Review

Errors and Omissions

by Paul Goldstein



ERRORS AND OMISSIONS, Paul Goldstein's debut novel, is
well-executed, telling a complex story simply and conveying a
difficult topic in an understandable manner while striking the
delicate balance of respecting both the subject matter and the
reader. Indeed, the subject matter --- the intellectual property
rights of screenwriters --- is one that should be of interest, not
to mention concern, for anyone who walks into a movie theater on a
Friday evening or slips a DVD into their player at home. The
general audience, however, barely seems to notice. These days it is
perhaps too easy to obtain entertainment, which seems to appear
right out of thin air. Alas, it doesn't; there is so much that
occurs between the initial inception of a project and its
appearance on a screen, whether at home or at the multiplex, that
it is indeed miraculous that anything gets done at all. And it is
with one of these steps --- the writing --- that ERRORS AND
OMISSIONS concerns itself.

Goldstein is one of the world's leading authorities on the subject
of intellectual property law. As a representative of motion picture
studios, he's able to infuse his book with an over-the-shoulder
look at what goes on behind the scenes. His protagonist is Michael
Seeley, an attorney specializing in artists' rights, whose
brilliant career is hanging on the edge of destruction due to
alcoholism. After a meltdown in front of a judge, Seeley is given
one last chance by his firm to redeem himself when United Pictures,
a client of the firm, specifically requests that Seeley fly out to
Hollywood to confirm their legal ownership to the Spykiller
series, a franchise that the studio has milked for decades.

After due diligence, Seeley is unable to do this, determining that
ownership legally vests in Bert Cobb, the credited author of the
screenplay. Cobb, however, refuses to transfer the franchise's
rights to the studio at any price. A semi-reclusive figure who ekes
out a living as a portrait photographer, Cobb has his reasons for
not signing a release, and one of the high points of ERRORS AND
OMISSIONS is watching how Cobb and Seeley, though badly flawed in
their individual ways, uneasily reach a mutual respect for each
other borne out of their adherence to their respective
principles.

Seeley is under pressure from his firm to issue a letter of
confirmation concerning the studio's ownership; Cobb is being
pressured to sign over the rights to Spykiller. Neither man,
for his own reasons, can do what is required. Goldstein spends the
first third or so of the novel parting the waters to reveal the
iceberg's tip. Seeley, in an effort to get to the truth and the
motives behind the players, begins a search that takes him back to
the 1940s and across the ocean to Germany for a penultimate
confrontation in which millions of dollars are held in the
balance.

Goldstein has created a flawed but likable character in Seeley, who
apparently will be back in Goldstein's next work. It will be nice
to see his character fleshed out just a bit further. The supporting
cast also has quite a bit of potential. Ultimately the trick will
be in finding the audience --- isn't it always? --- which, at least
in the case of ERRORS AND OMISSIONS, should be anyone who has ever
cared about a film.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 21, 2011

Errors and Omissions
by Paul Goldstein

  • Publication Date: July 11, 2006
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday
  • ISBN-10: 0385517173
  • ISBN-13: 9780385517171