Friday, August 01, 2008

Overlooked Books-Earthquake Weather

The line goes from Dreiser to Fitzgerald to West to Schulberg to Mailer to Didion, some of the finest Americans writers who have tried to define the shared hallucination we call Hollywod.

Of all these writers, Terrill Lankford's Earthquake Weather most resembles, in its rich spare prose and elqouent despair, Day of The Locust. Mark Hayes has begun to realize that he may not become the successful producer he's hoped for a decade and a half. One sure sign of this is that he's working for a scumbag producer named Dexter Morton as a glorified script reader even though Morton has purloined his girl and his self-respect. Plenty of reason to kill a man, or so the police think, when Hayes finds Morton murdered and floating in his own swimming pool.

Lankford uses the set up to search Hollywood for the killer. In the course of this he gives us a guided tour of contemporary Hollywood, a trip that is by turns bleak, angry and bitterly humorous. The imagery is stunning throughout as is the psychology. A number of scenes make you squirm. Yes, there really are people like this. But, like Nathaniel West, Lankford sees most of his people not as bad people but simply as afraid and pathetic. Making them villains would make the novel second-rate. Not that there aren't a few true villains and they're indelibly rendered.

I've gone back to this novel many times. I open it at random and read ten or twenty pages just to savor the writing.

This is a major novel from a major writer. It deserved a much better fate.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Blonde Lightning is really good too. It's about time for another book from him.

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Duane Swierczynski said...

Couldn't agree more, Ed. Best Hollywood novel I've ever read.

Anonymous said...

I read and enjoyed EARTHQUAKE WEATHER in the last year. Great stuff.

Ed Lynskey

JJ Stickney said...

Good stuff - thanks for your prior tip on the Pat Hobby stories - my first encounter and they are knocking me out.