and bananas atop the Hollywood Freeway when he finally finished his Very Good Script, The Agonizer. Better than Shakespeare, or even Ben Hecht, it grabbed you by the throat and hauled you panting and screaming through ninety minutes of sex and violence. Elmo wanted to direct it, but so did every director who wanted to gross a hundred million domestic, including Chris Parrott, the lauded auteur of the sorts of films that critics called "wrenching." Then the movie is made-and Elmo finds himself in bizarre company as his script goes from concept to reality. Led by his agent, Jack Doberman, formerly the night man in the mailroom at Consolidated Creativity, Elmo pinwheels through the Hollywood firmament of silky studio execs; conniving agents; desperate producers; control-freak stars; a documentary director snatched from his teaching post at a Vermont junior college, whose documentary about plywood, through believable twists and turns, wins an Oscar; and a host of other unforgettable Tinseltown characters. Hollywood insiders like to say that making the movie deal is harder than making the movie. But, as Elmo learns, there are always exceptions.