Chapter 1

I am high.

“I—” My voice catches. I cannot string together a whole sentence. My eyes open. I’ve been deposited in the back of my parents’ black Mercedes. I look at the dashboard clock. Where did the last forty-five minutes go? Beyond the windshield, gates swing open. The car rolls forward. I turn: I want a parting shot. Through the back window, I see twenty-foot walls lined with electrified barbed wire.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?  “Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl / With yellow feathers in her hair and a dress cut down to there / She would merengue and do the cha-cha …”

When I moved to L.A., people were selling spec screenplays at auction for millions of dollars. I planned on doing the same thing, and retire in three years (five seemed way too long.) That didn’t work out and I fell into journalism the way other people step into a puddle — or, as it turned out, dog poo.

Meaning, I worked in Hollywood, ate buckets of jelly beans while seeing a staggering number of free movies (screenings), going to parties and premieres that I’d forget before I got home, and breaking stories. Like, Botox. I knew my days were numbered the year I dreaded the prospect of another Academy Awards. Undiagnosed, I was suffering from Red Carpet Weekly Burn-Out.

Fortunately, I’d started writing my first novel and continued that project while working as a journalist.  That first novel was supposed to parachute me out of journalism the way screenwriting was supposed to buy my Italian Villa. Silly me, I thought there was money in novel writing. It was a total shock when I realized, five hundred agent rejections later, that I wasn’t the next Jacqueline Susann (or, even, Sidney Sheldon – and he evaded the I.R.S. on yachts.)