Lights out

Central Valley native Manuel Muñoz sets What You See in the Dark in 1959 Bakersfield, where the Director (Alfred Hitchcock) and the Actress (Janet Leigh, natch) are doing location shots for what will become the immortal film Psycho. Cinematic violence is juxtaposed with the all-too-real murder of a young local woman, possibly by her boyfriend, but the center of the story is occupied by the Actress, who tries to understand her character and fight off her own self-doubt as she makes a movie that will turn her into an icon—and isn’t that what every woman wants? The real star here is Muñoz’s language, as it was in his short story collection The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue, and the mood, which is both noir and California. His use of the second-person narration is rarely off-putting, instead providing a sense that the reader is listening to a voice-over—just like the one in the movies.