An epic debut novel about a young man coming to terms with his life in the process and aftermath of making his first film - from critically acclaimed short story writer Owen King - for listeners of Joshua Ferris, Sam Lipsyte, and Chad Harbach. Filmmaker Sam Dolan has a difficult relationship with his father, B-movie actor Booth Dolan - a boisterous, opinionated, lying lothario whose screen legacy falls somewhere between cult hero and pathetic. Allie, Sam’s dearly departed mother, was a woman whose only fault, in Sam’s eyes, was her eternal affection for his father. Also included in the cast of indelible characters: a precocious, frequently violent half-sister; a conspiracy-theorist second wife; an Internet-famous roommate; a family friend and contractor who can’t stop expanding his house; a happy-go-lucky college girlfriend and her husband, a retired Yankees catcher; the morose producer of a true crime show; and a slouching indie film legend. Not to mention a tragic sex monster. Unraveling the tumultuous, decades-spanning story of the Dolan family’s friends, lovers, and adversaries, Double Feature is about letting go of everything - regret, resentment, ambition, dignity, moving pictures, the dead - and taking it again from the top. Combining propulsive storytelling and mordant wit against the backdrop of indie filmmaking, Double Feature brims with a deep understanding of the trials of ambition and art, of relationships and life, and of our attempts to survive it all.
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I'm a HUGE Stephen King fan, and so it's been with great interest that I've collected the works of his two sons, Joe Hill and Owen King. I liked Joe's work for sure as he is following in his father's footsteps. Owen, however, is his own man, and I really, really enjoy his style. He definitely has a great sense of humor which I think is so very important to a well-told story. While some of the things the characters do in this book might seem like a bit of a stretch, when you put it into the context of most of them being "Hollywood" or "artistic" types, it's not that far-fetched at all.
Owen King must've paid attention to his father's excellent ability for character development. Not to take away anything from the younger Mr. King - it's a compliment, really. I found myself wondering days after I finished this book what happened to the central characters like they were real people I'd been eavesdropping on for the last couple of weeks.
The narration was also very good - not distracting or annoying - but actually perfectly executed with a true and obvious grasp of the story by Mr. Graham throughout.
I won't rehash plot lines as the book description and other reviews will give you that. What I wanted to get across is that if you're a fan of good storytelling (regardless of genre), then give this book a chance. You won't be disappointed.
Have you ever felt like the best parts of your life might get left on the cutting room floor?
Owen King's Double Feature is a modern-day coming of age story - one win which the characters only figure out how to redeem the errors of their youth as adults. It's the funniest thing I've listened to in a long time, and while it might attempt answering some of life's harder questions a little too pat at times, I still found it genuinely moving.
Sam Dolan, estranged son of B-movie maestro Booth Dolan, is a student filmmaker intent on making a great movie, and is willing to do whatever it takes to create the best art he can. That might sound like the beginning of a great horror movie itself, but this is not that book. He's egotistical and full of youthful arrogance, but you kind of can't help love him. Unfortunately, the movie doesn't quite turn out the way Sam hoped it would, and he's left disillusioned. Fast forward several years into the future, and Sam's disillusionment has earned him a career as a wedding videographer, a job he loathes. He doesn't dream of being a filmmaker anymore - he doesn't really dream of being anything - and his film has become a cult hit that's the 21st century cross between an Ed Wood and David Lynch mash-up. But circumstances occur, and this second act of Sm's life, he is given the chance to repair the relationships and dreams he sacrificed as a young man, and maybe, just maybe - come out of it changed, and better. It's not a huge set-up, but I give King a lot of credit - this could've very easily have been one of those books where a father and son finally reunite at the end of one of their lives...but this isn't that book, either. The relationship between Sam's dad Booth and Sam is at the center of this story, and it's not only hysterical, but full of heart.
Booth, for his part, is something of a failure as a father. He lied to his son and wasn't there for him, cheated on his wife and sacrificed his marriage. He's a cult actor and director who believes character can be defined by the simple addition of a prosthetic nose. And by the end of the book, he just might convince us of the same thing.
There were some small issues I had with the book. Many of the supporting characters don't feel as complete or as interesting as the leads. I'm never quite sure why one of the characters falls for Sam, and is so accepting and understanding of some of his foolishness. (Though to be fair, it's startling how accepting I was of him too.) Additionally, Sam's best friend is absent for half the book, and his goofy Assistant Director is absent for the other. There characters fulfill their roles in Sam's story, but if they have their own stories, they seem less aware of them. Still, it's easy to forgive for a book that is generally so endearing and entertaining.
Holter Graham's reading is part of why this is all so much fun. He gives the characters a sense of humanity, which is a big accomplishment because when we meet a lot of them, they seem like really awful, petty people. But the way he acharacterizes both Booth and veteran character actor Rick Savini are so much fun, you want to grab a bucket of buttery popcorn and just listen ot him read them over and over again. Graham can go from funny to sexy to touching all in the space of a few sentences, much like King's story itself.
All in all, this is a very welcome debut from Owen King. It made me laugh lots, it got me choked up, and then it made me laugh again. It made me want to make sure that the best parts of my life aren't left on the cutting room floor, and that I make them count. All in all, that's a pretty good book.