Henry Chinaski is a drunk writer whose stories about his down-and-out life in Los Angeles' dive bars have attracted the attention of several Hollywood producers who want to make a movie about him. Chinaski writes a screenplay about his alcoholic younger self, and the days when all he did was sit around in bars, get wasted, chase women, and get into fights.
He hooks up with a pair of producers, Friedman and Fischman. He also finds a director, Jon Pinchot. Jon buys the rights to Henry's movie, titled "The Dance of Jim Beam." Everything seems like it is ready to go.
But the Hollywood types are nuttier than the drunks Henry spent all those years with. The producers try to get another director attached to the film, a man named Mack Austin. Jon hates Mack Austin and, to prevent him from getting the movie, calls his attorney in the middle of the night and screams at him to add language to his will allowing anyone in the world except Mack Austin to direct the movie, should Jon die before it gets made.
Friedman and Fischman later cancel production of the movie, and demand extra money to sell the rights to produce it back to Jon and Henry. In response, Jon tells them he will hold a hunger strike outside of their office. Additionally, if they refuse to release the film, he tells them he will begin cutting off his own fingers. He purchases a chainsaw and brings it to a meeting with the producers' attorney, who agrees to release the film when Jon turns on the chainsaw and moves it toward his little finger.
Finally, the movie is in production. Chinaski goes to the set one day and sees himself in the cocky actor playing the character based on him. The movie gets finished and he attends the wrap party with his wife, but they leave early, having grown tired of the Hollywood scene. A month later they watch the movie in a regular theater, and Henry resolves to write a book about how the movie got made.
Best part of story, including ending:
Henry's run-ins with the crazy Hollywood people are amusing, particularly his deadpan reactions to their outrageous behavior. Often when someone does something idiotic, Henry just rolls with it and asks if they want to get a drink.
Best scene in story:
Near the end, after Henry and his wife watch the movie in a regular theater, one of the other moviegoers recognizes Henry in the parking lot. He smiles and waves, and his wife notes that the man spotted Henry. All Henry can say is "Yeah." It's a simple reminder that movies are just another part of regular life, and the people in them are just people.
Opinion about the main character:
Henry, an obvious stand-in for author Charles Bukowski, is no longer the boozy womanizer that he was when he was younger. By the time he writes the movie, he's married and stopped drinking hard, instead choosing red wine with dinner and coffee in the mornings. While that might be disappointing to the fans of his earlier style, it lends his observations a little more weight, because we know that he's come through so much to wind up the way he is.