As I was rummaging through the materials I'd collected on Robert Carson, I came to realize that my definition of a novel (or at least a published novel) was too limited. The dictionary says a novel is “a relatively long prose narrative.” So Carson’s novels include not only his sixteen books of fiction but also his twelve magazine serials that were not later published as books. How many of the serials were set in California? This I do not know but probably should find out.
Love Affair by Robert Carson. Henry Holt and Co. (1958), 439 pp.
Chris McClaren, a self-centered but weak-willed young man, comes to Hollywood to become a movie star. He soon meets Deane Gregory, an aggressive and amoral publicity agent. She starts to take command of his career, which then begins to take off. After they marry, Chris lands some starring roles. As his successes continue, he grows tired of his wife’s controlling behavior. He doesn’t know, however, if he can get along without her.
This is a long book that takes a jaundiced look at Hollywood. Most of the characters, including Chris and Deane, unscrupulously pursue their own ends while claiming altruistic motives. They are understandable if not sympathetic. Carson goes out of his way, through secondary characters and minor plot points, to describe the ambience of the movie business. As a result, the story has a flabbier feel than most of Carson’s earlier works. The writing style is engaging, however, and the book seldom drags. It’s not clear, incidentally, which love affair the title refers to, the one between Chris and Deane or the one between the actor and himself.