February 2016

Hollywood Tough, Stephen J. Cannell >>
The Stand In, Brad Geagley >>

Our group discussion began with The Stand In.   There were about 12 people attending this meetup and most had read the book. Pretty much all “thumbs up” reviews, although one reader commented she was ‘slogging’ her way through it.

Plot setup was given a good rating as was the twist ending.  No spoilers here, but all readers seemed pleased with this component.  Over-arching theme was that the ending gave a new perspective on the entire novel.

Most readers commented on how much they enjoyed the evoking of “old Hollywood.”  The story took place in the 1950s, when celebrities were bigger than life, and were famous for their movies, not their off screen antics.  There was good insight into the studio system back then, and the mystery couldn’t rely on modern things like cell phones or the internet.

The writing was considered basic by the majority of readers.  Nothing complex, an easy “beach read,” with stock characters but still lots of fun.  The plot definitely carried the story, not the strength of characters.

Next up, Hollywood Tough.  Although reviews were mixed –two strong thumbs down, five thumbs up and the rest in the middle–there were plenty of comments about the book which is significant for a group reading choice.

Members were pretty much uniformly influenced by the knowledge of two things:

  • The author is dyslexic
  • The author is a prolific Hollywood TV writer who had written scripts for many of our favorite shows (Rockford Files, Baretta , Ten Speed and Brown Shoes, etc.)

The writing wasn’t strong, and many in group attributed this to the author’s dyslexia.  However, most agreed that the story-telling was what compelled one to finish the book.  The telling was visual, as befits a screen writer.  One member had listened to the audiobook instead of reading and felt that it was a perfect format for the story.

One member referred to the book as a “spoof” on H0llywood stereotypes, and this also, resonated with the group.  The story was so incredibly over the top that the reader had to suspend disbelief and just hang on for the ride, enjoying the goofy albeit broad stroke characters and plot.

The storytelling was imaginative, there was humor in the writing, and although the characters (especially the females) lacked depth, it was good fun.  Interspersed throughout were tiny sparks of insight–wealth vs. poverty, gang leader as revolutionary, greed and temptation, enough to keep the book from being completely lighthearted fun.  Although not a mystery like The Stand In (more of a police procedural) this book seemed to generate more discussion for the group.

Thanks to all who participated in the discussions.  Please feel free to add comments to this page if you’ve read the books, even if you aren’t an attending group member!

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