Wednesday, 3 August 2011



VALLEY OF THE DOLLS did breed a ton of carbon copy bestsellers during its hectic heyday, like this surprisingly effective Hollywood novel about the pre-production stage of an epic movie (think GONE WITH THE WIND but way bolder) and the sexually-starved people gravitating over it. THE MOVIE MAKER is very raw in terms of character development and action sequences, a pop-culture must-have for the 1960s fiction. In fact, Herbert Kastle is an old pro at the wheel, having already penned a couple of well-received potboilers during the late ‘50s. Suffice to say, his attempt at writing à la Susann comes easy enough for him, or so it seems.

THE MOVIE MAKER centers around an unhappy bunch lusting for the good life. We have the down on his luck central character, a writer, who yearns to prove his worth via a commercial script while his long distance relationship with wife and kid is hanging by a thread. We have a pair of swinging sisters torn by success and jealousy. One is a sought-after starlet while the other struggles in her shadow. We also have a bunch of secondary characters who, as the main ones proclaim, wish to follow the yellow brick road, but with little success.

Of course, what they really need is one good therapist to bring them out of their funk (and they should go at a group rate), but that’s what’s so cool about this novel. The way the author refuses to rose-tint his characters in spite of their gloomy ways. Because we, the readers, all want to jump off a bridge when done with this book. Believe me. That’s how depressing it sometimes gets. But, the fact remains that THE MOVIE MAKER is one heck of a fascinating read. Especially for the way Herbert approaches things through his strong and catchy narrative. Indeed, not only does his tale of lost souls brings forth a string of well-executed characters in a sexually-charged setting, but it also manages to pull the heart strings every now and then; something rare in this so-called superficial genre.

And what’s even more engaging about THE MOVIE MAKER is that, despite its cliché-ridden front, the author pulls off quite a unique story. Which to my way of thinking is quite a celebrated affair, since it involves ability and a unique sense of style on his part. It took me years to finally settle down with this book, believing it to be just another pale copy of DOLLS. So imagine my surprise finding out it that it is actually more than that. Sure, this unexpected trait may be one of the reasons why I praise the novel so much, but, trust me on this, THE MOVIE MAKER is definitely the real deal. If you have yet to try a trashy novel, do it the right way and grab this one up first. You’ll thank me later.

Until next post—Martin

US hardcover edition

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