by Gardner McKay


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Drama / Characters: 1 male, 1 female

This psychological thriller is a favorite in acting workshops. It is a mind game play. Toyer is someone who toys; he is a mass paralyzer who toys with his victims. He does not murder or rape, he seduces and them immobilizes. Following productions in Los Angles and the Actors Studio, it was produced at the Eisenhower Theatre and the Kennedy Center with Kathleen Turner and Brad Davis, directed by Tony Richardson.

"Strong stuff. . .Outlandish mind games. Ri

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780573692970
Publisher: Samuel French, Incorporated
Publication date: 11/17/2010
Pages: 80
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.17(d)

About the Author

Gardner McKay received a Drama Critics Circle Award for one of his plays, and three NEA grants for writing. He was a professional skipper, sculptor, college instructor, and actor.

Read an Excerpt


By Gardner McKay

Warner Books

ISBN: 0-446-60773-8

Chapter One


But the movie was far longer than Lydia wanted it to be. When she stood up, it had been over for her a long time. An endless anecdote. Would the lovers die badly? No, of course they wouldn't, she no longer cared, she had seen the trailer. Still, she had stayed on for the final terrorist explosion, waiting it out.

The FBI agent who'd assigned them to work together knew how much they disliked each other, which meant they'd fall in love. But when they did, Lydia could see that the actors still disliked each other. Horrible kisses.

When the lights came up, dimly raising the theater to its fetid grandeur, she noticed that she was nearly alone. Half-a-dozen couples rose, brushing crumbs. She slipped her movie glasses off, tucked them into her purse. One by one, she had clicked off the moments from the trailer. Whoever makes the trailer sure doesn't make the movie. Trailers are so much better, it's always a breathless filmlet guided by a spiritual baritone who begins, "In a world where ..."

You can't return a movie. Return a dress, a steak, wine, but never a movie. It's a blind date from Hollywood and your evening's shot. What about an evening of two-minute movies?

In protest, she dropped her Diet Pepsi cup with a clack on the cement floor.

Six rows down, a man looked over at her, a black-haired man wearing a white shirt, sleeves rolled up a bit, two buttons open, he was wih a much shorter girl. He turned away down the aisle and lookedback, smiled directly at Lydia, shrugged. About the movie? She intuitively looked down. He could be in sales, he could be in advertising. Lydia's set dream: the care and feeding of a rising professional who drives away to work every morning smelling of soap, wearing shined shoes.

The lush heat of the parking lot surrounded her ears and neck. Used air. She followed the black-haired man and his much shorter date, a couple no longer speaking, as they passed between atmosphere from theater lobby to night to car.

But her car would not start. Lydia sat, key turned, pumping the gas pe(al. It almost started, but it just would not. And the air conditioner would not work without the motor, she wondered why. She saw her black-haired executive get into a small new car with his midget, girlfriend. Now they were arguing. Of course they would, they were so mismatched. Lydia signaled to him, waving. I'll bet he can start my car, but only the dwarf saw her wave, the rising professional had turned the other way and they drove off.

Lyda tried the starter again. The battery worked, she heard the fierce whine under the hood, determined. The lights came on, the radio flayed. But the air conditioner would not. Where the hell is Rick?

Now she smelled gas. Great. The thing is flooded. Whenever you smell gas, according to Rick, it's flooded.

Rick isn't available. If he was, she would not need to call him, he would be here with her. She had telephoned him from the lobby, he did not answer. He's home with his ratty bimbo. She listened again to his male hunter-gatherer message, I'm-out-your-call-is-important-to-me-maybe. She left a message so loud they both could hear it in the bedroom telling him to go fuck himself.

She looked back at the theater, probably built in the 1940s, a shabby temple created to dignify bad movies. Whatever palatial magic it once held was gone. She stayed in her car ten minutes as Rick had told her to do, waiting for whatever needed to happen to a flooded motor. Drain, I guess.

Lydia stared at the hood. The lights on the theater's marquee snapped off. Now in the black, she could see the moon faintly reflected on the hood. Once, when she was six and plump, she stood up in class and answered that she would love to go to the moon but what would she eat there? Even her teacher had laughed. That comes back to me at the strangest times.

Lydia got out of the car, looked directly up at the moon, a tough little shard, a wintry moon on a sultry night. Winter up there, maybe. Strangely clear. Jupiter and Orion and Mars. Everything is in order Life goes on. Without Rick.

She knocked on the glass door of the theater, rattling it. The staff had slipped away, only the popcorn machine stood watch, glowing, loaded with puffed kibble for tomorrow's audience.

She sat again in the locked car, holding the wheel with both hands, head down, waiting for something to happen.

A man, maybe twenty-five or so, in a dark jacket and white rubber-soled shoes, was using the pay telephone, lit at the corner of the parking lot, leaning on a bronze car the size of an aircraft carrier. One hip out. Jeans. She watched him. If he ever gets through talking, I'll call Rick and say I'm sorry.

