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A tawdry Hollywood game show is ground zero for celebrities to seek revenge against one another in Patrick’s (Tea Cups & Tiger Claws, 2014) darkly humorous novel.

The name says it all: StarBash thrives on ridiculing its thespian contestants. Audiences love it, and ratings couldn’t be better. But while participants are typically unemployed actors and has-beens fighting for the prize of a $10 million movie deal, no one knows why popular actor Cassandra Moreaux would sign on for its fourth season. Cass, however, has a personal reason: It’s the only way she can score a meeting with 87-year-old actor Lenora Danmore. Lenora initially launched StarBash to fund her interactive movie museum, convincing her reluctant manager, Micah Bailey, to act as the game show’s host. But Cass is more interested in an event 70 years in the past. She’s certain Lenora got her actor mother blacklisted as a communist. Though proof of this could blemish Lenora’s celluloid legacy, she doesn’t want Cass going anywhere. She’s planning to stoke ratings even further with contestant Brandi Bonacore, an actor who blames Cass for her own stalled career. Their inevitable feud becomes the latest season’s driving force as participants fall by the wayside. Around the same time, Cass learns that Micah is more than the Hollywood-loathing host he appears to be. She holds tight to her vendetta against Lenora while also becoming Brandi’s target for revenge. Regardless of how things unfold, Lenora may have a scheme of her own to counter any potential evidence Cass possesses.

Patrick’s story is not an outright condemnation of Hollywood. For one, very little is known about additional contestants, including what presumed missteps have led them to StarBash. Likewise, much of the derision comes from Micah (as host), who even mocks penny-pinching guest Elmer and his tips on how to save money. The narrative’s true focus is the presumed artificiality of Hollywood’s denizens. Behind all that glamour, in other words, are genuine and struggling people. This is comically epitomized by glitzy New York Plaza Hotel as the fourth season’s setting. The cast actually lives in cramped trailers, films on California soundstages, and travels in vans with the crew to locations. Characters like Micah aren’t as insubstantial as they initially seem; he has such distaste for his hosting duties that he resists pressure from Lenora to hang on for seasons five and six. Furthermore, he and Cass unexpectedly bond by sharing their love of films. Cass loves the classics, while Micah prefers documentaries. The TV show’s concept is formulaic, but the cast continually evolves. Brandi’s contempt for Cass, for example, isn’t completely unfounded. The novel sometimes waxes profound, even when steeped in cynicism: “Almost anyone can be selfless, if they have enough time to think about it and to arrange the circumstances so that the unpleasant act will cause as little discomfort as possible.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, this particular notion correlates with one character’s truly selfless deed.

Well-considered, engaging behind-the-scenes look at both the movie and TV industries.

Review by Grady Harp

California author Timothy Patrick earned his degree form UCLA and to date has published two books – TEA CUPS & TIGER CLAWS and now DEATH OF A MOVIE STAR.

Timothy’s style of writing is just the right blend of mystery and humor and satire and this book - a parody of how Hollywood functions and why we are all seemingly obsessed by its products – is proof that he knows the territory.

He opens his novel with mise-en-scène that seduces us into his book - ‘Everyone gets a free murder. It’s like a savings bond given to a newborn baby. The only catch is that it takes eighty years to mature. At that age, or anytime thereafter, you are free to commit the murder of your choice. And then, faster than you can say, “rip-roaring-rigor-mortis,” your special privileges begin accruing. At arraignment your advanced age and various medical conditions are noted. The judge looks at you, and your oxygen tank, and says something benignly humorous about your flight-risk probability. You are then released on personal recognizance. The district attorney isn’t terribly excited because convicting frail, elderly murderers doesn’t seem to impress voters as much as convicting young, menacing ones. Better for everyone if you and your crime just quietly fade away. Your numerous continuance requests, therefore, are met with less than vigorous resistance, and your trial is postponed four, five, or even six years. During this time you live peacefully in your own home, which, given an average life expectancy of seventy-eight years, is also where you will die long before the lethargic arm of justice ever comes to gather you up. Eighty-seven-year-old Lenora Danmore had been willing to exercise this privilege. It was true, the initial scandal might have damaged her reputation, and that of her museum, but over time, the pall of murder would have most likely fallen away and left nothing but a captivating dark passion to her life story, a touch of infamy adorning a remarkable fame, and her reputation would have recovered. But then a chubby Italian actress by the name of Brandi Bonacore came along, and Lenora realized that while a free murder is all fine and good, a perfect murder is even better. This was the reason Lenora had traveled the sixty miles from her ranch in the foothills above Ventura, California, to a strip-mall diner in Studio City on a blustery day in January 2020. She wore a cream-colored Ralph Lauren pinstriped skirt suit with an upturned collar and matching gloves. The booth where she sat smelled like ketchup. She touched as little as possible…etc’ So he has our attention secured.

