The American Dream hangs heavy over that country. The idea that anyone, if they work hard, can achieve success has been shown over and over again to be a delusion, and modern American society is as far from a meritocracy as you can imagine. Jordan Harper’s Everybody Knows, set among the seemingly glamorous Hollywood hills, examines the seedy underbelly of that dream. Harper is an award-winning novelist and screenwriter, and a Los Angeles native, and he brings his intimate knowledge of the fame industry to this visceral and shocking thriller.
Everybody Knows focuses on Mae Pruett, a ‘black-bag’ publicist to the uber-famous whose job entails burying dirt and hiding scandals. When Mae’s boss is gunned down in broad daylight she suspects it’s more than the simple carjacking gone wrong reported in the news. Teaming up with her ex-boyfriend she starts to unravel a conspiracy among the glitz and glitter that leads her to doubt everything she’s based her life and career on.
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Harper absolutely nails the voices of his main characters, two morally compromised parts of the fame machine they both call The Beast, but also two people who are starting to look for a way out of it all. The author is also incredibly good at portraying the contrast of an industry built on money and fame that lives cheek by jowl with some of the most deprived people in society.
The main plot of a missing teenage girl slowly begins to dovetail with the subplot of someone who is setting fire to homeless camps across the city, and throughout it all Mae’s company are hired to hide the worst of human behaviour. The prose is electrifying, simple and direct but with a rhythm and cadence that feels utterly authentic to the subject matter and setting. If only all fiction was this evocative.
Doug Johnstone is an author and journalist.