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Making a Killing

by Warren Dunford

The relatively recent fad for irony – its use and misuse – can make it hard to know how to read some fiction. Like equally tricky efforts to be satirical, sometimes irony is evident, delicious, and pointed, and sometimes not. For instance, Making a Killing is either intended to be ironic, even satirical, or it is not. Either way, it’s a pleasant and sporadically funny novel, with generally appealing characters and a move-along plot – but little genuine energetic cohesion.

Warren Dunford’s first novel, Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture, was about the movie business. Making a Killing is about the writing business – the efforts of youthful Torontonian Mitchell Draper to write a big-time screenplay that will make him famous and rich.

So that’s pretty funny.

Mitchell’s two closest friends are also creative and hopeful. Ingrid is a hard-working artist, and TV actor Ramir has joined a cult (although naturally he doesn’t believe it’s a cult) in order to lift his faltering confidence.

The trouble with Mitchell’s ambition is that he hasn’t a clue what to write about, and appears to believe an original plot will not do. So when he hears of a decades-old murder-suicide in the mansion now occupied by Ramir’s cult, he sets out to research and then resolve its mysteries, mainly through interviews with surviving witnesses. Somehow, he believes, all this information will fall together into a hot screenplay – a dubious vision nevertheless shared not only by his agent, but by a high-level California movie producer in Toronto to work on a film.

The novel’s fairly endearing characters enjoy and endure smatterings of sex, affection, betrayal, menace, even dollops of the supernatural, en route to resolutions of the investigation and their own domestic questions. But while there are plenty of promising ingredients, its monotonous style keeps Making a Killing from becoming whatever it’s supposed to be – whether that’s a twistingly self-referential work of both satire and irony on the subject of creative pursuits, or simply a breezy amusement.