cover image Blood of the Virgin

Blood of the Virgin

Sammy Harkham. Pantheon, $30 (296p) ISBN 978-0-593-31669-6

L.A. Times Book Prize winner Harkham (Crickets) delivers an ambitious panoramic period piece set in the early-1970s Hollywood exploitation film milieu. Seymour, a 20-something Iraqi Jewish immigrant, works as an editor for Reverie, a production company specializing in cheap grindhouse flicks. He’s eager to direct his own script, and finally gets his shot with Blood of the Virgin after the original director is fired. Harkham spends a generous amount of the narrative detailing the grueling, often heartless day-to-day work of filmmaking, and in parallel, Seymour’s increasingly stressful home life. His smart, tart-tongued wife, Ida, is exhausted from caring for their infant son, resulting in misunderstandings, frustration, and Seymour’s increasingly wandering eye toward an actor in his film. (The ruthless studio head, Val, casually tells Seymour, “Don’t get so down, your marriage won’t last.”) Harkham vividly depicts the perils of ambition and heartbreak inherent in collaborative creative projects, while glimpses into Hollywood history cleverly link Seymour to historical figures who were sacrificed to an oppressive studio system. Pages are stacked with close panels and thin line drawings that capture choice moments from back lots to late nights. Harkham’s accomplished cartooning, nuanced characters, and sharp period detail keep this sprawling tale thrumming with energy and painful insights. Agent: Liz Parker, Verve Talent and Literary Agency. (May)