The Hollywood Sky
A novel like a house of mirrors: three down-and-out actors plan a crime; a hallucinatory game with imagination and reality
De hemel van Hollywood is like a house of mirrors: from the opening lines to the last page mysterious tension surrounds the question as to which representation of reality is actually confronting us. On the surface the novel is a straightforward thriller, De Winter’s favourite genre. Since the trilogy Vertraagde roman (Delayed Novel), Kaplan and Hoffman’s honger he has written fast-paced, well-tailored literary thrillers.
From the ambassador who spends his night devouring food and Spinoza in Hoffman’s honger to the ‘Jew in a Porsche’ in Supertex, he has displayed his penchant for larger-than-life characters.
Here De Winter sketches the characters of three talented but down-and-out actors. During a night’s boozing in Hollywood they discover a body. It turns out to be a murdered criminal who, with his cronies, had robbed a casino of millions of dollars. Tommie Green, Jimmy Kage and Floyd Benson see the body as their golden chance, a way for them to get their lives off the skids. Disguised as cops – a role they are literally cut out for – they rob the gangsters of their loot.
On closer inspection the story is not as straightforward as it first seems. Tommie Green, an intelligent actor of Dutch origin, soon recognises the events as scenes from a script he once wrote with his lost love, Paula. Besides being the title of the novel, ‘The Hollywood Sky’ is also the title of the script. ‘This is a movie,’ remarks Jimmy Kage at one stage. And so it is. In a narrative structure somewhat reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, De Winter succeeds in building tension while simultaneously placing events in an ironic light. The story is full of deliberately dubious details. Tommie Green says ‘Follow that taxi!’ and is being completely serious. A gangster is gunned down with a plastic pistol. Nothing is what it seems to be.
Or is it? Now and then the descriptions of Tommie Green, the novel’s most important character, are touched by a realistic melancholy: ‘Green was hunting something mythical, something too big for the yardsticks they had taught him to use back in Holland, something that could take away everything – everything – and make up for it all at the same time.’ In the epilogue De Winter turns the mirrors for the last time. Finally revealed, Tommie Green’s life story shows the whole book in a dazzling new light.