When he hung up she waved to him. "Excuse me?" she called out. "Sir?" He got into his car and drove over to her.

Her hood was up. He had raised it effortlessly, blindly pressing the release hook with insolent skill. He stood between their cars, slouched, thinking with his face. Good skin. He was about her age and she could not tell in the overhead light exactly what he looked like, whether he was cute or not, but he seemed uncomplicated, a familiar type. Shy. His jacket had a large orange H on it. I don't know anyone who still wears their letter jacket.

He had not turned off his engine and it churned beside them with the bass grumbling of proud carburetors, storming the night. Gleaming wheels, the hood's polished whorls, both ends jacked up an extra foot off the ground. His car's interior looked tidy and she felt lucky.

A shy, boy-man devoted to cars. Why shouldn't she ask him for help? She had always gotten along well with simple men and here was a simple man. She wasn't too complicated herself, she thought, why shouldn't she get along? Anyway, he wore a letter jacket and called her transmission a tranny and she thought that was cute.

He connected his work-light from his battery and hung it under her hood. She gave him a coat hanger from the back seat of her car and he sculpted it into a long o-o and installed it under her hood. She thanked him before he fixed it, as he was fixing it, and when he had fixed it. She started her car. A classic nice guy. All you hear are warnings.

Driving. Even at night, barely seen, the barren main streets of the Valley were without redemption. Above the closed stores on the scathing signs, the merchants' pleadings: SALE! A visitor to the San Fernando Valley would sense sweeping fear of bankruptcy. Tension lingered along blocks of dark stores. Sell. Sell. There was no restraint. The number .99 figured in all appeals, a nagging tribute to buyers' mindlessness.

In her rearview mirror, Lydia watched his headlights several car lengths behind her. He was driving in the inside lane so his lights would not irritate her. He had offered to follow her home to make sure the wire coat hanger held.

Now the flat, billboard boulevards began to curve, rising gently toward the hills. The Valley changed as she drove, the drastic storefronts became firm New England dwellings, Spanish haciendas. Narrow streets named by Realtors, ending in dale and crest and view. They passed Multiview Drive. Now, occasional streetlights through the area named Warren Oak Crest.

Into the hills, known to be the Santa Monica Mountains, that ran the breadth of the Valley to the south. Mounds made of decomposing granite that rose maybe two hundred and fifty feet. Houses that resembled Lego toys clung to steep miniature lots where no houses belonged and only animals were able walk among abrupt inclines. Some were built in air, standing on stilts. Below, the slopes were covered by growths of sage and sumac, already dried by summer, ready to burn.

He drove behind her at the same measured distance. Good guys. Where do they come from? Where are they going? He parked with fierce speed half a block behind her on the slanted street. He may never have finished school and he's nicer than almost anyone at work.

The porch light was on, surrounded by flights of moths who thought they had found the sun. Dimly lit was the small stoop by the front door, space for only a straight wood bench.

The cottage was built in the tradition of appliances never intended to outlast their guarantee, maybe fifty years ago in the 1940s or the 1950s, no one knew when. But it had lasted, and in the 1960s a laundry room had been added to the kitchen and, later, a spindly carport. There were no standard stains of age because there was no real weather, only infectious air. The small house looked wizened.

He stood in the doorway. The lighting in the living room never seemed to matter to Lydia. There was the original ceiling light, exhausted, that gave the room a masculine etch. There were two small lamps, bought used, one with an amber shade, the other with a red shade. There was a suite of white wicker furniture and a defeated sofa. On the walls were framed posters. The bathroom door was open, displaying dark plastic bottles.

"Pliers?" He opened and closed his hand. School for the deaf. "You have pliers, miss?" Miss? He's forgotten my name.

"Yes. I'll get them." Rick left a pair.

"I'd like to finish the job up so you could get to work tomorrow, and a screwdriver, please. And a rag."

She found a rag but no screwdriver and she handed him an iced tea spoon taken from a cafe. "You love cars, right?"

"I guess." When she handed him the spoon, he almost smiled. "This is a spoon."

She wanted to laugh. "It's as close to a screwdriver as you get here."

"No problem." She saw him now, a doer of good deeds. Not entirely unattractive to her. Taller. Slightly older. Still, he seemed mindless, and she knew she would never be even slightly interested in a mindless man, no matter how good he was. He might lie under cars all day and watch baseball in the evenings and aspire to golf. Like Dad.

His bronze aircraft carrier idled down the block by the curb. He switched the great drumbling motor off, leaving the night unstartled. In a moment, delicate sounds of rushing insects joined them.

She brought him a cup of coffee.

"I don't drink coffee, but thank you, miss."

"Oh, come on in." She had forgotten his name, if she ever knew it at all. "I'm not going to hurt you." She wanted to get him talking, maybe learn just a little more about why her car stopped running.

