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A sloppy rough draft--where was the editor???
on 20 April 1998
HIGH CONCEPT is the perfect example of what's wrong with Hollywood, but it is also a very good example of what's wrong with book publishing. In its rush to get the book out (for who knows what reason--there isn't a pressing news hook that I know of) Doubleday seems to have totally neglected to edit Fleming's hastily cobbled together draft. Stories and details are repeated within pages of each other; characters are introduced and reintroduced; particular phrases crop up again and again; there are huge narrative gaps; digressions are so clearly shoehorned into the narrative that they undermine the point they wish to serve; etc., etc. The best sections of the book are those Fleming lifted, word-for-word, from his magazine stories on Simpson (at least those pieces had an editor!). But even then, major aspects of the story are glossed over. You can see just how cribbed the manuscript is in the way Fleming describes DAY OF THUNDER or TOP GUN--in depth and revealing--versus CRIMSON TIDE (the movie that really "rescued" Simpson-Bruckheimer from oblivion), which is mentioned several times in passing without a real discussion of how much it meant (let alone its production, bar one throwaway comment about casting). That 1995-1996 was in many ways the most successful period of Simpson-Bruckheimer, but Fleming says almost nothing of the films they made then (DANGEROUS MINDS, etc.). I finished this book depressed and amazed at Hollywood's culture of excess, but just as depressed at publishing's culture of editorial laziness. Why did Doubleday feel such a need to crash this book? An editor could have done wonders with just a weekend of work. But it is more than that. Doubleday should have given Fleming another year to actually research the book, instead of forcing him to copy from his own work and such lame sources as YOU'LL NEVER MAKE LOVE IN THIS TOWN AGAIN (which he heavily relies on).
Get HIT AND RUN, a great book on Hollywood excess. HIGH CONCEPT is a great subject still in search of a good book.