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Killer Instinct: How Two Young Producers Took on Hollywood and Made the Most Controversial Film of the Decade Paperback – June 1, 1998
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From Library Journal
At the beginning of her tale of the making of a big Hollywood picture, Hamsher finds herself in her bathrobe with the flu and not enough money to pay the rent. She goes on to chronicle the misadventures of her life with business partner Don Murphy as they try to succeed as film producers in Hollywood shortly after graduating from the University of Southern California film school. They live on their passion for movies and lunches with people who may or, more likely, may not be able to help them advance their careers. Finally, their work pays off as they buy the script for Natural Born Killers from then unknown Quentin Tarantino and convince Oliver Stone to direct it, resulting in one of the most controversial films ever made?and a great success for the young producers. Hamsher's style is gritty and to the point, she drops names, and she is unabashedly critical of the Hollywood power players and the men's world she encounters. The reader should know a bit about the film industry before reading this volume, which ultimately would make an interesting film. For academic or public libraries with film collections.?Lisa N. Johnston, Sweet Briar Coll. Lib., Va.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Kirkus Reviews
This lean, mean, scabrously honest account of the making of Natural Born Killers amply proves the truism that moviemaking is a ``controlled accident.'' What goes on behind the scenes of certain movies is often a better, more involving story than what appears on-screen. Such is certainly the case with the notorious Natural Born Killers. One of Quentin Tarantino's early scripts, it was optioned by two ambitious recent film-school graduates, Hamsher and Don Murphy. The script was optioned when Tarantino was still an unknown; later, a suddenly hot Tarantino decided that he didn't want the film to be made. His substantial efforts to stop Murphy and Hamsher (including bad- mouthing the pair to studios) were trumped, however, when Oliver Stone decided that he wanted to make this his next film. And that's when things really spun out of control, including long, drug-fueled location-scouting trips, a prison riot during shooting, and innumerable back-stabbings. Stone's preferred modus operandi involves elaborate mindgames, playing his crew members off against each other--purportedly to energize their creativity. The results were predictably chaotic and venomous. Rarely has a book by a Hollywood player (albeit a minor one) been so confessional and recklessly revealing, detailing just how mean and twisted, petty and vindictive, the movie industry can be: ``The world of Hollywood . . . belonged to the cantankerous sons of bitches who were willing to risk any humiliation, broach any authority, get on the phone and scream until they got what they wanted.'' Hamsher freely burns bridges left and right, viciously (though apparently justifiably) damning Tarantino, sideswiping Stone, lambasting agents and studio execs. Forget lunch. After this book, she'll be lucky to do a snack in Hollywood. But her recklessness is our gain: This compelling look behind the curtain should help dispel forever any fond illusions about the ``magic'' of movies. (35 b&w photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Charlie's character is complex and believable. I liked her spunky point of view from the get-go. She is vulnerable and yet tough, steadfast in her beliefs of right and wrong, and with a desire to help others, even when putting herself in danger.
Trained for the army Special Forces, she now teaches self-defense to women. Short on cash, she takes on a job as a bouncer in a new nightclub. Always believing that it is best to cool a confrontation than to escalate it, Charlie is not favored by her all-male team, until she shows them that she is not afraid of a fight. While working at the club, Charlie finds connections with the venue, rapes that have been happening in town, and the murder of her friend.
The plot is full of surprises. As they story unfolds, you find out why Charlie is the person she is, what is really going on at the New Adelphi club, who is raping local women, and who wants to kill Charlie. When you think you have it figured out, there is a new twist.
Set aside a few hours to enjoy this strong female protagonist. I surely did.
The best part about discovering an established author is: No wait for the next book!
What makes an author like Ms. Sharp stand out from others is her skill. The writing is exceptional. Not just the metaphors and similes, but even the conjunctions. The little bits that hold a story together. Frank Lloyd Wright once said, "Take care of the unions and the rest will take care of itself." He referred to union of beam and joist. Architecture and writing are parallel arts. Like architecture, writing requires detailed unions, a firm foundation, a plot with a view, and above all, it must be livable. Frank Lloyd Wright's attention to all those elements, right down to the unions, made his the most sought after architecture in history. Likewise, Zöe Sharp's attention to design elements both strategic and tactical make hers not just exciting thrillers, but beautiful as well.
The unions in writing are the transitions from suspense to explosive excitement. Often characters stumble from point A to point B with tiresome clichés. Ms. Sharp addresses these droll details with passages like this:
Into the quiet that followed came the raucous squeal of children at war. Somewhere upstairs, a baby cried relentlessly.
An important plot point followed that transition. A plot point involving children in a book about nightclubs and rapists. And it's not what you're thinking. It was such a clever transition and exceptional point that the reader is unwittingly drawn ever deeper into a tangled and fascinating web of character motivations.
The foundation in writing is the plausibility. Where women protagonists are concerned, this is too often swept under the `oh just go with it' principle. My favorite example of failure in plausibility is the Angelina Jolie movie, SALT. She beats up steroid-fed giants left and right despite having a height, weight, and reach disadvantage. Unreal. Completely. Not so with Ms. Sharp. She lays the ground work for a woman who can beat up big men and explains how. Not just using the right leverage, which is possible with a little luck, but in avoiding the unnecessary fight and outright fleeing when appropriate. Charlie Fox knows when to stand and when to run. Even more important to a believable character is what happens in her head. Ms. Sharp makes Charlie Fox come alive with thoughts like this:
If it's touched you personally, you look at other people taking risks with a sense of anger, as though they're belittling your own experience.
Even out of context, you know what she's talking about. These small but important pieces build a solid foundation on which a sympathetic character can stand.
A writer's plot is a threaded rope that a mystery/thriller fan like me can usually unravel by halfway through. If you read enough, red herrings are easy to spot. What keeps jaded readers like me both distracted and involved is the subplot. A well-placed subplot is like a garden a picture window's foreground. In Ms. Sharp's case, the subplot is heartbreaking and real. With only this passage, you can almost feel the tension between Charlie Fox and her parents:
I tried that out for size on the twisted corner of my psyche that had been feeding on my bitterness and hostility towards them for the last couple of years. It had been leaching acid into my mind like a perforated ulcer.
A good writer can make a passage like that seem real. Ms. Sharp is better than good, she binds you to the character so tightly that you'll clench your fist while reading. That's what makes it livable. I was not surprised to see someone bragging on Facebook just yesterday that she'd just acquired an original edition of Killer Instinct at considerable cost.
I'm looking for one myself.
Bottom line: Run right out and buy this book! Or any of Ms. Sharp's other books.
Peace, Seeley James