I love a good Hollywood story. The town’s like an old trollop with a million tales to tell, proud of her very corruption. Not for nothing is the Hollywood fable a traditional setting for morality tales (a triumph of hypocrisy in itself).

Thomas M. Sipos’ novel Hollywood Witches shows considerable promise and delivers a number of laughs, but unfortunately it gets weighed down by its lack of narrative discipline.

The chief eponymous witch of the story is Diana Dagen, a figure of satire, gargantuan in her vices and terrifying in her lack of self-awareness. A failed actress, she now works as “development executive” in a movie studio. She believes herself intensely spiritual and full of love for all humankind, but that doesn’t prevent her from treating her underlings like dirt, using black magic to thwart or kill her enemies, and planning to murder thousands of people at once—all for enlightened, politically correct purposes, of course.

There is no subtlety in Diana’s character. If you like characters in novels, even bad characters, to have sympathetic sides, you won’t find one here. Diana is pure black-hat witch, evil all through.

But of course she’s a Hollywood production executive, so that doesn’t strain credibility much.

Facing off against Diana are Vanessa Cortez, a struggling actress, part-time tabloid reporter, and phone psychic, and her boyfriend, tabloid reporter Hank Willow. Vanessa’s impulsive theft of two books from a casting director’s office sets off the action: they are ancient hermetical sorcery texts which Diana needs for the great spell she is planning to cast, a spell which (she believes) will remake the world and put her in her rightful place as global ruler.

In spite of stealing books and working as a phone psychic, Vanessa is presented as a devout Catholic, one whose faith is a source of power in her struggle against Diana. From a Christian point of view, Hollywood Witches is solidly on the right side—Christianity is unequivocally good, witchcraft utterly evil.

Christian readers, however, will have trouble with much of the language and the sexual situations, most particularly an extended scene in which Diana attempts to use an act of coitus as a source of magical power. The scene involves considerable low comedy, fart jokes, and humor derived from the smell of a rotting corpse. The spirit is that of a Judd Apatow comedy, but with more decomposition.

Author Sipos has a gift for dialogue (promising in one who—one assumes—is a screenwriter), and can be very funny. But he needs a good editor. Scenes which dramatize the boredom and degradation of the life of a movie extra start out interesting but go on too long (realistic, but it forfeits reader interest). Diana’s disquisitions on the theory of magic sound well-researched (I don’t know; maybe the author made a lot of it up), but tell us more than we really care, or need, to know for the sake of the story.

Hollywood Witches is a commendable effort, which will entertain readers with strong stomachs.

It can be downloaded here.

Lars Walker is a Minnesota fantasy author. His most recent novel is West Oversea. He was sent a copy of Hollywood Witches for review purposes.