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Charlie Monk
The Man who turned into Himself
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 David Lewin review
 D-Tour review
 Sunday Telegraph


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A Memory of Demons


Charlie Monk


Coincidence

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Described as "a toxic cocktail of malevolent wit", these seven stories, each with a twist in the tail, explore the knife-edge balancing act between glitter and madness which is life in Hollywood.


  Reviews for Hollywood Lies

 David Lewin - syndicated show-business writer
 D-Tour Magazine
 Sunday Telegraph, Charles Spencer

   All lies - but the truth is, they're good ones, David Lewin

By pure coincidence, when I started to read David Ambrose's latest book, Arnold Schwarzenegger was in town and, in discussing the latest power play in Hollywood, he described it as a place "where people aren't known for being straightforward and honest".

And the title of the Ambrose book of seven short stories is Hollywood Lies. He took it from the great Orson Welles with whom he once worked and who said: "Everything you've ever heard about Hollywood is true - including the lies". David Ambrose, a one-time Hampstead resident, is a film and television writer who understands the place where, as he says "almost everyone wears sunglasses - either to avoid being recognised or to have an excuse if they weren't".

What he has created is fiction of course. But the first story, Living Legend, sets the style and the approach. Here is Marilyn Monroe singing Happy Birthday for her lover President John Kennedy. But who is she really?

David Ambrose has his heroine speculate about the basic lie of stardom: "People said they loved you, but they were never on your side. They'd pay money to see you, but hoping you'd screw up so they could sneer and say you'd robbed them. They'd tell you they wanted to f*** you but nothing in your life would ever give them as big a hard-on as your death".

What makes these stories about Hollywood so riveting is the sense they portray of the sham behind the sham. In the title story, one character explains what it is all about. "Kid, this is a phoney business," he says. "The stars' teeth, tits and hair are phoney. The sets are phoney, The stories are phoney. The happy endings are double phoney. But let me tell you one thing you have to understand if you're going to succeed in this business: you can't fake phoney". Of the seven short stories, I like particularly The Fame that Dare not Speak its Name, about two stars of porn movies who actually fall in love while pretending they are involved in something else. She says she is a sociology post-graduate while he admits he is involved in movie production - about marine biology. But when they are finally cast together, the mask is dropped - and how are they then to proceed? Can their fake love-making become the real thing?

Then there is The Scribbler, about a top television scriptwriter whose key character takes on an apparently real life of her own. Here, I suspect, is the truth about the creation of a hero who becomes, in the words of the actor who has to play him "so alive and living in me and I can't get rid of him". And neither can the story's writer.

What makes Hollywood lies so acute is the understanding David Ambrose displays of the town where lies are basic to life itself. "People said they loved each other too often to mean it. It was something to do with the endless psycho-babble, the constant but shallow self-analysis in which they all lived. ‘I love you' wound up as being the plaster to stick on relationships when you'd successfully scratched the problems but didn't have time to tell the truth".

But what is truth? In Remember Me, Elvis Presley finds himself out of his own life and pronounced officially dead. But he is still alive and reduced to playing Elvis look-alikes in two-bit clubs. "I have entered more Elvis look-alikes than you've had hot dinners," he says, "and I've never once come in better than third. Can you believe that?". When you read Hollywood Lies, you almost can.

Graham Greene used to say that the best basis for a full-length movie was the short story. I wonder if Hollywood is prepared to face up to its own lies and film one of these?

Or will it, in the title of another book by a former top studio executive, say to David Ambrose "You'll never eat lunch in this town again" ?



    D Tour Magazine
Ambrose began his career screenwriting for Hollywood legend Orson Welles and has worked internationally in theatre, television and film. In this collection of ten bewitching Hollywood tales, he captures the essence of Hollywood, thriving on fantasies and our desire to believe in them. In Living Legend we get an insight on Marilyn Monroe, transposed into a modern day nightmare of a repeated virtual reality scenario. Scribbler has a screen writer haunted by his own creation's refusal to be killed off. Other stories include a child-star taken over by his own wealth and a Hollywood dynasty revenge plot, both of which are applicable to numerous famous names. Every one of the ten stories is a gripping read with a gruesome Machiavellian twist in the tale. Ambrose is a craftsman of the short storytelling form and leaves his readers begging for a sequel collection.

   Sunday Telegraph, Charles Spencer
I read this book with mounting enthusiasm. Ambrose is often memorably nasty – there’s a superb mad monologue here in which the narrator is clearly and cruelly based on Michael Jackson – and he almost always succeeds in contriving a real sting in the tale. Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe are among those who make starring appearances, but the best stories concern Hollywood’s disregarded casualties: a film producer who only hits the big-time when it’s known that he is dying; a pair of hard-core porn stars who become romantically entangled with disastrous consequences for their respective careers; and, best of all, a sexually exploited, fanatically ambitious starlet who takes spectacular delayed revenge in a plot as outlandishly excessive as Jacobean tragedy.

There are occasional moments of tenderness in Ambrose’s memorably dyspeptic stories, but their basic message can be summed up in two words: Hollywood Sucks.

 



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