Friday, September 7, 2012

Book Review: And the Winner Is...

By Jami Deise

One of the hallmarks of a newbie screenwriter is his (the profession is mostly male) paranoia that his script will be stolen. Every page of the script has his copyright number; every pitch and query is vague in order to shield the idea from thieves. The irony is, not only does this behavior turn off producers, there are so many legal ways to steal a screenplay, no one has to filch a script to do it.

A stolen screenplay is at the heart of Erin Brady’s novel, “And the Winner Is…” Perhaps stolen is too strong a word. After all, Brady’s heroine, NYC-based accountant Martha “Marty” Peters, found the screenplay “Until Tomorrow” in an abandoned back pack on the subway. As even little children know, “Finders keepers, losers weepers.”

It’s kismet that Marty found the screenplay, for she has dreamed of stardom her entire life. Unfortunately, rather than being blessed with movie-star looks or artistic talent, Marty’s greatest aptitude was in balancing credits and debits. She’s spent the past two years at a major accounting firm, and the closest she is to Hollywood is that her firm counts for the votes for the Oscars. She hates her job; the hours are too long and her boss is a sexual predator. At least she has one friend at work, Becca, a would-be fashionista. Becca is the only one who knows Marty’s secret dream is to write. In fact, Becca has read some of Marty’s short stories – and crushed her dreams by laughing at pieces that were not intended to be funny.

Hollywood beckons Marty in two ways: A major Hollywood producer, Theodore McKenzie, becomes professionally interested in Marty after she works on his tax return, and she finds the screenplay. While Marty never had any intention of claiming the work as her own, Becca finds the script on Marty’s desk and reads it. Before Marty can tell Becca the truth, Becca congratulates her on work that is so much better than those earlier stories. Stung, Marty keeps her mouth shut – and then finds herself in deeper and deeper as Becca takes over as Marty’s publicist. And then Marty sees a desperate flier in the subway, searching for a lost back pack and the life’s work it contained…

Marty is a heroine who could be ripped from the script pages of the latest Hollywood romcom. Although she describes herself as plain, I could certainly see Kate Hudson playing the role. (After all, whenever Hollywood adapts a book about an unattractive or heavy heroine, they’ll put an ugly wig and some padding on a gorgeous movie star rather than hiring a character actress for the role.) Kate is notorious for playing women who frantically shovel their way deeper and deeper into that hole. That first little lie leads to even bigger and better lies, but the audience can’t help but root for her to succeed despite herself.

As the story progresses, the consequences for Marty telling the truth get bigger and bigger. Eventually, her career, her love life, her family and friendships are all on the line. Will she do the right thing? Or will she be caught before she can? Fittingly enough, as the title suggests, the climax of the story happens at the Academy Awards. (Although I would be remiss if I did not point out that a more accurate title would be “And the Oscar Goes To…”)

“And the Winner Is…” is worth the read, if for no other reason to marvel at the writer’s ability to create a lying, script-stealing character worth rooting for. However, I did find some weaknesses in the story. Marty’s character was inconsistent; she had no problem blackmailing her sexually harassing boss or standing up to the firm’s most important client, but she couldn’t bring herself to tell Becca she hadn’t written the script. Many chapters start with interviews from Marty’s co-workers and friends; I couldn’t tell if these quotes were Marty’s fantasy or real, and they brought the story to a halt. A few of the major plot points are unbelievable – but still enjoyable. And as the story progressed, the writing got a little sloppy.

Even with these weaknesses though, “And the Winner Is…” is a fun read. Come February, I will be keeping an eye out for those PWC accountants, and wondering.

Thanks to Erin Brady for the e-book in exchange for an honest review. If you want a piece of the (lights, camera, and...) action,  "And the Winner Is..." is available for $2.99 on Kindle.

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1 comment:

Dr. Nice from City College said...

I actually read this book a few months back and I've been waiting for the next one by Brady. I confess that I really enjoyed it...and, respectfully, disagree that Marty was inconsistent. Neurotic, perhaps, and a bit kooky (but aren't we all?). I liked your comment about watching the Oscars with a different perspective this year. That made me laugh and, now, I think I'll be wondering, too, about the behind the scenes of the Academy Awards...