Book Reviews: Modern Women, Actors, and Movies

“Good job.”
“Bad job.”
The fact she understood a James Bond reference means she’s a keeper.

The Teller
In this present tense story—I can still hear Harlan Ellison in my mind grousing, “I LOATHE present tense stories!”—a naïve redheaded bank teller in Brooklyn steals the check of a man who was just run over on the street, over a million bucks. For around half the story it’s about her guilt, but then things turn much more sinister as she’s threatened by gangsters and then kidnapped into white slavery.
The best thing here is the characters, especially the teller and the white knight detective she improbably pairs with to settle things. It isn’t till near the end that we learn who the true antagonist is, and then there’s a psychological tug-of-war to see who comes out on top, with the lead changing hands often. Perhaps a little too much plot there, but overall a satisfying conclusion.

Woman Without Fear
A neurotic self-conscious woman is drinking in a bar the night before her big software presentation when a very confident chemist wants to try his experimental happy pills on her. Also a present tense story, though not first person, because you need to get the snail’s point of view. . . yep, you read that right; I learned a lot more about snails than I ever expected to, or wanted.
At around the halfway mark I couldn’t help but wonder what was going to happen: would she become addicted, or were they placebos? The fact that I was invested enough to speculate tells me how much I was enjoying this.
Despite her crippling anxiety and her love for snails the protagonist comes off as very likable, especially when she strikes up a friendship with the hotel maid, though I think the only reason this is part of the story is so the maid can take a pill and show it works for her too. But the writing style and setting—you never really leave the hotel—were a little below what I desire, though I would have still happily given this a 4. . .
Except for the ending: it’s incredibly ambiguous, and in conjunction with the relative shortness of pages makes me think the story was cut in half, thus setting up a sequel. There were many possibilities as to what really happened, which is fine for a next-to-last chapter, but readers expect the story to be neatly tied up at the end. I felt cheated, and will probably not be reading the sequel; this drops my grade to

Character Kings 2: Hollywood’s Familiar Faces Discuss the Art & Business of Acting
This is basically a series of interviews with a few of what are called “character” actors, those whose name you don’t know but as soon as you see their photo you think, “Hey, it’s that guy from that thing!” (BTW, I saw a documentary on Netflix with that title on the same subject, but there was no overlap in the actors chosen; perhaps they were in Character Kings 1, which I have not read.)
Though there’s plenty of great acting and Hollywood notes, I did get tired of the author asking the same questions over and over. It mostly consisted of “How did you get started in acting?” and “How did you get that movie?” which showed a lot of times it’s more about who you know than how good you are. I was surprised by how many different answers there were to “How do you audition?” with some being contradictory to the previous, but then I suppose you have to go with what works for you. There are tons of photos—how much does each photo weigh?—as well as a selected filmography, though it mostly consists of the films discussed, leaving off some I would have liked to have seen included.

We Don’t Need Roads
While I’m not a fan of Back to the Future the way I am, say, of Star Wars or Twin Peaks—since I’ve reviewed similar books here—I liked it well enough to give this a try. On the other hand, because I haven’t seen them over and over, there’s too many things I don’t remember, but that’s not the book’s fault. I don’t know if it’s common knowledge amongst the fandom, for example, that another actor shot about half of the movie before it was decided he wasn’t working out and was replaced by Mr. Fox. Probably even less known is the accident while filming a hoverboard sequence, which nearly cost a stuntwoman her life, but then it’s said that the studio tried to cover it up.
There’s plenty of photos here, but the best part is the interviews, especially Lea Thompson and Christopher Lloyd, who according to this doesn’t do much publicity. Of particular note is the times Spielberg would go to the studio hierarchy to fight for something he believed in, not knowing the movie had an almost-blank check. Definitely a lot of fun even if you’re not a fan of the series.