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The Player Paperback – March 24, 1997


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Set in the upper reaches of Hollywood moguldom, this powerful and disquieting first novel delivers the punch its strong beginning promises. Griffin Mill is a young, near-the-top executive at a major movie studio. His life is the movies, his life's goal is to run the studio, and his every move is measured for its effect on getting him there. He doesn't tell anyone when he begins receiving angry postcards from a writer who complains: "You said you'd get back to me. I'm still waiting"not because the cards threaten his life, but because they might be used against him within the studio. With a vague plan for propitiation, Griffin tries to pinpoint his threatening correspondent by making random contact with names from his calendar, all the while struggling not to lose his dominance in the management struggle. Dense with icons of the Hollywood mythstory meetings, power lunches, the right tables at the right restaurantsthis is a sharply etched mystery/thriller. But it is even more effective as a kind of modern morality tale. Griffin's self-absorption is so complete, his focus on his standing among colleagues and rivals so single-minded, that ordering from a luncheon menu takes on more significance to him than murder. In the hands of this talented writer, insecure, ruthless, aggressive Griffin Mill is an indelible character. 35,000 first printing; first serial to Manhattan, inc.; Literary Guild and Mystery Guild alternates.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Plagued by a disappointed writer's string of anonymously ominous postcards, Griffin Mill, a powerful Hollywood movie studio executive, commits a senseless murder and then takes up with his victim's girlfriend. Tolkin, himself a screenwriter, squishes this meagre story into his lead character's brain, where it becomes a minor league Dostoevskian psychological adventure, with the interesting subtext that a production executive's success leads not only to guilt and paranoia but to existential murder. Tolkin's bemused view of Hollywood is curt and bloodless yet hardly original, but he does have a keen perception of its various battle strategies. There's a happy ending, which the Hays Office wouldn't have liked, but Hollywood in the 1980s just might. David Bartholomew, NYPL
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 193 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reprint edition (March 24, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802135137
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802135131
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,130,747 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By David Alden on July 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Loved the movie, left flat by the book. I grasped the irony, but was bored by the sense of superiority, thought the writer's actions unbelievable, found the murder incomprehensible, and left uneasy about the relationship with June. About the only emotion to which I could relate was the paranoia about the possible arrest. The screenwriter had the sense to focus on that last emotion. I'd have liked the book better if Tolkin had done more of the same.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan E. Shapiro on October 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
It's a good story, but it's basically a skeleton of what would become Robert Altman's kaleidoscopic adaptation, filled with blink and you'll miss it cameos and references Tolkin's novel feels too heavy and it also lacks the humor present in the film. If you want to read some great Michael Tolkin, go to his sophomore novel, the powerful 'Against the Air', or his wonderful "L.A. Yuppie" trilogy of screenplays.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Guillermo on February 22, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This novel is tiresome, overwritten and shoddy. It makes that mediocre movie of the same name look like a work of genius.

For what it's worth, the most entertaining part of the novel is watching Griffin Mill lie. It's amusing, not laugh out-loud funny. The book becomes tiresome because the writer clearly hasn't thought out the story very well (Tolkin writes screenplays; screenwriters make bad novelists. I wonder how much Robert Altman contributed to his Oscar-nominated screenplay which is nothing like this trash).

If you want a book to make you annoyed, buy this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Martha Freeman on June 12, 2010
Format: Paperback
This is the book on which the Altman movie is based, and it has quite the Patricia Highsmith feel: News flash -- sometimes the bad guys win and don't even feel bad about it.

Griffin, a movie executive, is being sent vaguely threatening postcards, apparently by a disappointed and disgruntled screenwriter. To atone -- sort of -- he picks a screenwriter at random whom he met with and goes to see him at a screening of The Bicycle Thief. He figures if he makes a big effort to placate one guy, in some karmic way he will placate the postcard writer, too. This makes weird sense in the book. Anyway, for no reason (shades of The Stranger) beyond imitation and because he can -- he ends up committing a murder.

The main character is curiously amoral, and seems not to consider the effects of his actions on others. At the same time, he is a heck of an observer, not only of others but of himself, of the little games and mood shifts, the political one upsmanship, that to some extent defines daily life. It seems that games and observations on the most superficial level are all there are for him.
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By Slokes VINE VOICE on March 2, 2012
Format: Paperback
Golden stars set in concrete immortalize Hollywood's brightest legends. Its darker characters look down on them from posh office suites. That's the message of this 1988 Michael Tolkin novel.

Griffin Mill is the production head of a major, unnamed Hollywood studio. He's a cool customer with an uncaring way of blowing off screenwriters. That is until one screenwriter decides to even the score by putting Mill on notice. A series of menacing postcards are sent with elliptical warning messages: "Is it me, or is it you?" "I'm waiting for your call." "I'm going to kill you." Mill is under some pressure with a potential rival in his executive wing, and maybe it gets to him. Or maybe he has other issues. In either event, bad stuff starts happening. Maybe Hollywood is just that kind of town.

Coming to the book having seen the famous Robert Altman movie, which most readers today will do, is to be prepared for the story but not its treatment. The movie, while scripted by Tolkin, comes from a different headspace altogether. It's an up-tempo, dark satire on Hollywood as a warped fun factory where a record number of real-life stars appear as themselves. The novel is darkly satiric, too, but not in an amusing way. Instead, it works as a murder mystery with the mystery being whether we want the murderer to get away with it. The question isn't as easy to answer as in the movie.

Tolkin doesn't try to help the reader along. He plays off the novel's fatal moment in an almost casual manner that adds to its sense of unreality, and everything that happens after suggests we are watching a first-hand view of a functional psychopath. His status serves as commentary on how Hollywood operates, and perhaps in a larger way, how the rest of the world operates.
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Format: Paperback
I picked it up in a library discard sale--The Player is one of my favorite movies. Top 10 all-time for sure. While I don't know what changes the incomparable Robert Altman made to the script, Michael Tolkin was also the author of the screenplay. The dialogue and the story of both the movie and the book are incredibly good.

The key to Griffin Mill in the book is his obsessive consciousness of the impression words and actions make. He treats every encounter as though it were part of a movie, seeking to tell the clearest story in the most economical way. This is part of what lets him get away with murder (like Sherman McCoy in Bonfire of the Vanities, he's always asking himself, "What would an innocent man do?")

Like the Griffin Mill in the film version, he doesn't seem to realize that he really IS in a movie (sort of). I mean, whenever a major turning point occurs, he's just being swept along. He doesn't know why the murder and sex are happening, almost as though his life is being punched up by some unseen executive who doesn't think his story is interesting enough.
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