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Everybody Smokes in Hell
by John Ridley
ISBN 0345421477 / 9780345421470 / 0-345-42147-7
Publisher Random House Publishing Group
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After a bad night at the 24-hour market in Hollywood where he works, Paris Scott finds the Filthy White Guy who just bought a ton of frozen burritos with a hundred-dollar bill (and then destroyed the store's microwave), slumped half-conscious on Scott's rusty 1976 AMC Gremlin. "Paris wasn't a particularly good person," writes John Ridley, "and that was by his own figuring. It's not like he hung around soup kitchens doling out freebies, or gave a damn when dykes were outside Mayfair Market in WeHo collecting money for the AIDS Walk, but he was one of those 'There but for the grace of God' guys; one of those guys that thought if you went out of your way to ignore someone else's bad shit then that same bad shit was liable to boomerang around and smack you in the head at some point." So Paris gives the Filthy White Guy a lift home, and it turns out he's a famous rock star, who repays the favor by calling Paris a loser before passing out. Paris gets even by stealing a tape of the singer's proposed comeback album, an action that might get him killed if the folks who are after the stolen dope that Scott's roommate Buddy took get to him.
Ridley, who writes gritty, critically praised thrillers about Hollywood types who have traded in their dreams of stardom for the reality of survival (Love Is a Racket and Stray Dogs), hates Los Angeles "more than cancer" (as he says in a disclaimer). In Everybody Smokes in Hell, he describes the city with more poetry, passion, and mordant humor than anyone since Nathanael West in Day of the Locust. If you can tolerate the occasional outbursts of racism, sexism, and other non-PC activities, it's a journey worth making. --Dick Adler [via]