Wednesday, October 26, 2011

All It Takes is One Great Book

I have admitted before to being a lazy writer, and I stand by that. But give me one great book to inspire me, and I rush into action (as much action as a writer can be counted on for), considering so many ways that I could write a book.

I've found that great book. It's The Men Who Would Be King by master Hollywood journalist Nicole LaPorte, who documents the formation and dissolution of DreamWorks SKG, which was started by Steven Spielberg (S), Jeffrey Katzenberg (K), and David Geffen (G), all big Hollywood power players in one way or another, Spielberg most obvious.

The people interviewed for this book embrace the cloak of invisiblity, preferring to talk to LaPorte where they couldn't be seen by other Hollywood denizens and possibly ratted out to Katzenberg or Geffen. Piss off one of them, and your career is over even before you got to where you hoped you would be one day. Hollywood is a tight-knit town with sharp teeth.

LaPorte's writing is brilliant, bringing you right into the plans for DreamWorks, the press conferences held by SKG that touted how different DreamWorks would be from the Hollywood norm, how they fancied themselves the next generation from United Artists, which was begun by Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, and D.W. Griffith. Just as United Artists existed for the artists in Hollywood, so too would DreamWorks.

But the dream came with many costs, and flops from the start, before becoming a possible shining star with the releases of Saving Private Ryan and American Beauty. The acrimonous relationships written about here are utterly fascinating, but it's not LaPorte's expose style that inspires me; it's her level of detail, how she's so thoroughly researched her subject, interviewed what must have been hundreds of people at least, and gotten every single detail she sought that there is no way another book could match. There's no way another book could be written, because I don't think any other writer would have the guts that LaPorte has. This is immediately another classic Hollywood book.

I'm only on page 200, but I've been reading it with my jaw partway to the floor. I want to write my 1930s Hollywood history book like this, with as much detail as I can find to keep it interesting. I have a partial idea of where I might like to go with it, and I intend to see if it's workable based on the records I hope to find after preliminary research with a few of the books I got about the studio system back then. But reading LaPorte's book, I feel like I can do this. The research is going to be a lot of fun, and I can feel the laziness lifting.