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Bud Frazer left home when he was nineteen. For a few years he rode the rodeo circuit but then decided to head for Hollywood to play the part of a cowboy in the movies. He never wanted to be an actor, or a big star, but to play cowboy, to ride in the posse, that was what he hoped for.
On the long bus journey he met up with Lily Shaw. She was heading to Hollywood to make it as a screen writer. She wanted to write films, to make them mean something, to create a story that was actually about something rather than just a quick way of making the studio a buck or two.
But this is Bud’s story. Now, much later in life, after he has become an artist he is recollecting those few years when he made his living falling from horses.
But while that is the story Bud is telling, it is also the story of who he was at that time, of how he really was an angry young man. The reason for his anger is revealed over the course of the book, its certainly understandable. He’s a great character, with a wonderful voice. He is looking back over his life and so is now well aware of what an asshole he was at times. He sometimes wonders why Lily stayed friends with him, some of the things he said and did, but friends they remained and so parts of her story became tied up in his. Parts of her story he relates here, like how hard it was for a woman at that time, how she never thought she’d make a good wife and so decided early in life that that wasn’t what she was interested in. And how she was always the strong and practical person, even when she really wasn’t too sure of what was going on.
And it is also the story of Hollywood in the late 1930s, when the golden age of the cowboy film was beginning to come to an end. When horses and men were cheap and the stunts were dangerous. When the hero always saved the day, and in many ways this book looks at what it is to be the hero, and how real life is never like the movies.
It’s a great book and I found it fascinating to read. It felt like a real autobiography, while of course it isn’t. It’s a novel and so Gloss can be, in a funny way, more real and more honest because this story is made up.
I loved it.