Underground in Tinseltown

Narrator's Edition

Fiction - Crime
Kindle Edition
Reviewed on 04/28/2022
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

John F. Wilkie, AKA 'John Bro' - is a long-term member of the Screen Actor's Guild ( SAG union ) as a veteran Hollywood movie and television actor. Among his many featured roles, he has appeared in the Star Trek 'Voyager' series - ( participating in that franchise was a life-long dream of his ) - as well as the SCIFI Network's 'SPACE: Above and Beyond' and 'SIGHTINGS' shows.

See his IMDB page at:

https://www.imdb.com/name/nm2997096/

    Book Review

Reviewed by Foluso Falaye for Readers' Favorite

Jay is a broke young dreamer who arrives in Hollywood to pursue his career in the music and film industry in the year 1983. On his tumultuous journey to fame and glory, Jay makes several new friends, including a fraudulent character named Monty. Monty is "a modern-day Robin Hood", who robs the rich and gives to degenerates. He eventually gets Jay to join his team of scammers, and together, they steal from different businesses and stores to pay for their daily expenses and adventures. In Underground in Tinseltown, John F. Wilkie tells the story of two young troublemakers in the 1980s Hollywood scene, who try to swim above the waves of obscurity but for a long time remain trapped with drugs, alcohol, parties, jail, relationship drama, and dangerous scam plots.

"Please don't attempt this crap at home." This message in the book's introduction is definitely not an overemphasis. Heart racing and mouth open in shock, I read through the incredibly audacious scams and close calls that John F. Wilkie weaves together in his highly engaging, unpredictable, and fun narrative. Jay and Monty not only have to battle their desires but also each other, as they deal with relationship problems and trust issues—which I found especially relatable. The book delivers a smooth blend of themes including discord, violence, sex, crime, addiction, mental illness, friendship, homosexuality, music, and more. Underground in Tinseltown is perfect for readers who wish to completely escape to the 1980s Hollywood scene and soak up the music, active locations, and popular activities of that era. Like an exotic meal that seems to never leave your taste buds, the book stays fresh in your mind long after finishing its addictive, chaos-packed pages.

Anne-Marie Reynolds

Underground in Tinseltown by John F. Wilkie is a crime thriller set in Hollywood in the 1980s. Jay is a homeless musician. Leaving his family and friends behind, he heads off into the sunset. When he gets off the bus at Hollywood & Vine, he has just $10 and knows no one. Needing to find a way to survive, he soon gets involved with the local underground, a life few consciously choose to embrace. Jay spirals downward, deep in the Hollywood trap, as Tinseltown life drags him into a never-ending cycle of drugs, partying with celebrities, auditions, and deadly clashes with the law. Is this the real Hollywood? The side to Tinseltown that you never hear about until it’s too late?

Underground in Tinseltown by John F. Wilkie is a gritty crime thriller following a familiar story – homeless, struggling artist with no money wants to hit the big time but falls into the Hollywood trap of drugs and endless parties. This is an intense read, graphic in detail at times, and definitely not for the faint-hearted. Success is always just out of reach for some people, no matter what they do, and that seems truer in the so-called dazzling town of Hollywood than anywhere else. The characters are well developed and the plot is as deep and thick as the trap Jay falls into – a trap that few talk about, especially those who claw their way out of it. The main characters are incredibly real people with flaws and you will get to know them intimately, maybe even dream of being them just for a short while. This is a fast-paced novel that you will find hard to put down and, if you’ve ever dreamed of trying to make it big in Hollywood, you might just change your mind.

Grant Leishman

Underground in Tinseltown: Narrator’s Edition by John F. Wilkie chronicles the story of two of life’s strugglers living as part of the marginalized society in the most glamorous city in the world, the entertainment capital, Hollywood, Los Angeles. It is in the 1980s when homeless drifter Jay arrives in the city of dreams to seek his fortune in the music business. Knowing nobody in L.A. and without money, Jay is prime material for some of the more questionable characters that lurk in the dark recesses of Hollywood’s back streets. When he meets an older Puerto Rican man, Monty, who makes his living by shoplifting and then returning the shoplifted goods for refunds as well as dreaming up elaborate scams against his enemy, corporate America, Jay finds, if nothing else, a way to survive in this alien environment. Monty clearly has homosexual designs on Jay but the young drifter is simply not interested in men, and so begins a constant battle of sexual tension between the pair. Despite their daily disagreements, fights, and different visions of life, Jay and Monty will become partners in crime as well as the relentless and constant struggle for survival in a city and a lifestyle that threatens constantly to grind them into the pavement.

Underground in Tinseltown is a stark and deeply troubling portrayal of the depths to which the human character can sink given the wrong circumstances and a desire to find the quickest, easiest, and often the most perilous solutions to life’s problems. Author John F. Wilkie has created an ensemble cast of the weirdest and wackiest of characters that all are beset by the travails of alcoholism, drug abuse, and stultifying helplessness in a world that has seemed to have left them behind. Without a doubt, the strange and deeply co-dependent relationship between Monty and Jay is the clear highlight of the story. In Monty, Wilkie has created a character that, despite being deeply selfish and viciously unfair and backstabbing to even the best of his friends, we can still identify with him and his deep-seated desire to “get even with the man” through his many insurance frauds and scams. We can even see the human being beneath the façade in his written communications with his best friend, Pete. What struck me the most was the sheer pointlessness of the pair’s lifestyle, the depravity and poverty that their drug addiction brought them down to, and the risks they would take, especially Monty, in his criminal activities to support their drug and alcohol habits to the exclusion of everything else. This is a stark and at times harrowing read but if you want to know the minutiae of a drug-addicted and meaningless downward spiral, this is the book for you. It was a challenging read but one I appreciated and can definitely recommend.

