(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Dennis Barlow, having recently emigrated from England, hoping to establish his fortune as a screenwriter in Hollywood, arrives in Los Angeles, a city that at first seems to resemble the heart of Africa rather than a civilized Western community. At the bungalow of Sir Ambrose Abercrombie, the most dignified of English expatriates in Southern California, he learns the rules of protocol appropriate for travelers from abroad, especially the need to maintain British decorum while in Hollywood, one of the “barbarous regions of the world.” Dennis, who has pretentions to being a poet, lacks the basic skills as a writer to work for Megalopolitan Studios. The closest he can come to Megalo is to share lodgings with Sir Francis Hinsley, a shabby screenwriter, who, after having been unceremoniously fired, commits suicide by hanging himself. At Sir Francis’ funeral, Dennis’ tasteless elegy for his roommate scandalizes the English colony. They had already dismissed the young man from their society because of his employment at The Happier Hunting Ground, a glorified pet cemetery operated by Mr. Schultz.

Dennis has enjoyed one small triumph, however, to compensate for his failures. He has won the heart of Aimee Thanatogenos, assistant to the chief cosmetician at Whispering Glades. This cemetery, nestled in the Hollywood Hills, a resting place for “Loved Ones” such as Sir Francis, was established by “The Dreamer,” Dr. Wilbur Kenworthy, as a refuge where...

(The entire section is 476 words.)