Like a Hole in the Head: A Novel
Jill, a part-time bookseller and full-time wise-ass, buys a first edition Jack London from a slippery-looking dwarf. The dwarf returns soon after with a polite assassin who wants the book back. Unfortunately Jill has already unloaded it for a nice profit, to a fomer child actor turned book dealer turned love interest. She isn’t about to drop the dime on him, so the upshot is, Jill has to find it—or else. What at first seems like a lucky break turns into unexpected adventure when a cast of B-movie thugs, sleazy book dealers, and ambitious Hollywood moguls join the hunt for the book. Jill finds herself leading an antic chase—via motorcycle, station wagon, and hijacked bottled-water delivery truck—across Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and the Hollywood Hills. Before she can retrieve the book and discover its irresistible secret, Jill will be cheated, lied to, drugged, tortured, and even forced to act as a movie extra against her will.
The same marinade of lonely-girl tough-talk that flavored Barbara Seranella’s Edgar Award-nominated first novel, No Human Involved, enriches playwright Jen Banbury’s wonderfully raucous and raunchy debut, Like a Hole in the Head. Banbury’s mystery is also set in a Los Angeles made memorable by fresh insights. “I took Venice Boulevard,” says Jill, who works in a used bookstore. “Past all the two-story apartment buildings where old women laid out their cast-off clothes like a distress signal. They would sit around in beach chairs waiting to sell wrinkled muumuus for two bucks a pop. Past the strip malls with the five dollar manicure places. Past Donut Heaven, Donut Time, Winchell’s Donuts, Time for Donuts, I Love Donuts, Falafel and Donuts, Jimmy’s Donuts, and Dough-nutty. Past the Hare Krishna temple. I had gone there once for a free vegetarian meal. They asked me to leave before serving me. You have to chant before you can eat and I kept saying ‘Hairy Hitler’ instead of Hare Krishna. The girl praying next to me blew the whistle. I was hungry and I shouldn’t have been such a wiseass. I’ve heard the food is pretty good.” There’s also a plot, of sorts: a rare first edition of a Jack London work drops Jill into a bizarre and dangerous substrata of desperate dwarfs, failed actors, and lethal antiquarian book dealers.