Wednesday, February 7, 2024

"Stylish prose enlivens a sordid journey" - review of EVERYBODY KNOWS

EVERYBODY KNOWS by Jordan Harper (Faber, 2023)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

In Hollywood, nobody talks. But everybody whispers... Welcome to Mae Pruett’s LA. A ‘black-bag’ publicist at one of Hollywood’s most powerful crisis PR firms, Mae’s job isn’t to get good news out, it’s to keep the bad news in and contain the scandals. But just as she starts to question her job and life choices, her boss is gunned down in front of the Beverly Hills Hotel, and everything changes.

Investigating with the help of an ex-boyfriend, Mae dives headlong into a neon joyride through the jungle of contemporary Hollywood. Pitted against the twisted system she’s worked so hard to perpetuate, she’s desperately fighting for redemption, and her life.

It’s appropriate that Hollywood screenwriter Jordan Harper (The Mentalist, Gotham) begins his exquisite noir Everybody Knows at the infamous Chateau Marmont. Overlooking Sunset Boulevard and loosely modelled on a French royal getaway, the hotel and celebrity residence has seen it all over its 90-plus years, cycling through renovation and disrepair, generations of Hollywood glitterati on the rise and fall.

Harper masterfully takes readers on a skin-crawling journey through an amoral landscape that resides beneath the glamour and mythology of Hollywood, with ‘black bag’ publicist Mae Pruett as our guide. Most publicists try to get their clients into the public eye, cutting through the noise to garner maximum attention. Mae’s job is to strangle stories pre-birth, to divert attention like a magician; look here, not here. When Mae arrives at the Chateau Marmont, her client, a fading 20-something starlet, has a black eye from a sugar Daddy date gone wrong and could lose her film gig. Mae puts that fire out, another flares. Then Mae’s boss is gunned down, taking secrets with him, and Mae finds herself teaming with ex-lover and ex-Sheriff’s Deputy Chris, who works similar dark arts as private security.

Can Mae and Chris survive when the very Beast they’ve served turns on them? Harper’s stylish prose enlivens a sordid journey behind the curtain of modern-day Hollywood, where money, power, and excess feast from the boulevard of broken dreams.

Everybody Knows is not just a best of the year contender, but a best of many years.

Craig Sisterson is a lawyer turned writer, editor, podcast host, and event chair. He's the founder of the Ngaio Marsh Awards, co-founder of Rotorua Noir festival, author of Macavity and HRF Keating Award-shortlisted non-fiction work SOUTHERN CROSS CRIME, series editor of the DARK DEEDS DOWN UNDER anthology, and writes about books for magazines and newspapers in several countries.

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