Initially, there was some interest in making a film of this book. Options were purchased but came to nothing. Indeed, options were purchased regularly but not taken up. Finally, Josh Martin, a US producer/director, bought the option and decided to make the film. He had switched its setting from London to Los Angeles but Ian was happy with this, not least because part of the deal was that he got a free ticket and lodgings and Los Angeles was better than London. It turns out that the film is to be made in the (fictitious) town of Fontinella, some one and a half hours away from Los Angeles. Ian's plane ride was a convoluted journey which ended up in his arriving at 2 a.m. at Ontario airport, where he was met by an intern, Cadence, in a battered Toyota. He was taken to the film set, where he was allocated a trailer as his accommodation. As he had anticipated, there was not much for him to do while filming was taking place. He found out that there was a problem with filming. Just next door to the film set was a speedway, which Josh Martin had thought was abandoned but was now occupied by an auto freak show, which was very noisy. They had to be continually bribed to keep quiet while filming took place.
Ian eventually gravitates to the speedway where he meets one of the performers, a woman called Leezza, who drives a VW Beetle over a row of stationary cars and with whom he falls in love almost immediately. He also meets Barry, who was actually living in a broken-down VW Beetle (he used tubes...). Barry was so overweight he could not get out of the car and had to be pushed by a willing victim, of which Ian was one, to the nearby hamburger stand. Barry was English and we hear his story. As Ian seems to be of limited use on the film set, he is asked to devise a way to enhance the speedway show to attract more of an audience and, with the help of Barry, he devises a way, which may result in one or more fatalities. Meanwhile, the film is going badly and Ian is drafted in to help out there. Of course, in good Nicholson fashion, the two cultures collide and there is the usual cataclysm.
I am a great fan of Geoff Nicholson but I found this one a bit of a disappointment. It lacked his usual spark of originality. It was his first novel for five years (though there had been two non-fiction works in-between), his longest gap between novels. While it is, as ever, witty, fun to read and a good tale, it is almost as though he were going through the motions - Volkswagens, Hollywood (or not quite Hollywood), a few jokes and that is it. There is not much else, none of the usual vision nor exploration of the quirky side of life. Clearly, from the title and a few references, it is meant as a homage to Gravity's Rainbow but, equally clearly, it does not begin to stand comparison with that great novel. I hope that he will come back with something better than this.