The plot is well described in his synopsis – ‘StarBash is the hottest thing on TV. Featuring desperate actors facing off in absurd competitions to win a movie deal, the reality show is famous for making fools of its fame-starved participants. So it seems odd that respected Hollywood A-lister Cassandra "Casmo" Moreaux would become a contestant. But her motivation is simple: revenge against the program’s producer, Lenora Danmore—an old starlet who had Casmo’s mother blacklisted from show business during the McCarthy era. Casmo plans to use StarBash to confront and embarrass Lenora in front of the entire country—but what Casmo doesn’t know could kill her. Vindictive and wicked, Lenora is determined to set a trap for the upstart movie star. But when Casmo unexpectedly falls in love with the show’s wry host—who also happens to be Lenora’s illegitimate son—the murder plot bubbles over with unforeseen complications.’

First class parody, this, and it seems as though there are seeds now planted for future equally satisfying novels. Timothy shows a fine polish for a writer at the onset of his career. Grady Harp, February 18

Review by Billy J. Hobbs

Even if you’re not at expert level in the Movie/TV Buff category, Timothy Patrick’s “Death of a Movie Star” will undoubtedly prick your interest. In this day of reality TV, filled with the wildest, most absurd competitions, Mr. Patrick provides us with what could be called the “inside” of such productions, of such glamorous and not so glamorous lives of the principal characters.

It seems that Cassandra Moreaux, is determined to be a contestant on "StarBash," just the hottest and highest rated reality show on TV. Nevermind that it’s quite mindless—and known for making fools of the contestants (hence its high ratings). But Cass has another motive. It seems that back in the McCarthy witch hunting days that scorched many a name and reputation in show business, her mother was one of those who were ruined. So—enter the venerable if not vindictive Lenora Danmore, one of Hollywood’s legends (who’s now quite aging, of course, but still mean spirited and determined to stay ahead and in the limelight). Cass believes it was Lenora who “did in” her mother and her plan is coming to fruition: to exact revenge upon Lenora o national TV. Alas, of course, it’s not quite that simple, as there are other, opposing forces at work. And add to all this, Cass develops a “liking” to Lenora’s illegitimate son, adding a bit of romance to the recipe. Shakespeare, Aeschylus, and the writers of “Dallas” could have taken notes!

“Death of a Movie Star” is a quick read. Laced with the Hollywood issues, the plot does have a purpose and the author nimbly takes us through the paces with some wry (and not so wry) humor and various touches and allusions to keep our little gray cells active. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I “received a free advance reviewers copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.” I recommend this book, honestly and without bias (although I admit that this genre and subject matter are among my favorites), as a fun read, one that certainly held my interest (at the same time giving me even more insight into “the business”).

Review by James Ellsworth

I waver between five and four stars for this remarkable book. Pacing is taut; characterizations are complex and are drawn from the world of screen acting during Hollywood's Golden Years, topped off a bit by today's Reality Television programming. The book is suspenseful for sure, and we are kept holding our collective breath and hoping for the best to the very end. Along the way, the author involves us in 'what makes a show;' what makes an actor and, equally important, what makes an honest or a real human being. Serious ideas are explored along with a range of noble and ignoble human traits. Well worth reading by thoughtful readers as well as by entertainment seekers.