The Pat Hobby Stories ~ A Capsule Book Review by Allen Kopp
F. Scott Fitzgerald was, among other things, a writer of magazine stories. He wrote the seventeen Pat Hobby stories in this collection for Esquire magazine. The stories were published for seventeen consecutive months between January 1940 and May 1941, the last five appearing after Fitzgerald’s premature death at the age of 44 in December 1940. And it wasn’t for love of writing that he wrote them or for “art.” He wrote them for the money they brought in.
As the thirties come to a close, Pat Hobby is a studio hack, a screenwriter who reached his peak in the Silent Era and has been on a downward slide ever since. He drinks to excess and has three ex-wives. Where once he was a high-flyer pulling down three thousand big ones a week, now he is lucky to get two or three weeks at two hundred and fifty a week doing rewrites. Whatever writing talent he ever had is gone. He still dishes out a line of malarkey, though, and can bluff his way through almost any situation. Give him somebody he wants to impress and he impresses them; that is, if they don’t already know what he’s like.
Fitzgerald was drawing on his own experiences in Hollywood when he wrote the character of Pat Hobby. Fitzgerald himself, of course, drank to excess, had plenty of marital problems with his wife Zelda, and worked on the scripts (without garnering screen credits) for several movies of the era, including Marie Antoinette, The Women, and A Yank at Oxford. He co-wrote the screenplay for the 1938 Robert Taylor movie Three Comrades, based on a novel by Erich Maria Remarque. After writing his novels The Great Gatsby, This Side of Paradise, and Tender is the Night, he was definitely beneath himself in Hollywood.
Fitzgerald himself wanted the seventeen Pat Hobby stories to be collected in one volume. If they don’t exactly make a novel, they do make a cohesive whole, and if they lack literary merit, they at least provide a glimpse into the mind of one of America’s most celebrated writers at the end of his life.
Copyright © 2015 by Allen Kopp