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The Hollywood Dodo – Geoff Nicholson

The Hollywood Dodo - Geoff Nicholson

Serpents Tail 2004 , 288 pages , £11.99 , PB

Bitesize: A time tripping tale of movies, porn and extinct birds…

Tubby doctor Henry Cadwallader is accompanying his ungrateful daughter Dorothy to America in order to launch her career in the movies. Naturally he is protective of her, fearing the possibility of exploitation, and with good reason. Meanwhile William Draper, a budding physician with an unsightly skin condition, is desperately trying to procure a mating pair of dodos in 17th century Alsatia. How are these two connected? What has this to do with a kinky English writer and a self confessed “auteur of the future”, keen to film his Last Year In Marienbad homage? Does regression therapy really work? And do B-list stars really turn into Hollywood realtors? Read on…

Hollywood could not survive without writers, which is probably why there are so many films about them. Normally struggling with alcoholism and the dreaded “block”, the writer is one of Hollywood’s most unlikely heroes in that his (and it normally is “his”) profession is inherently inert, not the stuff of the dynamic action hero. The Hollywood Dodo gives us the flip side: this is a book about making a movie but it adds the elements of pornography and a distinctly ugly extinct bird whose name sounds unfortunately like dildo. Oh and it’s partly, apparently, set 300 years ago when the final few dodos were croaking their flightless last.

The Hollywood Dodo flits from chapter to chapter, each concentrating on one central character/plot strand, and between fonts, so you know where you are. Initially there appear to be two distinct time streams – now and the seventeenth century – but all becomes more apparent as the book progresses. The shifts in time are not disruptive and serve the plot rather well with many of the various streams containing parallels with each other: the less than healthy physicians, the quest for a living dodo, the quack muse etc.

These would be slight stories as standalones, but they interact with a real sense of momentum and intrigue and all the strands tie together neatly in one way or another. Unfortunately the conclusion doesn’t really live up to the build up and much of the sub-plot involving regression therapy is left dangling unsatisfactorily – there is clearly more to the manic Carla Mendez, the past-life therapist, than is made clear. But these are minor quibbles, The Hollywood Dodo is a clever, well written, unpatronising thriller that combines a love of Hollywood with a sprinkling of sex, situation comedy, violence and… well, dead birds.

Any Cop?: When in full swing this is page turning, enjoyable and involving but the end is a little damp.