Literary, etc is an eclectic blog where we talk & review books, films, & whatever strikes our mood.
I just love the cover for Shelly Frome’s Tinseltown Riff! It’s a perfect fit for a book set in Hollywood and about a screenwriter trying to catch a break.
The writing is solid and narration is in third person. At times, Tinseltown Riff does read more like a screenplay rather than a novel and it can frustrate a reader because a scene will cut to a different set of characters and you’re left wondering where it is all going. Though, I will admit Frome has a talent to write as if you’re seeing a movie rather than reading a book. One can only hope Tinseltown Riff will one day be adapted and can be seen on screen. He also intermixes a bit of Spanish among a few character conversations. If you’re not fluent in Spanish, don’t despair since Frome does explain what the words mean either right after it’s been said or another character will respond by answering the question.
As for characterization, we have a wide array of characters. Ben is the main protagonist and tied very much to the plot, but overall, I don’t feel as if we get to know each character well. Again, this goes in hand with Tinseltown Riff reading more like a screenplay. The ultimate question you might be wondering is, does it work? Yes, it does, but it does slow down the pace. I’ll be honest; I was confused as to who’s who and everyone’s relationship. Truth be told, it doesn’t matter who and what they are; this is a story about Ben and how he never seems to catch a break. I liked him and you can’t help but cheer for the underdog. As for the rest of the characters, they are quirky. There’s Mrs. Melnick whose goal to be on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno then there’s Leo, a Russian obsessed with his visa status. We can’t forget about Angelique who calls the shots, Deke who isn’t afraid to pull the trigger, C.J. the undercover cop who may have dubious plans, and Molly who finds herself caught in the middle. Plus there’s June, the woman who reluctantly raises Ben when his mother abandons him. There are several more characters that make an appearance and play a vital role.
I debated with the rating between a three and four. In the end, I went with a three because I felt the pacing was a bit too slow and at times I just couldn’t connect with the novel. Mostly, it comes down to having a large cast of characters and not being able to associate with one in particular. Even though this was Ben’s story, he’s in the background and I wanted to know more about him. The scenes with C.J. and the kids are the best! I loved the interaction and how C.J. was protective towards them. It’s apparent, Frome is familiar with the acting business and he does a great job translating his knowledge to print. Unfortunately, there was just a lot going on and I couldn’t keep up.
Overall, Shelly Frome’s Tinseltown Riff was a satisfactory read. While it didn’t work for me, Frome does know how to keep readers engaged. If you’re a fan of action packed novels, you’ll enjoy Tinseltown Riff. I’m looking forward to reading a few of Frome’s backlist since I did like his style of writing.