I’ve never read anything by Don Carpenter before this book. It was easy to read. Fast paced. Thoroughly entertaining but more importantly, emotionally compelling. About half of the book takes place in San Francisco, and since I lived in SF for many years, I was familiar with the locations Carpenter haunts. The scenes were totally accurate, like walking this way or that, in one direction or another to get to such-and-such bar; they were true and correct. It wasn't made up. No guess work. I could go to San Francisco today and find the exact spot, or the night club, or the bar, restaurant or address Carpenter writes about and see it just as he must have seen it. His dialogues, descriptions, insights…especially about the Hollywood studio bosses, the publishing industry, the system of marketing and promotion.... are pure genius. Brilliant work. His characters ring true-to-life. It’s like I’m reading about real people I know, friends of mine, people I’ve met and loved. He writes with a very real matter-of-fact style. No filler. All substance. Once I got started reading, it moved quickly. It was hard to stop long enough to eat, or exercise or work on something else.
The only criticism I can think of has absolutely nothing to do with the book itself, in other words the criticism isn’t about Carpenter’s skill as an artist or a writer; it has nothing to do with the story or the narrative. The only criticism, and it was aggravating, was the apparent lack of any quality-control in the actual printing process, the printing of the book. There were more than twenty TYPOS throughout the book; it was as if a computer did the work, not a real person! This aspect of the printing was unprofessional and did not show respect to the author or the reader. But in an odd sort of way, even the typos, as irritating as they were, seemed to fit in with the gritty realism of the story and Don Carpenter himself. The typos made me feel like I was in a darkened room with a flashlight. The light was too dim and the battery too old and I stumbled through the room banging into things, knocking things over; they’d hit the floor and break.