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Beautiful Ruins

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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.

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