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Retro Reading: The Player by Michael Tolkin


Whether you want to admit it or not, there was a time when you dreamt of a Hollywood career, but maybe because your lack of talent you nixed the idea. Or maybe it was the thought of just moving that made you change your mind.

For studio executive Griffin Mill, his dream of Hollywood success came from behind the desk and how many phone calls you place in a day, or how many story pitches you hear.

But one writer isn't too happy with him and his job's in jeopardy as up and comer Larry Levy is set to take over the studio.

At first, it started with unsigned postcards addressed to Griffin. He didn't think much of it at first, but with each postcard came an underlying threat and he began to look over his shoulder more carefully.

His secretary, Jan, knew of the postcards but kept it under wraps and then one day after she left, he began to narrow it down as to who his stalker could be.

He chose writer David Kahane and after calling his house, his live in girlfriend told him that he had gone to see a movie in Pasadena. Griffin decided that he needed to see the same movie.

Just as the movie is coming to an end, he picks Kahane out of the exiting crowd and the two go to a Japanese bar to talk. Of course, Griffin thinks that he can stop him from sending the postcards if he offers him a writing assignment.

Kahane has no knowledge of the postcards and in a fit of anger, Griffin attacks him and accidently kills him. He makes it look like a random mugging and heads home.

The next day, the head of studio security, Walter Stuckel pays him a visit and they dance around Kahane's murder. While Griffin obviously doesn't admit to it, Walter tells him to lie low and he'll take care of everything, in case the police want to talk with him.

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Griffin goes to the funeral and sees Kahane's girlfriend, June, for the first time and after seeing her, goes back to the studio.

He's questioned by the police and with Stuckel by his side, answers the questions calmly and while they still have their doubts, they leave and he goes to a pitch meeting later that evening.

While waiting for the writer to show up, Andy Civella, a rock-and roll manager and director Tom Oakley pitch him an idea that he likes. He excuses himself and when he comes back to the table, they hand him a postcard with the writer cancelling the meeting.

On his way home, he notices that he's being followed and he's shot at in an alley.

Since he's obligated to go to an upcoming function, he calls June and invites her to be his date, which puts him even closer on the Pasadena police's radar.

He and June nearly sleep together and he asks her if she wants to go to Mexico for the weekend and she agrees to go, since he's pretty sure that the police are going to arrest him at any moment.

They make it out of the country and while in Puerto Vallarta, he notices that they're being followed by the local police and again he thinks that at any moment he's going to be arrested. Only this time with June, since the Pasadena police think she may also be involved in her lover's murder.

When they get back to Los Angeles, Griffin is called into the police department for a line up and when the witness can't identify him, he's free to go, but prior to Kahane's death, Griffin had told him that the studio was thinking of remaking the movie that they just saw.

Kahane tells him that they would make it a happy ending which is what Griffin's life ends up becoming.

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