Squirrel Eyes

Description (from Amazon.com):
SQUIRREL EYES is the story of Alvin Bandy, lifelong movie junkie and would-be filmmaker, who finds himself alone in Hollywood after his girlfriend Alison sends him packing in favor of another man. With his career — if you can call it that, when it consists of one incredibly bad movie he wrote — on the rocks, Alvin hatches a drunken plan to course-correct his screwed-up life: he travels to his hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico to seek out his first girlfriend, Kelli, and do what he never did before: have sex with her. Kelli, however, won’t be had so easily, and lays down a challenge to Alvin that could either be his undoing or his salvation…   Funny, dark, raunchy and sentimental, Squirrel Eyes is a novel about the strength of dreams, the depths of lust, the power of guilt and above all, the glory of cinema and the hold it has on us all.

Written by Scott S. Phillips

They say “write what you know,” and I feel that SQUIRREL EYES is an example of that notion working perfectly.  Scott S. Phillips has a long history in and around the film scene; he spent time in L.A. as a writer, and has since moved back to Albuquerque where he continues to write – and has also moved into directing – films.  His protagonist, Alvin, is a struggling L.A. screenwriter who decides to clear his head by coming home to Albuquerque, and in doing so revives his failed film production from many years earlier.  Now, this is not an autobiography (at least I hope not!), but it is close to the truth, and having lived a very similar life as Alvin, Phillips is able to make the story feel very real; and very funny.

Poor Alvin, for all his time in L.A. struggling as a writer all he has to show for it is one horribly produced low-budget train wreck of a film (set in the Northeast, but shot entirely in and around one L.A. home) and a hole in his heart where his ex-girlfriend used to be.  Coming home doesn’t start out too much better; his arrogant prick of a brother is succeeding in the local auto parts business he runs, his mother continues to smoke way too much, and his friends are still the semi-losers that they always were.

The only exception is Kelli, Alvin’s teenage girlfriend, who is a single mom to a cool little girl, and in his absence has become a bit of a mythic figure in Alvin’s head.  Alvin figures that he can get his life back on track if now, as an adult, he can consummate the relationship he had so many years ago.  Alvin blurts out his plan after a nice night of catching up, seemingly ruining his chance to succeed at his once chance to restart his flailing life, but to his surprise Kelli offers one bastion of hope: finish The Blue Man, the silent short film they had begun years ago.

Like many (most? all?) low-budget films, the original production of The Blue Man was filled with strife, the most devastating of which was the eventual loss of the stock the film was shot on.  With his eye on Kelli’s “prize,” Alvin sets out to recruit his best friend and former filmmaking cohort to dig out his Super-8 camera, suit up as The Blue Man, and make a new (old) movie.  Kelli, now a mother, does not want to reprise her former role, and Alvin also needs a lead mutant, so together they begin the casting, and eventual production process.

I don’t want to make this into a book report, so if you want to know the rest of the story, read it.  SE was a ton of fun; the dialogue was snappy, the plot was twisty, and had the requisite amounts of humor and strife required, making the book an engaging read.  As a matter of fact, there were several “laugh out loud” moments, as well as times that I really, truly felt bad for Alvin and his situation(s).  Phillips knows his turn of phrase, and does a great job of painting pictures with his prose.  I felt that SE could easily be a film, and it would be a movie I’d want to watch.

I always try to show the good and the bad in my reviews; there’s not a whole lot of bad I can say about SE.  My biggest issue with it was that it was too short!  When it was over, the ending snuck up on me; that is not to say it’s not a good ending to the story, I just didn’t want it to be over yet.  I hope that there will be a follow up, so that I can find out what happened next for Alvin and his crew.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed SE.  It was a fun, quick read, that would be good for anyone looking for a entertaining novel, but is especially gratifying if you, like me, happen to be a “wanna-be” film maker like Alvin.  The prose is expressive, the dialogue is sharp-tongued, the characters are fleshed out, and the story is engaging.  Overall a really enjoyable book, I just wish it was a bit longer… I wasn’t ready for it to end!

Overall 8 / 10

Scott’s site: http://scottsphillips.com/  

SE for sale (paperback): http://www.amazon.com/Squirrel-Eyes-Scott-S-Phillips/dp/1460939263/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_10
(Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/Squirrel-Eyes-ebook/dp/B004E3Y0V4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1326068254&sr=8-1


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