Monday, January 9, 2012

Thank Goodness for Julie Hyzy

Before I get to what this is all about, I just discovered that my workload on Tuesday at the Margaret Herrick Library has increased considerably, though I'm not complaining because there could be even more treasure to unearth.

I searched the library catalog again for the scripts of the movies I'm writing about, to check the date on one of them, and left the search terms at "keyword," rather than "exact beginning of title." I found the listing of that particular script, but further down that page, I saw the listing of the papers of a man who was an art director on one of the sequels, and then the production designer of the following sequel. According to the listing, there's "eight production design drawings," (and I've got to see if any of them are related to my movies), as well as an album assembled by this man and his wife of their careers in Hollywood.

Below that listing was one for the papers of a man who was a set decorator on the first movie I'm writing about, which turns out to have been his last movie. His papers include the script of that first movie and I want to see if there's any notations by him on it, perhaps any insight into his thinking during production, maybe even communication with the writer/director of the film, of whom I can't find much, at least not yet, so I'm relying on other sources to hopefully give me something about him.

Each listing says that these papers are "Available by appointment only," so I'm going to call the library later today and make an appointment. I'll be at the library for hours anyway, more than I thought now with these papers potentially available to me.

Ahead of this important research visit (I'm still stunned that I'm allowed to do this), I began reading the novel that the first movie is based on. I started yesterday afternoon, but by page 136, I'd had it. I know I have to keep reading to get a good grasp on this since I haven't read it in many years, and I respect the author because his insights into various institutions are generally unmatched, but he dumps all his research into his novels, and character descriptions go far beyond what's necessary in the service of the story. There were instances where 20-30 pages passed before getting back to other characters, most of those pages taken up by explanations. The author doesn't think his readers are morons, far from it. He wants them to know what he knows, what they might not know and might be interested in. But there are so many times in this novel that I want him to get on with it already.

I couldn't take this cement block of a novel anymore and went looking for something else to read. I needed a break from the world of my second book, and in one stack near my bed, I found State of the Onion by Julie Hyzy, billed on the paperback cover as "First in the new White House Chef Mystery series." I've been looking for a series I could get into, because I want characters I can go back to often, for as long as an author writes them. I'm trying the Nero Wolfe series again because though I was bored by the mysteries themselves, I liked Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. I liked Wolfe's schedule of life, and I liked the rapport he and Archie have. I have the first two novels in a stack somewhere in my room, but I know where they are when I'm ready.

I also want a series of some kind that I can relate to. I still have the latter two novels of Ridley Pearson's Kingdom Keepers series to read, and that may become automatic because it revolves around the Disney empire. With State of the Onion, I would have a fictional White House to read about (For me, fictional presidencies count, as The West Wing is my favorite show of all time), and maybe whatever mystery is involved would be more interesting because it would be happening in the White House.

Thank goodness for Julie Hyzy! She cured me of nearly-punishing boredom and gave me much happiness in reading about this White House. Hyzy has clearly done a lot of research, and she threads it throughout her story; she doesn't dump all of it in one place. I like novelists who remember that they're writing a novel. Olivia "Ollie" Paras, the White House Assistant Chef, is most enjoyable to know. At the beginning, she carries no baggage and is not a detective in any way. She gets caught in the middle of a major security breach on the grounds of the White House and begins to think that something's not quite right about it after footage on the news is different from what she saw. She digs from there.

Hyzy also fully draws the rest of the kitchen staff, including retiring White House Executive Chef Henry Cooley, and even those characters who are assholes as soon as they walk in, namely Peter Everett Sargent III, head of the White House's Etiquette Affairs department (He prefers "Sensitivity Director"), are fun to hiss at and hope for a swift-enough demise. Hyzy does that very well because you can't be angry at them for too long. There's so much else going on. Hyzy also makes the fictional names of Middle Eastern countries seem plausible. It's not like Hollywood Novelist Syndrome where the names of big stars in that universe seem so far-fetched, even though it's all fiction.

It's rare lately that I read a 301-page novel in one sitting, but this was that novel. And I've already ordered the second novel in Hyzy's series. It makes going back to the novel for my research easier to bear. I've got strength again because of Hyzy.