Under the Table Books


Inside Moves (1978)

"There is a real story here, metaphorical in its intensity and cleanly, effortlessly told…the pace is magic."

—Anne Rice

insidemoves | Under the Table Books

Yes, that's the Anne Rice of vampire fame. She was so taken with Inside Moves, she threw me a publication party for my next novel Forgotten Impulses in her lovely San Francisco home. I've been out of touch with Anne for decades now, but I will always be grateful for her kindness to me. That Inside Moves was published at all in 1978 is something of a miracle. That it then had a big paperback sale (two paper editions 1979-81 still available on Amazon) and was made into a major motion picture (1980) {movie info at IMDB} is even more miraculous. My first and finest literary agent, Dorothy Pittman (now deceased) showed the manuscript to thirteen publishers in two and a half years, this being before simultaneous submissions became the norm in the biz. The book was declared a narrative tour de force by the first twelve editors to read it, each appending the disclaimer that the book would be “an impossible sell.”

Miracle Number 1
The book was bought by a young editor at Doubleday named Sherry Knox (where are you now?) under the auspices of the powerful Betty Prashker. I believe this was the first novel Sherry ever purchased. My advance, minus Dorothy's commission, was thirteen hundred and fifty dollars, which money lifted me out of dire poverty into semi-functional poverty in my garret in Seattle. When I had rewritten the book to Sherry's satisfaction, and my brother Steve had come up with the stellar title, the great minds at Doubleday decided my book would join the ranks of those they would let die before publication. However, to fulfill their contractual obligations, the book was listed in small print at the back of their catalogue with this briefest of descriptors: “story of friendship between two men in San Francisco bar, basketball sub-plot.”
Miracle Number 2
An editor named Bill Contardi at the paperback house New American Library read the descriptor and for some reason asked to see the manuscript. He read it, loved it, and showed it to NAL editor-in-chief Elaine Koster. She loved the book and offered Doubleday 100,000 dollars for the paperback rights.
Miracle Number 3
When Dorothy called with the news, I was recovering from a long illness, and rather than rejoicing (we would get half that 100 thou) I said, “Did they show it to the other paperback houses? They're supposed to, aren't they?”

Dorothy said, “Honey (she was from Georgia), this is a wonderful offer.”

And I said, “They were going to kill the book. They should show it to other paperback houses. Maybe more than one will be interested.”

Dorothy reluctantly relayed my wishes to Doubleday. Some honcho (I can't remember his name) called me and gently berated me, saying this was a wonderful offer and I was a fool not to take it. I explained to him that though I was grossly naive, I did know that they had done nothing for the book and were going to let it die, and since I might never get another chance in New York I wanted them to show it to other paperback houses.
Miracle Number 4
So the honcho called Elaine Koster and asked for a few days to consider her offer, and she countered with a take it or leave it offer of 150,000 dollars and the promise of a big bonus if a movie was made. Dorothy begged me to accept the offer, so I did.
Miracle Number 5
Two weeks later, Bob Evans (producer of Chinatown, The Godfather, Love Story) optioned the book for Paramount Pictures for 100,000 buckeroos.
Miracle Number 6
I was flown to Los Angeles to meet with Bob Evans in his mansion. He asked me to rewrite the entire novel. I refused.
Miracle Number 7
Bob Evans hired Barry Levinson (before he became a famous director) and Valerie Curtin to write a screenplay of the book. They changed the narrator from a man crippled while serving in Vietnam to a failed suicide, but were otherwise faithful to the book. Bob Evans dropped the project.
Miracle Number 8
Dick Donner, fresh from Superman, and before he made his Lethal Weapon movies, got hold of the script and eventually made the film with independent money. The film starred John Savage, David Morse (his first role) and Diana Scarwid (she was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in this film). It is something of a cult classic now.
Miracle Number 9
I was on the set of the film (Echo Park imitating Oakland) for a week and got to watch them shoot scenes with dialogue intact from my novel, most of which ended up on the cutting room floor. A huge thrill to hear good actors acting out my scenes.

Alas, the distribution company, AFD, went bankrupt just as the film was being released and the little beauty was barely distributed.

I have had several letters from junior high and high school teachers letting me know that Inside Moves is the first novel many of their students have ever eagerly read from start to finish, and then read again. The book was out-of-print for thirty years, but is now back in print! Hallelujah!

Listen to Todd reading the first four chapters of the novel.

An unabridged audiobook edition of Inside Moves is available from Audible.com

The movie of Inside Moves was released on DVD in 2010 and is available from Netflix and Amazon.

Available from Penguin Random House.



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