In this novel Bukowski's alter-ego, Henry Chinaski writes a screenplay which is filmed in Hollywood. The book is a thinly veiled biography and charts the makings of the film Barfly which starred Micky Rourke and Faye Dunaway.
Part of Bukowski's charm is that he writes simply. However, whilst this works brilliantly in books like Post Office and Factotum, it works less well here. This is because the subject matter of the early novels features Chinaski as a down and out in dead end jobs - an existence that most of us are unfamiliar with. In this novel, Bukowski charts the excesses of Hollywood, which whilst amusing and shocking are not unfamiliar. The difficulty is that we are saturated with images of Hollywood and familiar with exposees of it. Amongst this, Bukowski struggles to tell us anything new.
The parts of the book that I enjoyed most were the sections away from Hollywood. Bukowski writes engagingly about his reasons for betting on the track and the psychology of those who attend. His visits to the local ghettoes expose a different type of madness to the Hollywood excess.
This remains an entertaining book and Bukowski is aware of the criticisms that some of his fans might make. He is aware that he is enjoying material wealth and whilst enjoying this worries that he is selling out. He is also aware of the limitations of his style. He quotes others accusing him of writing simply because he himself is simple. Despite this, Bukowski's voice is engaging in its bottomless pessimism and its self depriciating tone. This book is worth reading, its just not one of his best.