Tod Hackett desires the unattainable Faye and experiences the problems his violent passion for her brings about in 1930's Hollywood. Tod Hackett is a graduate of Yale who works as a costume and set designer in Hollywood. Despite his work in the film industry, he finds most of the people he meets very phony and he dreams of painting an epic piece called "The Burning of Los Angeles" featuring representations of the poor midwesterners who immigrate to fight for survival in the hostile city. Tod moves into a small apartment above Faye, a failing movie actress, and her father Harry. Harry is ill and Tod begins visiting him often to gain access to the beautiful Faye. The girl is used to being admired and curtly tells Tod to keep his distance because he has no money, no prospects, and no looks.
Harry becomes very sick while trying to sell silver polish door to door at the house of Homer Simpson (yes). Homer is a midwestern trying to recover from an illness. He is a man of some means, despite his personal timidity, and Faye allows him to court her.
Tod still tries to arouse interest in Faye, accompanying her with two other boys to a campsite in the hills. The three men all want her and Faye enjoys the feeling. The outing descends into a fight between the two other boys, Earle and Miguel. While they are fighting, Tod tries to rape Faye, who flees into the woods.
Soon after this incident, Harry dies and Faye moves in with Homer. She is able to manipulate the man very easily and soon Miguel and Earle are living in his garage. Tod avoids them all until he is invited to a cockfight at the house. After the fight Homer, Tod, Tod's friend Abe, Earle, and Miguel all get really drunk and pine over Faye. Various fights start and the evening takes a sour turn. Eventually, Earle and Homer find Miguel in bed with Faye, starting another fight.
The next morning Faye moves out and Homer is in an almost unresponsive state. He communicates to Tod that he intends to leave California. Tod sees him later carrying suitcases to a bus. A young boy sees the disturbed man and throws a rock that hits him in the head. Homer attacks the boy and stomps on his back when the boy falls to the ground. Tod tries to pull Homer off, but a crowd of people have seen the act. A riot descends around Homer. Tod is able to escape. He imagines that this mob scene is the perfect image for his painting, "The Burning of Los Angeles".
Best part of story, including ending:
The characters are all really raw in their actions and emotions, something I didn't expect from a book written in the 30's.
Best scene in story:
I like Tod obsessing over his painting. It sounds like its a really visceral, brutal work that I would like a lot.
Opinion about the main character:
Tod's crazy, but in a likable way. He's a basically violent person in a way that most people either aren't or cover up somehow.