~ The Day of the Locust ~


Nathanael West

Tod Hackett is a young artist who has come to work in Hollywood as scene painter. All too conscious of what lies behind the flimsy façades, he dreams of painting his masterpiece, The Burning of Los Angeles, but is distracted from his art by a cast of misfit characters: aspiring starlet Faye Greener and her father, Harry, an out-of-work vaudevillian; Homer Simpson, a displaced bookkeeper who becomes infatuated with femme fatale Faye; a cowboy called Earle Shoop; Miguel the Mexican who keeps fighting cocks; and Abe Kusich, an irascible dwarf.

As he wanders amongst film sets, Tod’s life comes to resemble a waking dream, or nightmare:

“Throwing away his cigarette, he went through the swinging doors of the saloon. There was no back to the building and he found himself in a Paris street. He followed it to its end, coming out in a Romanesque courtyard. He heard voices a short distance away and went toward them. On a lawn of fiber, a group of men and women in riding costume were picnicking. They were eating cardboard food in front of a cellophane waterfall. He started toward them to ask his way, but was stopped by a man who scowled and held up a sign – ‘Quiet, Please, We’re Shooting.’ When Tod took another step forward, the man shook his fist threateningly.”

The story builds to a dénouement in which the frustration and barely suppressed violence that permeates the narrative finds its outlet in a riot at a film premiere: Tod’s apocalyptic vision has become a reality . . .

Admired by David Lynch, and a major influence on his film Mulholland Drive as well as the Coen brothers’ Barton FinkThe Day of the Locust has long been regarded as the classic Hollywood novel.

  • A new digital edition of this neglected classic
  • Fully edited and corrected text
  • Includes a Note on the Text, embedded explanatory notes and Links to Further Reading


The Day of the Locust … remains the best of the Hollywood novels, a nightmare vision of humanity destroyed by its obsession with film’ J.G. BallardSunday Times

“I love that book, I love the ’30s and Sunset Boulevard.” – David Lynch

“It’s brilliant, savage and arresting – a truly good novel.” – Dorothy Parker

“The book . . . has scenes of extraordinary power. Especially I was impressed by the pathological crowd at the premiere, the character and handling of the aspirant actress and the uncanny almost medieval feeling of some his Hollywood background set off by those vividly drawn grotesques.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

“This is the Hollywood that needs telling about. It’s a fine job. I got a kick out of it!” – Dashiell Hammett

“One great, real Hollywood read is Nathanael West’s The Day of the Locust.” – Joan RiversNew York Times


Nathanael West (1903–1940) was born the child of Russian-Jewish immigrants in New York City. He is said to have changed his name from Nathan Weinstein to “West,” after Horace Greeley’s famous line “Go west, young man.” He spent the last five years of his life in Hollywood where his experiences as a screenwriter informed the writing of The Day of the Locust.


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