Wednesday 29 September 2010

Book review : Loser's Town - Daniel Depp

When I saw the author's name, my initial, not entirely serious thought was : "Ohh Depp, I wonder if he's any relation to Johnny !". Well, it turns out he is. Daniel Depp is Johnny Depp's older half-brother and the "John" that the book is dedicated to is indeed his ultra-famous sibling. It's a fact that isn't particularly important - Daniel is clearly a talented writer who will be judged in his own right, not just as a celebrity hanger-on - but it does give added depth (or should that be Deppth ?!) to the scenes featuring the seedy side of Hollywood. Especially as Daniel also worked as a Hollywood screenwriter and film producer so he obviously knows much of what there is to know about Tinsel Town. Daniel clearly states in his author's note that Bobby Dye, the actor in the book, is not based on Johnny - "They are not They. He, She or It is not You. Any resemblance in this book to people living or deceased is purely coincidental and will merely be taken by the author as a tribute to his genius." - but he has admitted that two scenes (when Bobby's car is swamped by hysterical fans and when he is mobbed by fans on the red carpet) are based on Johnny's real-life experiences.

But on to the book itself. Loser's Town reveals the dark underside of Hollywood, showing the violence and ruthlessness hidden beneath the glitzy sex & drugs & rock 'n' roll lifestyle that we're used to seeing in the tabloids. The opening scene, with two 'cleaners' removing all evidence of a young girl who has overdosed in an A-lister's bathroom, struck me as particularly poignant and heart-rending and I was expecting it to have bigger repercussions as the novel progressed. But this is Hollywood. Under-age girls who overdose in the bathroom are just an inconvenience and nobody really cares. This lack of sentimentality and, dare I say it, humanity actually started to bother me as the book progressed. Some of the "nice guys" start getting killed off but the book continues without missing a beat and this struck me as callous. But then again, that's probably the whole point.

The character of David Spandau seemed really interesting and full of potential. The author throws out so many fascinating titbits of information about him - his abusive Nazi father, his former job as a Hollywood stuntman, his will-they-won't-they relationship with his ex-wife who still clearly loves him as much as he loves her, his shady dealings as a PI ... but I felt that he had so many umplumbed depths. I wanted to find out so much more about him and see his characters really developed so that I could really empathise with him. But like so many of the characters in the novel, he remains distant and mysterious. He returns in Babylon Nights, Daniel's second book, so I hope his multi-faceted personality is further developed in this follow-on novel.

The story is well-written and has moments of suspense but I didn't feel engaged enough with the characters to really care about their outcome. Promising storylines are just dropped and brushed under the Hollywood red carpet, interesting characters are brutally killed off and the ending left me feeling decidedly bleak and despondent. It's definitely not one to read if you're feeling depressed - black is black but this pushes noir to a new level !

star rating : 3/5

RRP : £6.99

Paperback: 368 pages

Publisher: Pocket Books (8 July 2010)
ISBN-10: 1847394183
ISBN-13: 978-1847394187

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Book review : Live To Tell - Lisa Gardner
Book review : Nine Dragons - Michael Connelly

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