Picks and Pans Review: Los Angeles Without a Map

UPDATED 05/22/1989 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 05/22/1989 at 01:00 AM EDT

by Richard Rayner

As soon as the very-British Richard Rayner enters Los Angeles, he starts fantasizing in cinematic terms. In the movie playing in his mind, he tracks down the Playboy Club waitress whom he once met in Greece, she falls in love with him, and they drive off down Sunset Boulevard. Reality is like this: The seedy local Playboy Club is about to go under, and his bunny Barbara communicates with her dead father and has a psychopathic screenwriter boyfriend. Romance and Hollywood become one long reel of disillusionment. One is never sure how much of this book is fiction and how much is based on fact, and Rayner, a British journalist, isn't saying. He does, however, draw a reader in by picking up on some telling details and characters, making L.A. sound like somewhere nobody would want to live or visit: "I thought how few genuinely fat people I'd seen in California," he writes. "Where did they go? Perhaps there was a state ordinance against obesity. Perhaps sleek, surf-Nazi police would arrive in the middle of the night, herd the fatties in to cattle trucks, and dump them in Oregon. Or Nevada." While wooing Barbara, Rayner meets all sorts of Los Angelenos. One of them, a James Dean memorabilia collector, owns a Rebel Without a Cause script bound in human skin. The rest of the city's citizens in Rayner's book feed on name-dropping, lust after fame and money and have a hateful reverence for the Spielbergs and De Niros of this world. Rayner's biting wit makes this a smashingly entertaining read. If you've never been to L.A., don't worry about not understanding his many references to local sites; if anything, you'll count yourself lucky. (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, $16.95)

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