At the Party

Christopher Hitchens

  • Hollywood Babylon II by Kenneth Anger
    Arrow, 323 pp, £5.95, January 1986, ISBN 0 09 945110 7
  • Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan by Robin Wood
    Columbia, 336 pp, $25.00, October 1985, ISBN 0 231 05776 8

In the Forties and Fifties there used to be a series of Confidential books – Washington Confidential, New York Confidential and so on – turned out by Jack Lait and Lee Mortimer. The fearless duo, shrouded in their macintoshes and trilbies, would bring the naive reader the straight dope from the lower depths. They practised the same combination of rough-hewn populism and right-wing politics as a Mickey Spillane thriller or a contemporary Reader’s Digest. And their technique was to dwell in a wet-lipped manner on all the subjects – interracial sex, narcotic indulgence, the doings of deviants – that they most affected to deplore. Tersely, not to say badly, written, these books found the same nerve of prurience and titillation that the Sun or the National Inquirer have since learned to exploit on a grand scale. And the same technique, of somehow being present at a wicked party while keeping your own morals intact, has served other breathless and heavy-breathing narrators very well since.

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