In a quirky combination of Communist threats, aging Hollywood divas and armed confidence tricksters, Fox sends an English schoolteacher to America and into a volatile clash of wills with mysterious adversaries on Sunset Bouldevard. Showcasing Fox’s deep love of Los Angeles, his tale centers on young Ruth, a perpetual daydreamer who is excited at coming to live in Hollywood when her father, Victor, is offered the position of business manager for Dave’s Sunset Drugstore.
Ruth sees this move as a big adventure and perhaps an accent to her budding writing career as “Dave of drugstore fame” meets Ruth, Victor, and mother Sarah at Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles. Safely ensconced at the apartment building next door, Ruth finds the
drugstore itself fascinating, a place not only for actors but also for writers and show-people in general who like to meet and share the latest gossip.
From day one, Ruth finds every excuse to visit her father, reveling in hearing in honey-sweet detail the stories of old Hollywood. Together with her best friend, Beth Ann, Ruth is absolutely besotted by the tales of old Cassandra Rova,
though she can’t quite shake off Cassandra’s warnings, her mind conjuring up all kinds of adventures and escapes that could happen to two young girls.
Meanwhile, Mary Perkins lands in Suffolk. A schoolteacher from a working-class suburb in South London, Mary’s parents were both committed pacifists, an issue that will come to haunt Mary after she joins the armed forces, and later, when filled with Puritan resolve, she lands in America as a war-bride on the arms of
clumsy, blue-eyed Conrad. Painfully shy and envying the camaraderie between other girls, it’s not surprising that Mary lets herself be swallowed up by Conrad’s “hungry kisses.”
There’s no turning back and nowhere to go. Mary dutifully follows Conrad across the country to his new life working at the Lockheed
airplane factory in Burbank, lambasted by his cruel smells of sweat, nicotine and booze. Ruth can’t escape the notion that she’s rushed things, that it has all been a horrible mistake. Left in a strange country with little money and few resources, Mary can’t even escape the oppressive, stifling heat of the San Fernando Valley.
Combining mystery elements with Ruth and Mary’s journey across the landscapes of Sunset Boulevard, Fox gives us a spoof of scenes from the daily investigations of Ruth, to
accusations of Communism, to poor Mary, who through a series of contrivances finds work as a teacher and is enlisted as a spy while Beth Ann's father, Shaun Corrigan, is placed under the “pinko” microscope. Then there’s actress Sherry Simone, who avidly attends auditions with high hopes but is frustrated when her efforts turn out to be nothing more than a “cattle call.”
Ruth knows to use all her investigative skills to get to the bottom of the
mysteries that lurk around her, but she also needs to clear her mind of Beth Ann
and Mary's strange behavior. Exposing Hollywood’s squalid glamour, Fox’s novel
unfolds in a pastiche of short vignettes where each chapter indicates yet
another phase of each character's hopes, dreams and aspirations, culminating in a crime of passion.