A tiny piece of film-history trivia—a day of location shooting in 1959 for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho—provides the germ for a thrilling debut novel that’s about far more than trivia. It’s about the way we respond to a changing world.
The movie is never named—nor is The Actress or The Director who travel from Hollywood to Bakersfield, Calif., for that location footage—but their visit to the small agricultural town is only part of the story. There’s also the relationship between handsome young Dan Watson and a Mexican-American girl named Teresa, a relationship that ends in tragedy. And there’s the story of Dan’s mother, a divorced diner waitress who also owns a roadside motel—one that may become the model for a certain infamously creepy movie motel.
Diving in with a first chapter that insinuates the reader as a kind of peeping Tom in the narrative, Munoz crafts a multilayered story that quickly moves beyond the potentially gimmicky premise. Psycho becomes a metaphor for the introduction of new and unsettling ideas: a heroine we first see in her underwear with a married man, her complex justifications for committing a crime, her violent murder. And as the author leaps from 1950s Bakersfield through the tumultuous events of the 1960s, his story digs into the inevitably jarring moments when our assumptions about what is right, normal and expected are shaken to their foundations—and the battling values of revolution and restraint.
Join the author as he shares his dynamic new voice in Salt Lake City this week.