A Musical Novel
By Bruce Jay Friedman
(Grove Press, Paperback, 9780802138750, 224pp.)
Publication Date: November 2001
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Bruce Jay Friedman is the reigning don of the ironic comic novel, a man of whom The New York Times has written, "His writing is so funny -- and deceptively effortless -- critics often liken it to a stand-up comedy routine." Now he triumphantly returns to the form with Violencia!, a crackling satire of show-business pomposity, flimflam, and dreck in the spirit of Mel Brooks's The Producers. Paul Gurney is a struggling civilian clerk working the desk at a major New York homicide precinct who runs a department newsletter, The Homicider, that covers the goings-on at the precinct, dispenses advice, and disseminates interoffice gossip. But Gurney is newly divorced and dissatisfied, and abruptly decides to retire from the force, not knowing exactly what he'll do next. When he meets a shady Broadway impresario who wants to create a stage musical from his newsletter, he soon finds himself plunging headlong into the world of actors, agents, singers, songwriters, hacks, hams, and con artists. As the show Violencia! moves from rounds of financing from suspect sources to questionable casting calls to a disastrous out-of-town opening (at each stage getting progressively -- and hilariously -- worse and worse), Gurney enjoys the high living, romantic flings, and glamour of the entertainment industry. But he also comes to realize that show people aren't that different from other people he already knows: the thugs, lowlifes, and cutthroats he's encountered during his career on the homicide squad. Packed with unforgettably reprehensible characters, unimaginably turgid lyrics, and unimpeachably funny dialogue, Bruce Jay Friedman's Violencia! is a sidesplitting farce about the dark underbelly of the Great White Way.