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December 03 , 2008

The False Man


Imagine Hunter S. Thompson and Albert Camus meeting at the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax and you would only have a glimpse of the literary pyrotechnics that lie in waiting when you pick up The False Man. A man is falsely tried for murdering a woman escapes from prison in Mexico and crosses the desert in search of a new identity. In a small town he is attacked by a misanthropic German photographer and kills him in self-defense. He assumes the identify of the photographer and crosses the border, determined to get a job in LA in the fashion industry, in part to escape his old life before he was imprisoned, and in part to fulfill a bizarre philosophical obsession with the idea of falsity he acquired as a reaction and defense mechanism against his unjust treatment in Mexico. He arrives in LA and quickly bluffs his way onto the staff of a low-end alternative rock magazine run by an iconoclastic British journalist and his wife Vera. He immerses himself in the life of rock shows, drugs and women, while always paying service to his philosophical muse of duplicity. “How long does it take before lies become the truth?” he asks himself as he gradually learns to leave his past behind and truly merge with the life he is leading. He slowly falls in love with his all-too-virtuous coworker Nicola, which – at least for a moment – makes him want to shed his attachment to duplicity and his past. Meanwhile the millionaire magazine owner Wilkinson has decided to stop losing money and sell out to a Japanese firm devoted to teeny-bopper culture. Mark and Vera are determined to split away and start their own magazine and bring anyone with them they can. They have a meeting before a huge house warming party and once the drugs start flowing, reality becomes unhinged. In a wickedly funny turn of events Wilkinson does a complete flip-flop in his attitude and Vera seduces Robertson. As they make love in the dark, Robertson discovers a secret that threatens to expose his loyalty and uncover his past. The False man is a hymn to the city of Angels and the Hollywood lifestyle as much as it is a wry commentary on the modern culture of lies, media manipulation, and the true meaning of identity and our relationship with the past. It is a set of Chinese boxes filled with lie upon lie where the reader is invited to strip away the sensual excesses and explosive humor at the surface to try and find whatever truth may lie hidden inside. Like the best of Will Self, Nabokov and (Jeanette) Winterson this novel explodes with wry humor and literary invention on every page.

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