Halloween Night, 1954. A young, film-obsessed scriptwriter has just been hired at one of the great studios. An anonymous investigation leads from the giant Maximus Films backlot to an eerie graveyard separated from the studio by a single wall. There he makes a terrifying discovery that thrusts him into a maelstrom of intrigue and mystery—and into the dizzy exhilaration of the movie industry at the height of its glittering power.
Hollywood, Halloween night, 1954. At a midnight party in a graveyard adjacent to the studio where he works, the sci-fi screenwriter/narrator glimpses the dangling papier-mache corpse (or real body?) of a film magnate presumed killed exactly 20 years earlier. Then a prop man (or his effigy) is hanged, or else is on the run, and another studio hand is murdered. A Beast is loose, attempting to instill panic on the set, perhaps to cover up what really happened two decades ago. Bradbury eventually ties up the loose ends in a loopy funhouse of a novel peopled with a monocled, imperious Austrian-Chinese director; Lenin's ex-makeup man, from the Kremlin; a gaunt, sermonizing actor named Jesus Christ; a feisty ex-movie queen who demands that ``J.C.'' bless her; and other oddballs. Madness, blackmail, murder and mayhem spell tricks and treats as Bradbury toes the fine line between reality and illusion.