Verdict: A loud, broadly written, sometimes graphic but still intriguing story of the excesses of the Hollywood elite and the untold minions who work for them.
Kevin Cohen’s novel Fortunate One is a loud, broadly written, sometimes graphic but still intriguing story of the excesses of the Hollywood elite and the untold minions who work for them. It serves to remind the reader of how narratives about the sordid culture of Tinseltown has become a genre all its own.
Set in 1988 or so, Cohen’s story focuses on Hannibal McGuane, Jr., a recovering cocaine addict who becomes an entry-level screenplay reviewer at a major Hollywood studio. He gets his job with an “in” – his father, whom he calls “Senior” throughout the present-tense narrative, arranges it.
Hannibal, Jr. quickly becomes cynical about the ridiculous scripts he’s forced to read; one subplot involves approving for production a Mel Gibson project in which Gibson’s character eats a car, with the idea of adding a love story as an excuse for casting Rachel Ward as his leading lady. He laughs and ridicules the politics of the office, where even the mailroom clerk does drugs. Hannibal is far less cynical about a young screenwriter named Eastin Howard, whose script Hannibal urges to be produced, and Krista Scotch Phelan, a 1960s child star trying to be taken seriously as a young adult actress.
As the story progresses, though, Hannibal doubts if Eastin wrote this script or is the person he claims to be, and he stumbles on what seems to be a secret about Krista someone may be hiding from her. Hannibal’s involvement with both of them leads to an astonishing climax that includes a heart-to-heart talk from his father. All the while, the excessive coke parties and club hopping in tempt Hannibal to fall back into addiction.
Cohen has some wonderfully colorful descriptions of life in L.A., any one of which seems to pop up no mater what page you open the book to. The author’s choice of present tense narrative, though, while effective in depicting L.A. narcissism, can grow tiresome after awhile. Sometimes, Hannibal’s apparent view of himself as being turned off by the narcissism of Hollywood sounds ironically self-important.
There are a number of scenes involving coke and sex, some of which may be too gratuitous for readers who might want to read a novel about Hollywood, if only to confirm their worst prejudices about it. Other readers will likely be more morbidly fascinated than disgusted. I found myself being both.
Reviewed by Steven Maginnis
Freelance writer. Blogger of current events and popular culture. Reviewer for IndieReader.com since 2009. www.stevenmaginnis.blogspot.com