Set in Jazz-Age New York and Hollywood in the Thirties, Shooting Genji is a noir thriller seen through the unusual perspective of a young man named Jean-Yves LeFouet. As a teenager, Jean-Yves falls off a ladder, after being distracted by the sight of his girlfriend kissing another guy, and the accident leaves him hollow-hearted and almost blinded by daylight. On the other hand, his night vision becomes extremely good. He discovers this makes him well suited for any number of shady jobs.
His first dimly lit career path opens up one night when bootleggers hijack him and his truck. After he drives them white-knuckled in the dark—with no headlights—they realize he's just the wheelman they need. They recommend his talents to the Wall Street broker laundering their money, who introduces Jean-Yves to one of the dark arts of Wall Street—front running. The Bull Market and wild nights end abruptly with the Crash of 1929, when the tough customers are not amused, and Jean-Yves has to skip town.
Why not try Los Angeles? The dancer he wooed in New York, whom he let slip through his fingers, is trying to break into the talkies. He finds work there as a chauffeur, delivering scripts at night for a hyphenate-scoundrel, a British director intent on making an erotic film based on the world's first novel-—written 1,000 years ago by a woman—The Tale of Genji.
Jean-Yves finds himself increasingly hard-pressed to navigate the hairpin turns in Hollywood after meeting the lovely bookseller who supplies his employer with copies of Genji, the Japanese classic. Lively and literate, this lady from Shanghai may prove to be his undoing... or his salvation.