Meanwhile – though of course it's not meanwhile but next up – 28-eight-year-old Claire Silvers is in present-day Hollywood, steeling herself to dump a deadbeat boyfriend and to quit her job as assistant to producer Michael Deane. The latter, once a major figure in Hollywood, is now reduced to producing a "reality" show called "Hookbook," twinned to a dating site called Hookbook.net in "a steaming pile of TV/Web synchronicity." He is a shuffling, 70-year-old man to whom the dark arts of cosmetic surgery have given "the face of a nine-year-old Filipino girl." A miracle of crassness and opportunism, he brings perfect joy to the reader every time he appears.
While Claire gets on with thinking about her future, Shane Wheeler, a veteran loser, is preparing to fly from Beaverton, Oregon, to Hollywood to pitch his screenplay to Claire, hoping Deane will produce it. It concerns a member of the Donner Party and his efforts to save his family; a synopsis of it makes up part of the novel, thus hurling us back to 1846.
Also cropping up now and again is Alvis Bender, a writer who visits the Hotel Adequate View every year to work on his novel about his experiences in the Second World War. Over the years, he has come up with only one chapter, but it too makes it into this book. And then there is Pat, a disappointed singer-songwriter and boozer. He gets us to London and Edinburgh. Finally – though not last – there's Richard Burton, bottle in hand, fresh off the set of "Cleopatra," which is being filmed, disastrously, in Rome.