Friday, July 11, 2014

"Dark Lady of Hollywood"

Diane Haithman was an Arts Staff Writer for the Los Angeles Times until October, 2009 and is a major contributor to Deadline Hollywood industry website and its print publication, AwardsLine. She recently joined the adjunct faculty of University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Journalism, teaching Feature Writing.

Haithman applied the Page 69 Test to her novel Dark Lady of Hollywood and reported the following:
Murder, sex, money. And an erection belonging to one Todd, a mid-level HBO executive you’ll never see again in this story. In some ways, Page 69 is not at all typical of this merry mashup of Shakespeare and the TV industry. In other ways, it tells the whole story.

Todd is today’s lunch date for lead character Ophelia (that’s right, Ophelia), a beautiful but breathtakingly bad biracial actress whom Fate has entangled with terminally ill TV sitcom executive Ken Harrison, undergoing an Elizabethan meltdown of sorts in his desperate search to find a Muse akin to Shakespeare’s Dark Lady of the Sonnets. In Hollywood.

Ophelia needs advice, but doesn’t want to blab Ken’s secret to anyone — so she tells Ken’s story in the guise of a movie pitch, hoping Todd’s notes on the “script” will answer her own questions on what to do about Ken. This is Todd’s well-meaning but disturbing advice about how to deal with death, Hollywood-style.
Todd perked up instantly. “Oh yeah, murder’s okay.” He nodded happily. “Murder’s good. People love murder. Yeah — put in a murder. That’s different than death. Nobody wants to go there.”


“Not why: who,” Todd nodded sagely. “I mean, you could do a why, but then it gets too complicated. You’ll lose people. It’ll be a lot easier if you do a who. Make the why something real easy. Sex, or money, or both. Then you can do a who committed the murder, not a why.”

Now it was my turn to wrinkle my nose, although I stopped almost immediately because it was giving Todd an erection. After awhile you can tell without looking. There’s a miniscule change in facial expression, a glazed look in the eye, a sudden fidgety and disproportionate concern for the placement of the napkin.

“That wasn’t what I meant. What I meant was, why do people love murder?” I demanded. “It’s still death, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, but murder’s not about dying. It’s about killing. Killing works — not dying.”

“But why?”

For Todd’s inability to explain this I suppose can only blame my own nose, so thoughtlessly, carelessly wrinkled. “Just trust me — you’ll never sell your project if the dude dies,” he said, staring with studied interest into his own lap. “Have somebody kill him. Or have him kill somebody. Doesn’t matter. Bring in some CSI’s and let them solve the case. Do murder.”

Do murder. Let’s do lunch, let’s do murder. I felt weak and cold, hearing it. Todd continued to nod and fiddle with his napkin until his smart phone buzzed and slithered on the table. Just before he grabbed it, he licked his thin lips and whispered, “Oh yeah — and make that girl you mentioned, his friend, really, really hot.”
Learn more about the book and author at Diane Haithman's website.

--Marshal Zeringue