K.C. Finn

Underground in Tinseltown is a work of fiction in the crime and action subgenres. It is aimed at mature adult readers and was penned by author John F. Wilkie. The review copy provided has been edited from the original text for the purposes of audiobook narration. The book follows a vagrant musician after he arrives in 1980s Hollywood with no connections and barely any cash to survive. When he makes friends with members of the city’s criminal element his adventure to find fame and fortune becomes a whirlwind of the glamour of celebrity life and the life-threatening danger of the narcotics trade.

The lure of the celebrity lifestyle is a deep and universal feeling that I suspect most people feel to some extent, but one thing that doesn’t get discussed by the talent and reality shows that have people living in envy is the dangerous lifestyles that await when you get there. Author John F. Wilkie’s book lays this reality bare as protagonist Jay has sacrifices that need making, lines that need crossing, and an endless stream of favors that he seems to owe in exchange for what success he enjoys. This novel is dark with an engaging series of twists and turns as Jay’s descent from the glitz of Hollywood to the deadly world of drugs and gangs plays out with a level of sympathy that is often heart-breaking. Overall, Underground in Tinseltown is an engrossing tale of survival in the alluring worlds of celebrity and organized crime that will hook you with its premise and dazzle you with its danger.

Rabia Tanveer

Underground in Tinseltown: Narrator's Edition by John F. Wilkie is a story of redemption and survival. Jay is a homeless, starving yet talented musician who makes his way to Hollywood to try his luck. With only $10 in his pocket and his talent to back him up, Jay is dazzled by the Walk of Fame, the stars, and the promise of opportunities that he hungrily awaits. However, Jay has no idea his life is about to change and not in the way he hoped. While the glitz and glamor of Tinseltown are exactly what he expected, Jay gets entangled in a web of lies, the underground elite of Hollywood, and lands up on the wrong side of the law. Jay just wanted to make a living by doing what he does best; now he needs to survive, or else he will be stuck in the glittering Hollywood trap.

Jay is a universal character; someone that everyone loves and appreciates. The narrative is perfect; it has the right ratio of dialogues and descriptive paragraphs to give the best of both worlds to readers. The action is a welcome surprise because for some reason I was not expecting that. However, there is plenty of action for you to become immersed in and enjoy. The police chase, the eventful Hollywood parties, drugs, and more create a nice calm-before-the-storm for readers. Underground in Tinseltown is intense, but not immediately. John F. Wilkie starts the story at a leisurely pace, but once Jay gets the real 1980s Hollywood experience, things get dramatic and intense rather quickly. I love how the dialogues are unique to each character and reveal a little something about each of them before the plot reveals the true intention of each character. Loved it!

Anelynde Smit

Underground in Tinseltown by John F. Wilkie is the insane, almost unbelievable tale of Jay Wynn. A blond drifter who befriends Monty, a Puerto Rican shoplifter extraordinaire and downright fraud, and Wylan a drunken photographer. Together they have drug-fueled nights and days in the mid-1980s L.A. where the shopping is good and the drugs are cheap. We follow the outrageous escapades of the pair, Jay and Monty, where one man is on the road to success and the other is in handcuffs. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a look at the true underground of LA. The fact that it is based on actual events will scare anyone if you read what they get up to. Definitely, something to read if you are looking for a real thrill ride.

Underground in Tinseltown by John F. Wilkie is a very detailed account of the weird and wonderful world of LA in the mid-1980s. It is a book not for the faint of heart as the crimes are so well detailed as the world around them crumbles. Drugs play a huge part in this story and even a few near-death experiences leave you almost breathless. With the introduction of crack, the boys are in for one hell of a ride. The reality behind the story is even weirder as it is based on what seems to be true events. It is definitely a book that should not be overlooked. Savor the real life of the underground Tinseltown!

Asher Syed

In what will set the course for a tumultuous three years, Underground in Tinseltown by John F. Wilkie begins the story of Jay and Monty the moment Jay sets foot in Los Angeles. Monty, Jay's fair-weather chum, offers a quick fix to Jay's lack of cash, accommodation, and overall disillusion in the city of angels. Jay learns the ropes of exchanging stolen merchandise and scrubbing receipts for cash returns. He finds his rhythm in a life fraught with fear of arrest but keeps his belly full, the white powder flowing, and his head under a roof at night. Monty's world is one of extremes that requires Jay and the Team for his fraud strategies to work. Jay's co-dependence on Monty creates a power imbalance where Jay's eventual decision to move on is hampered by doubt and danger. “Jay had been arrested because he was in the company of the accused. It was questionable whether the police truly had the legal right to put him in jail. But they certainly had the power to do so.”

People like to use the famous line that if you can make it in New York you can make it anywhere, but those who live and die by their dreams on the streets of Los Angeles merit greater claim to the expression. Underground in Tinseltown by John F. Wilkie presses the city into the story of Jay and Monty to a point where it becomes a character itself. The volume I read is subtitled the Narrator's Edition and a narrative style is classically viewed as storytelling in its most basic start-middle-end arrangement with minimal dialogue. This is precisely how Wilkie writes Underground in Tinseltown. There isn't a clear cut good guy and the flaws of Jay and Monty are unambiguous. Nobody wins because nobody really can, although one has the capacity to emerge on a path out of criminal behavior where the other doesn't necessarily have that option due to race, sexual orientation, and entanglement in organized crime bigger than he is. Jay is vanilla and Monty is napalm...and napalm is what makes a book worth reading.