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Magic Man Hardcover – August 8, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
Screenwriter (The Last Sign) and former film critic Base entertains with this inventive and evocative novel of 1928 Hollywood, which follows Brae Orrack, a "magic man" who can turn stones into bees and is under a curse that will kill him in one month unless he finds "that which cannot be found." The elusive object is love, and his cousin, a witch, has convinced him that he can find love in Hollywood. Orrack's search leads to fortuitous encounters with several Hollywood legends: Gary Cooper, "It" girl Clara Bow and George Raft all play important parts in Orrack's odyssey. When Orrack meets adventuress Nell Devereaux, he thinks that he's finally found the one, but Nell's jealous paramour, Cuban dictator Gerardo Machado, kidnaps her and escapes to Cuba with Orrack in hot pursuit. In a novel filled with surprises, Base saves the biggest for last. There's something for everyone: humor, mystery, suspense, nostalgia and, of course, a little magic. (Aug.)
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And there's a business about turning stones into bees. The hero seems capable of doing this, but then it seems as if he's just a sleight-of-hand practitioner who's able to make other people think he can. Finally, it seems that he's suffering an affliction that makes him the one being fooled. Turning stones into bees doesn't come up all that often, but often enough that you want to know the truth of it. And it's about the only trick in the book on which to base the title.
Magic man is the story of Brae Orrack, a supposedly forgotten hidden man in Hollywood, dying of a mysterious curse set upon his head, whose manuscript of his adventures was discovered in a soundstage on a famous studio lot. His introduction is crisp and intriguing. His humor is dry and engaging. And the voice in which he tells the story and paints the picture is one that stands on it's own. His adventures, as a magic man, takes him to seedy hotels, glorious neighborhoods bumping shoulders with and having eccentric run-in's with George Raft, Garry Cooper and Clara Bow at a time when the film industry was changing in 1928. When the pictures made the transition to sound, that's when all this hidden, poignant chaos began. It has car chases, romance, mysterious characters and unforgettable scenes with dialogue that will keep you glued to your seat almost breathless by the time you reach the next chapter.
This lost treasure of a book is one I would read again and recommend to others for just a good old fashioned story. It seems that this is the first and only fictional tale Ron Base chose to right. Well, one thing is for certain, it certainly left an impression . . . and made me believe in magic once again.