The Widow Hunter
Martin Baker

The Widow Hunter


Voters Rating 7 / 1000



These two extracts from The Widow Hunter offer contrasting aspects of Martin Baker's journeys in Hollywood.

The first excerpt, 'What Did I Do?', is a story of the early days - a writer's entry into a unique sub-culture. Martin's first novel, Meltdown (available now on this site's Fiction list) is a darkly satirical financial thriller. Meltdown is set against a financial crash that began to happen in reality just after Meltdown's first publication in early 2008. Hollywood was baying for Baker's attention, not to mention the rights to the book, which led the fiction list of a major UK publisher. Lunches, brunches, meetings and some of the most expensive mineral water known to man all beckoned. But Hollywood, if it does take prisoners, does not take them alive. The former lawyer, senior newspaperman and debutant novelist found himself reduced, in Tinsel Town terms, to the status of a short-trousered, snotty-nosed schoolboy. Still, the start of the journey was not without its consolations as the chance encounter with gorgeous film star, Scarlett Johansson (see the short extract, below) demonstrates.

The second, longer extract, is 'Too Many Notes' - a sharply written, practical guide to the intensely technical - and even more intensely political - business of giving and receiving Notes (as in notes on a screenplay). Martin is in demand as a script editor and writer, and 'Too Many Notes', is acerbic and funny, but grounded and useful. It's an essential tool (which is how he sometimes describes himself) for any writer seeking to make his or her way in Hollywood.

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Two bacon butties later, the flight was called.

Even in first class, they don't bring the plane to you, so we all trooped out. Security was extra-tight that day. As we were heading to the gate, ‘randomly selected’ passengers were called to a table to have their hand baggage searched (I use the quotation marks because I have a friend called Tariq, young, male and of Muslim origin, who nearly always gets ‘randomly selected’).

I saw that Dumpy Girl had been singled out. The contents of her voluminous clutch bag were spilled on the table - Versace small bits, D & G knick-knacks, glittery thingy-bobs. It looked like a big cat had gorged itself on designer accessories and coughed up a big, Fabergé fur ball. 

The guy next to Dumpy Girl was sent on his way, just as I was shuffling past. I got the tap on the shoulder, and walked up to have my bag searched next to Dumpy Girl. I opened up the carry-on and handed it over.

‘So what did you do?’ asked Dumpy Girl. She gave me a clear-eyed, amused look.

Those eyes. Of course.

Once you looked past the giant piece of metal in the centre of her face, you saw the truth: it was Scarlett Johansson. The Scarlett Johansson. Golden mane of hair hidden beneath the beanie. Voluptuous figure masked by bulky, plain coat. No ‘I-Want-To-Be-Alone’ shades that would only have attracted attention - just a big brass curtain ring stuck under her nose. When I say ‘big’, I mean ‘sturdy’ too: you could have used that ring to tow a caravan. As a piece of temporary but necessary disguise, it was brilliant.

Now all this hit me in an instant. And, I have to say, I came back at her without missing a beat. So what did I do?

Remember that so-so movie ‘Runaway Bride’, a Julia Roberts vehicle? I sort of riffed round a line from that.

‘What did I do? I'm not sure. But whatever it was, I'm feeling pretty guilty about it now.’

And she laughed.

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