Dowdy Lewis, Jr., half owner of a Hollywood bookstore specializing in the Old West, is an alcoholic and self-pitying Vietnam vet, and has the misfortune to fall for a dish named Yvonna Lablaine, who works for a cheapo movie producer named Bird Cameron. Yvonna soon ends up charged with murder and then herself dead--and Dowdy plunges into the netherworld of heroin addiction, snuff films, and movie-biz greed in search of the truth. Ah, if only Hasford (The Short-Timers, 1979, etc.) had left this as the B-movie-treatment it has all the earmarks of having originally been. But he's gone ahead and prosed it out--and what prose! Says Dowdy to a bailbondsman: "I'm not going to argue with you. I'd draw you a picture, but I don't have the time. Some people are like cheap television sets. Some people need to be thumped on the side of the head until they get the picture." And then there's Dowdy's "wisdom'': "The losing card is in all of our decks and sooner or later we have to lay it on the table. Just when you think your cold deck is getting warmer, fate starts dealing seconds from the bottom of a stacked deck of marked cards.'' And after being a one-man terminator at the book's pathologically gruesome revenge finale, Dowdy (who, me?) comes up for air at Yvonna's funeral to muse that "one night of beauty shared gives you the strength to sleep one thousand nights alone.'' Where's Hasford's sharp talent, evidenced by The Short-Timers? Certainly not here, in this classically awful, unintentionally hilarious, hard-boiled rotten egg.
Copyright 1991, Kirkus Reviews