City of Blows

Tim Blake Nelson

Tim Blake Nelson’s debut novel is an epic group portrait of four men grappling for control of a script in a radically changing Hollywood, or the City of Blows.

It’s early 2019 and the legendary (and legendarily difficult) producer Jacob Rosenthal is hellbent on producing his next film, Coal, adapted from the bestselling novel by celebrated (but long deceased) writer Rex Patterson. For reasons profoundly personal, the project—which takes on the controversial topic of race in America—is Jacob’s envisioned magnum opus, and likely his swan song.

For equally personal reasons, Jacob selects David Levit to direct; a major opportunity for the classically trained actor/director whose own films, while garnering some critical acclaim, have not yet resulted in box office success. The announcement of David’s hiring for Coal does not sit well with another producer who has worked with David, Brad Shlansky.

With a career spiraling out of control, Brad increasingly needs someone to blame, and David is the softest target he can think of. As he channels the last remaining vestiges of his creativity into a revenge plot that will ruin David’s big break (and Jacob’s crowning achievement), Brad’s tragicomic origin story is revealed. But it is his agent and boyhood friend, the handsome and successful Paul Aiello, who triggers a greater unraveling—and a long over-due reckoning for abuse and coercion masquerading as traditional Hollywood masculinity.

A sharply crafted satire, City of Blows is both love letter and indictment of the film industry from an insider. You will find yourself laughing in spite of the ruthlessness and despair, the hubris and the sheer evil, as City of Blows accelerates to its crescendo.


Praise for City of Blows

"The best, funniest, most incisive depiction of Hollywood's brute illogic since The Player, and the only one I can think of that so perfectly situates that illogic within the greater American power structures that have deformed us all. Tim Blake Nelson's City of Blows is phenomenal."
Matthew Specktor, author of AMERICAN DREAM MACHINE

"Tim Blake Nelson’s vivid characterizations in CITY OF BLOWS so humorously, painfully and accurately depicts the savage world of Hollywood that it is too true to be satire. Anyone in show business will recognize people they know from the headlines or from their own experiences. And most poignantly, they will recognize themselves in the Hollywood playground of damaged people who desperately seek external validation. For a show-biz outsider, this powerful, and exquisitely written novel is a cautionary, existential primer on the ego-driven workings behind an entire mega-business."
Debbie Liebling, executive producer of PEN15 and SOUTH PARK

"Like me, Tim Blake Nelson is a hick who went to Hollywood. He's seen it all and, unlike me, has put it in a book. I'm not sure this was a good career move for Tim. It's a funny novel though."
Ethan Coen,