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The Player
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Set in the upper reaches of Hollywood moguldom, this powerful and disquieting first novel delivers the punch its strong beginning promises. Griffin Mill is a young, near-the-top executive at a major movie studio. His life is the movies, his life's goal is to run the studio, and his every move is measured for its effect on getting him there. He doesn't tell anyone when he begins receiving angry postcards from a writer who complains: ``You said you'd get back to me. I'm still waiting''not because the cards threaten his life, but because they might be used against him within the studio. With a vague plan for propitiation, Griffin tries to pinpoint his threatening correspondent by making random contact with names from his calendar, all the while struggling not to lose his dominance in the management struggle. Dense with icons of the Hollywood mythstory meetings, power lunches, the right tables at the right restaurantsthis is a sharply etched mystery/thriller. But it is even more effective as a kind of modern morality tale. Griffin's self-absorption is so complete, his focus on his standing among colleagues and rivals so single-minded, that ordering from a luncheon menu takes on more significance to him than murder. In the hands of this talented writer, insecure, ruthless, aggressive Griffin Mill is an indelible character. 35,000 first printing; first serial to Manhattan, inc.; Literary Guild and Mystery Guild alternates. (June)

Plagued by a disappointed writer's string of anonymously ominous postcards, Griffin Mill, a powerful Hollywood movie studio executive, commits a senseless murder and then takes up with his victim's girlfriend. Tolkin, himself a screenwriter, squishes this meagre story into his lead character's brain, where it becomes a minor league Dostoevskian psychological adventure, with the interesting subtext that a production executive's success leads not only to guilt and paranoia but to existential murder. Tolkin's bemused view of Hollywood is curt and bloodless yet hardly original, but he does have a keen perception of its various battle strategies. There's a happy ending, which the Hays Office wouldn't have liked, but Hollywood in the 1980s just might. David Bartholomew, NYPL

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