Verdict: Despite some editing issues, TRUE GRANDEUR is an intriguing work of fiction that satisfactorily explores the fickle nature of Hollywood through the people who live and work there.
Likely inspired by his own move to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the film industry, Cal R. Barnes writes of Conrad Arlington, a self-absorbed 20-something writer who moves to the area for the same reason. Not a big believer in paying his dues, Conrad wants a quick and easy way to achieve success and get the girl. The success he desires is chiefly writing screenplays, although he’s interested in producing as well. The female in question is Gracie Garrison, a wealthy party girl known for her physical perfection and outrageous adventures on the town.
When Gracie auditions for a part in Conrad’s ill-fated independent film noir, he becomes instantly infatuated with her. As alluring as Hollywood itself, Gracie is wild, exciting, beautiful, rich, and too much for any one man to handle. That doesn’t stop Conrad and his inflated ego from trying, however. Considering himself The Last True Artist, he believes he’d make a perfect fit with Gracie – the essence of beauty. Fate isn’t necessarily on Conrad’s side, and an extravagant – though frantic – all-night date with Gracie brings him as much pain as pleasure.
When she disappears after their night together, Conrad goes to great (and embarrassing lengths) to find her. He calls around town and interviews her old boyfriend in an uncomfortable sparring match that bounces back and forth from exploring deep subjects including art, truth, and beauty to engaging in shallow gossip and ridiculous male one-upmanship. Throughout his strange encounters with Gracie and her entourage, Conrad learns a much-needed lesson in reigning in his Arlington pride.
The writing in this book is fluent and descriptive, with use of metaphor and a wide range of vocabulary (and only occasional pedantic Hollywood filmmaker namedropping). The flowing artistry of the words –without the need for vulgarity – is so lovely, yet strangely riddled with grammatical mistakes and typographical errors, such as missing words. Unfortunately these are frequent mistakes and often repeated errors, such as using “that” instead of “who,” “I” instead of “me,” “suppose” instead of “supposed,” “to” instead of “too,” “then” instead of “than,” and “whom” instead of “who.”
Capturing the look and feel of young Hollywood’s film industry through an all-night date similar to the way the novel and film Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist did with New York City’s music industry, TRUE GRANDEUR succeeds on multiple levels. The story remains interesting while providing character studies of Conrad and Gracie, while simultaneously depicting the industry and city. This promising novel would be greatly improved with professional editing.
~Carol Michaels for IndieReader