It's been a decade since his last adult novel but Frey - who Time described as "America's most notorious writer" - after the controversy surrounding his 2003 debut A Million Little Pieces, a memoir which contained more fiction than truth, is back.

Katerina skips back and forth between Los Angeles in 2017 - where we see main protagonist Jay as a jaded writer turned entertainment hot-shot and Paris in 1992 when he is just starting out.

Reading Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer sets him on a whirlwind re-evaluation of his life - and within a few pages he's dumped his girlfriend and sold enough cocaine to afford a plane ticket to the City of Lights.

Despite similarities with Frey's own life (a Milleresque trip to Paris when he was 21; he now heads the phenomenally successful entertainment company Full Fathoms Five) this is being marketed as a novel.


Jay might have gone to Paris to pen the Great American Novel but all he really does is drink a lot, go to art galleries and float failed manuscripts down the Seine.

He's a charmed bohemian though.

Despite being alcoholic and penniless he meets beautiful French girls in cafes who are keen for quick, passionate hook-ups in heritage apartments.

And then he meets Katerina - a model from Norway who stumbles on him at the Rodin Museum where he's admiring the sculptor's Gates of Hell.

Sample dialogue - "you're playing hard to get. That's kind of cute.... You can look at me. I'm not Medusa."

Frey takes some Bukowski (there's a whole interlude where Jay and some friends hit a beer fest in Germany that has no reason for being there), lots of Miller and what appears to be his memories of the Penthouse letters page and weaves together a story so full of cliché it's almost brave.

And it might've even worked if the self-important Jay wasn't given so much page time.

The angry, depressed and successful Jay is far more interesting.


"They give me stupid amounts of money. I do what they want and give them what they pay me for and I hate myself... And when I stop long enough to think about what I'm doing... I want to buy a gun and blow my f**cking brains out".

And, odds on, Frey will get more crazy money for this when Hollywood swoops up the film rights.

James Frey (John Murray $29.99)