Part fact, part fiction, this novel is based on Birnstihl's research into two quite separate phenomena. Over the last forty years he has discovered vulnerable age cycles within certain creative types, similar to those discussed by Gail Sheehy in her books Passages and Pathfinders. He has delved a lot deeper. Also, an avid film watcher, he slowly developed an awareness of a basic colour coding movie makers employ to which the general public is totally unaware. In all his reading of film literature over the years he has seen hardly a word written on this subject. It has become entrenched in both mainstream movies as well as the majority of television dramas. It is about time the public was made aware.
At the end of the book are included 50 or so film reviews which illustrate the depth to which this colour code system is entrenched.
Tom Roper, a film buff to his boot straps, is a lover of all things old, with a mistrust of modern gadgetry. His teenage years spent in London, he now lives a slightly eccentric life in New York. Once a dynamo, with a finger in many pies, he hit the age of 37 and suddenly lost all motivation.
His long suffering friend, Ellie, the archetypical librarian, has read Gail Sheehy's book on age cycles and helps him back on his feet, talking him into working with his strengths. She finds him a job at the local DVD store, as well as work writing for a film magazine. Against her better judgement she also encourages him to continue with his part-time work as a private-eye.
Life is drifting along until the sudden death of his favourite film actor, his idol in fact. Others accept this as an inevitable part of such a precarious profession, Tom is mystified and uneasy. To compound things, the actor's one and only director, Damien Delzeal, has disappeared. Ellie prays this won't thrust Tom back into the depths of depression.
Tom's growing anxieties are exacerbated by a letter in a newspaper and when he visits the arrogant film designer, Badenschtahl, who has worked on many of Delzeal's movies, he is convinced all is not right. Is it time to call Sam Spade a spade?
He attempts to talk privately to the designer's maltreated young lover, a clapper boy, but he too meets a sudden and suspicious death.
Pursuing their investigation, they find each is beginning to follow a different path. Ellie is discovering more and more about the age cycle syndrome, in which Tom is labouring, and which she finds contributed to the death of her own brother. Tom discovers Badenschtahl has much to hide, some of which appears to concern the colour aspects of his design work. As a kind of compensation for his grief, Tom immerses himself in his favourite movies, and it all begins to gel. He would never admit it, but Ellie is a great help here too. Seeing things from a different perspective, she helps him fill the gaps and soon he suspects an incredible world-wide conspiracy involving the manipulation of film audiences through the use of carefully placed colour - apparently innocuous, but cunningly contrived.