IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

‘Death by Hollywood’

A down-on-his-luck screenwriter named Bobby Newman tries to turn a brutal murder into his next movie payday.
/ Source: TODAY

While spying on his Hollywood Hills neighbors through his $4,000 Bushnell XR90 electronic telescope, Bobby watches in horror as a beautiful socialite bludgeons her lover to death with his own acting trophy. Deciding to write about it instead of reporting it to the cops, Bobby insinuates himself into Detective Dennis Farentino’s murder investigation, forging an unusual friendship with the cop that turns out to be more complex than either of them had bargained for. Read an excerpt of Steven Bochco’s dark crime novel, “Death by Hollywood,” to learn about a screenwriter, a billionaire’s wife, a murder, and, of course, a cop.

Listen to an audio excerpt of “Death by Hollywood” read by actor Dennis Franz. Audio excerpt provided courtesy of Random House Audio. Warning, this audio excerpt contains language that may be unsuitable for minors.

THERE USED TO be a writer by the name of merle Miller, who wrote that people in Hollywood are always touching you — not because they like you, but because they want to see how soft you are before they eat you alive. He was right. It’s a tough town and a tough business, and if you don’t watch your step, either one’ll kill you, which I guess is what this story is actually about.

By way of formal introduction, my name is Eddie Jelko, and I’m an agent. I represent screenwriters, primarily, and a few important directors. I used to represent actors when I first started in the business almost twenty years ago, but it didn’t take me long to figure out that actors are crazy. They tend to be paranoid, narcissistic, and, in general, oblivious to the needs and feelings of others. The good news is, they can also be charming, seductive, charismatic, and, in the case of the very few, so genuinely gifted that simply being in their presence is a privilege. That said, celebrity, for the ego-challenged, can be as destructive as heroin. A little is too much, as they say, and too much is never enough.

In my naïveté, I thought writers and directors would be different. Fat chance. They’re just as loony. In fact, the entertainment industry as a whole is one giant dysfunctional family. Everyone’s terrified — of their own failure, or of everyone else’s success — and as a general rule, you can assume that everyone lies about everything. (Have you ever looked at an actor’s résumé — at the bottom, under special skills? Speaks three languages. Black belt in martial arts. Rides horses and motorcycles. Juggling and acrobatics. The truth is, you’re lucky if they can drive a fucking car.)

And agents? By and large, we’re nothing more than well-paid pimps who represent our pooched-out clients as if they’re beautiful young virgins, offering them up to a bunch of jaded johns who know better, but these are the only whores in town. As the saying goes, denial is not a river in Egypt. It’s a river in Hollywood, and it runs deep, and brown.

The story I want to tell you involves, among other things, a screenwriter whose career is fading out more than it’s fading in, a billionaire’s wife, and a murder — which means, of course, there’s also a cop. Plus, the story has one other thing going for it. It’s true.

Would I lie to you?

Excerpted from Death by Hollywood by Steven Bochco Copyright© 2003 by Steven Bochco. Excerpted by permission of Random House, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.