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Summary

Quentin Tarantino's long-awaited first work of fiction - at once hilarious, delicious and brutal - is the always surprising, sometimes shocking new novel based on his Academy Award-winning film.

The sunlit studio back lots and the dark watering holes of Hollywood are the setting for this audacious, hilarious, disturbing novel about life in the movie colony, circa 1969. 

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tells the story of washed-up actor Rick Dalton. Once Rick had his own television series, a famous Western called Bounty Law. But 'it ain't been that time in a long time' and now Rick's only regular parts are as the heavy, ready to be bested by whichever young 'swingin' dick' the networks want to make a new star out of come pilot season. When a talent agent approaches Rick about starring in Italian Westerns ('Eye-talian Westerns?'), it only ignites a new crisis of confidence for the perpetually insecure actor. 

And then there's Rick's stunt double, Cliff Booth, a war hero who killed more Japanese soldiers during the Second World War than any other American and who never thought he'd make it back home. If Rick's career has stalled, Cliff's has flamed out. Already living under a cloud of suspicion after the strange death of his wife at sea, Cliff makes the mistake of picking the wrong fight on set and is soon reduced to the status of Rick's full-time gofer. 

Right next door to Rick's still glamourous Benedict Canyon home ('the house that Bounty Law built') some Hollywood dreams are coming true, and these dreams belong to Sharon Tate. Not only is she Mrs. Roman Polanski - married to the only true rock-star director - but Sharon is fast becoming a star in her own right, living life on the upswing in a tough town. 

Only a few miles away, in the desert around Chatsworth, lives a different kind of dreamer. Charles Manson is an ex-con who has spellbound a group of hippie misfits living with him in squalor on an old 'movie ranch'. Little do his young followers know to what degree Charlie himself is an industry striver, more desperate for Columbia Records and Tapes' attentions than for the revolution he preaches. 

These indelible characters - and many more: an acting child prodigy beaming with hope; a booze-drenched former A-lister who's lost it all - occupy a vanished world from not so long ago that is brought to brilliant life. Here is 1969, the music, the cars, the movies and TV shows. And here is Hollywood, both the fairy tale and the real thing, as given to us by a master storyteller who knows it like the back of his hand. 

©2021 Quentin Tarantino (P)2021 Orion Publishing Group

What listeners say about Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

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Tarantino Showing Off

This book goes nowhere. It has no cohesive story. It ends as it began, nowhere. It is simply Tarantino's real or imagined reminiscence of Hollywood back in the day. There are no new or interesting revelations.
As for choosing Jennifer Jason Leigh to read it, she sounds about as disinterested as I was. Her delivery does nothing to raise the sheer mundaneness of the material.
Get it if it's a freebie but don't pay for it.

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loved it

a great companion piece for the film. I loved the style and extra depth it brought to the characters.

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Interesting take on a great movie.

Love the movie, enjoyed this take on the story though it tended to get bogged down in unnecessary details and obscure movie trivia. Jennifer Jason Leigh, however, does not have a good voice for narration. The vocal fry gets quite annoying.

3 people found this helpful

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And Away We Go…

Fantastic and fully engaging novel shining completely different light on characters and events that took place in the movie.
Even dog Brandy had a quite interesting origin story.

At the beginning I thought that would be a good material for group of actors, but very quick I found out how good Jennifer Jason Leight is. She delivered all that content and switched between sweet California girl to Texas redneck accent like a champ.

I’m looking forward for more novelisation from mr. QT. He is a great writer, and that would be perfect way to revisit all his previous cinematic classics and expend the universe.

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A Lovely ride through 60’s Hollywood and more

Adored this book and especially the audio version read by a raspy and sprawling Jennifer Jason Leigh. No need to know the film really, just a wonderfully charming and funny deep dive, highly recommended.

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Evil sexy Hamlet

A really great performance by the narrator of a genuinely funny, human story. Thoroughly recommended. The Sam Wanamaker scenes are comedy gold.

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great story

excellent narrator
great story I would recommend this book to any discerning listener. thank you

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Mayor McCa

As a fan of QT, I’m gutted to know that his next movie will be his last. However, if he keeps writing books like this, I’ll get over it.

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Superb

Great addition to the film, quite simply superb and JJL performance really makes it. Fab

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Jennifer Jason Lee is perfection

I can't imagine anyone else being able to capture these characters quite like Jennifer Jason Lee, she manages all the voices beautifully and somehow captures the laid-back 60s summer in California vibe perfectly in her lazy drawl. The narrative moves very differently to that of the movie, with Cliff and Sharon given far more character development. Thoroughly enjoyable!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-07-21

Exceptional expansion on the film

The book provides the reader with a new level of depth on most of the characters - so much so as to almost shift Cliff Booth to centre stage as the main character. The story unfolds in an interesting way, often glancing over major plot points featured in the film in a matter-of-fact way, opting to focus more on character development, rather than entertaining action sequences. The odd (and somewhat controversial) chemistry between Rick and Trudi is well executed and is sure to warrant a few re-listens to dialogue scenes.

Jennifer Jason Leigh's narration places the listener right in the middle of the action. Her ties to the Taranrino-film world lends a level of authenticity which would have been lost otherwise.

Both the book and the film are stand-alone classics, but together they form a fantastically entertaining work of art which adds up to more than the sum of its parts.

Tarantino's maiden voyage into the literary world is an exceptional one. I look forward to many more exhilarating titles.

1 person found this helpful