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Review: North of Sunset

North of Sunset
Henry Baum

North of SunsetIf there's an everyman, then Michael Sennet is every celebrity. Michael Sennet is a movie star. He should be happy, but he's bored. What does he do after he's achieved the best of everything: the best women, the best cars, the best homes, the best drugs? He doesn't have an answer. Meanwhile, the Vanity Plate Killer is roaming the streets of Los Angeles looking for new victims and dreaming of fame of his own. When Michael Sennet uses the M.O. of the Vanity Plate Killer, they find something that eclipses any starring role.

I need to start off by saying that the language in this book really held me up for some time. During the first few pages I think I read the F-word used in every part of speech. Seriously... noun, verb, adjective. The whole bit. For me, it was a bit much, even though I know people talk like this often. I managed to keep reading because I knew the story line would be good, I just had to make myself read through the language. Usually my intuitions are right, and they did not disappoint me this time.

Michael Sennet is an A-list celebrity. Actually, more like an A+ list celebrity. He thinks he's a god, but that does not keep him from being bored with his life. Everything is given to him, which makes his ego almost unbearable. However, the one thing he wants the most he can't have.

Cur Knudsen is a kool-aid drinking lunatic. As I read through his description and role in the American Purity Church, I just couldn't help but thinking about some of the various cults you hear about in the news. He would be grade-A material for such a news segment. In case you don't figure it out early on, Curt has some issues. He is the Vanity Plate Killer.

As a general rule, I try not to read the back covers of books. I tend to read the first chapter and the last page. I can tell whether or not I'll like a book from the first 20 pages or so. Going into this book, I had no idea about the twists in events that I would encounter fairly early on. Needless to say, I was surprised. Given Michael's arrogant nature, I thought he would be a target and that would be the story. I really didn't anticipate his role in the copy cat murder. It made complete sense though, since his selfishness has created this unobtainable view of perfection that no one can live up to. Not even Michael Sennet himself. When all the loose ends start to wrap up, I got my Pulp Fiction tingles. At least that is the mood I contribute to the ending. (By the way, Pulp Fiction is one of my favorite movies--even with the language.)

The characters in this book are phenomenal. The are well written, flaws and all. I liked how the story was told from one character's view at a time. You really had an opportunity to get into their heads. The hubris of each of the "celebrity" characters (mainly, Michael Sennet) was real. All of the characters were flawed but believable. Surprisingly, the traits that made Michael vain and arrogant can also be found in many of the other characters. Personally, when I think of Hollywood, these are the types of people I imagine.

Overall, I can't give the book a four (4) because of the over-abundant use of the F-bomb. Seriously. It really did hamper my reading. I found myself only being able to read three or four pages at a time because of it. I eventually conditioned myself to it and made it through the remainder of the story fairly quickly. (Michael's slip into crazy land made it easy to become engrossed.) I give it a solid three (3) for my tastes. If language doesn't bother you, I'm sure you'll rate it higher. The basis of the story is original and well written/ developed. And, the characters--as screwed up as they were-- were actually likable (to some extent). North of Sunset is marketed as a satire, and I fully agree. It's a well-written Hollywood satire.


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