Written by Lee Matthew Goldberg — November might be long gone, but here at Crime Fiction Lover we continue to bring you the latest indie releases long after our annual New Talent November event. New Pulp Press, no respecters of genre boundaries, is publishing Lee Matthew Goldberg’s debut novel.
Noah Spaeth is a 22-year-old New Yorker who has just been fired from his job with an online media company for writing bitchy emails about his boss. To say that he’s not concerned by this would be an understatement. His life so far has been one of obscene privilege. Noah and his siblings Dex and Cassie, a college dropout and a high school student respectively, are supported financially by their absent parents. In turn, the parents’ retirement has become one never-ending round of international parties. Besides, deep down, Noah knows he’s got a special talent, and that one day the world will recognise what a great writer he is. Trouble is, he has writer’s block, something he blames upon his unrequited love for his high school friend and drug-buddy Nevie Wyeth.
While out one night bar-hopping, Noah bumps into Nevie who introduces him to her latest boyfriend, the film director Dominick Bambach. Bambach was at one time a Hollywood prodigy but his erratic behaviour has seen his star wane, and he hasn’t made a film for several years. He’s in New York planning his comeback with a film called Slow Down which will star Nevie. The screenplay, he promises, is revolutionary but exists only in his head, and the actors will receive only the tiniest amount of direction each day in the hope that this will produce the most naturalistic performances. Noah is star-struck despite his jealousy, and through flattery manages to get a small part as Dominick’s assistant.
As filming commences the characters’ relationships begin to fall apart. Noah becomes increasingly unconvinced by Dominick’s methods, and encouraged by Dominick’s estranged wife Isadora, begins to think the emperor has no clothes. Fuelled by his own sense of entitlement, his jealousy, and his anger towards Dominick, who appears to be encouraging Nevie’s spiralling use of a new drug called Fast for creative reasons, he begins to plot Dominick’s downfall. But in the ruthless world of filmmaking is the cost of success a price worth paying?
Goldberg’s portrayal of the New York demi-monde is one of the book’s strengths and brings to mind Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero. He also succeeds in marshalling a complicated plot which is much simplified above. However Slow Down is not a complete success. The lack of a sympathetic character is a distinct weakness and I was left unclear what the author’s true intentions were. Is Slow Down a satire, a morality play or a thriller? It plays with being all three but would have benefited from committing to one.
New Pulp Press
CFL Rating: 3 Stars