By the time he came to the door again she was dipping two tea bags into a white china teapot, vapor rising. "It works," he said, grinning.

"Great." Everyone else I know is so damned complicated. For all her freedom, Lydia was unfree.

"Well, I've got to be driving back up to Northridge." Nice guys live in Northridge.

"Come on in for a minute. I mean, I wish I could pay you something but I know you wouldn't accept it. After all, you rode by like a knight on horseback and rescued me." He isn't getting the part about the knight. "I've just made a pot of tea."

"Hot tea?"

"Yeah, believe it or not, it's good on hot nights."

"What time is it?"

He doesn't even have a watch. Everyone has a watch.

"Well, let's see, what time did the movie start? Eight twenty?"

"Yeah, so it's got to be ..." he moved his fingers along his thigh without knowing it, counting, "probably eleven thirty or so. I better go."

"Oh, have a cup. Hot tea's better than iced tea on summer nights, makes you hotter inside than out, keeps you from sweating."

"Oh, yeah?" He sat on the sofa with a clump. "Good movie, huh?" he said.

"You saw it?" He was there? "I didn't know you saw it."

"Yeah, most of it. Cool plane crash." Where was he sitting?

"I hated it, quite honestly." So did my executive. She handed him the cup and saucer. "Did you really believe those two belonged together?"

"Yeah, why not?" God, isn't he something?

"I don't know, just two movie stars. Love is ..." She stopped, too personal.

"No rules, I guess."

No rules? Where did that come from? "No, I guess maybe not." No rules in love. "Maybe you're right. Maybe anyone belongs with anyone." Was that him in the back row? Someone came in late.

He was looking around the room. "Nice place you've got here." Well, he's not an architect, anyway. "Very quiet."

"It gets on my nerves sometimes, frankly."

Deep thought. "Yeah. I guess." My knight, unhorsed, is really boring.

He put the cup aside, embarrassed. "Hey, I'm sorry. It's too hot for me."

"It's just as well. We have to get up."

"Who's we?"

"Well, you know, I have ... a roommate coming home anytime." What made me say that? "She sleeps right where you're sitting as a matter of fact, it's a sofa bed." I don't have a roommate coming home and it's not a sofa bed. Why am I lying?

He half rose. Sat. Stood. Maybe embarrassed that she had so obviously put a border on the evening. Mom told me never to tell a man you live alone unless you're prepared to spend the night with him.

They looked away from each other in silence, listening to the absolute soundlessness of the night. Lydia had not heard a car pass the house for ten minutes. The gap of silence widened. He had nothing left to say. Neither did she.

"Lydia ..." He stopped. There was something wrong, Lydia was too familiar, too sure. He knows my name after all. Her name hung in the room as though she had been accused.

"Your roommate's not coming home. I don't think." He said it simply, as if to set the record straight.

"What do you mean?"

"She's moved." He added, "Carol," as if he liked the name. He knows our names. He knows she stayed here last month.

"I was in here earlier," he said.

"But what do you mean?" She was feeling dizzy.

"Here." His eyes scanned the room aimlessly. "I cut your phone line." He pointed to the window. "Outside." He sat with his arms spread across the back of the sofa.

She barely heard him and when she did, hearing him say it again in her mind, she did not think she really had. She wanted to ask him how he knew Carol's name but she could not shape the words.

"Now don't go getting upset."

"I'm not." The first wave of fear. Oh, dear Christ, what's going on? Be cool. "It's just that it's late and I want some more tea."

He reached his untouched cup of tea to her without standing and looked at her with a surprisingly weary look. "Have mine, please. Your throat's a little dry, isn't it?"

It is dry. Lydia looked down at her hands reaching for the cup, they looked small and bleached.

He was standing above her.

"My boyfriend ..."

"Rick? "


"You're not seeing Rick anymore." Condolences.

What a strange thing was happening to Lydia.

"I've been picking up your phone messages recently."


Excerpted from Toyer by Gardner McKay Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Jimmy Buffett

Effective, exciting and bizarre. . . In Toyer, McKay has given us an array of unsuspecting victims who fall into the Venus flytrap world of a villain as cunning as Richard III and as maniacal as Hannibal Lechter.

Dominick Dunne

Gardner McKay's brilliantly intricate novel, Toyer, is frightening, fascinating, and wonderfully well written. There were times reading it when I had to put it down to collect myself before picking it up again.

James Cameron

Toyer is a novel where Los Angeles stars as itself, the city of masks, where relationships peel the onion of dark revelation, as two adversaries couple in a seductive death-lock. Gardner McKay has woven a chilling and disturbing descent into the catacomb of the mind.

Leon Bing

Whoever picks up Gardner McKay's novel, Toyer, will know, early on, that a master has laid hands on them. This is a book of such sheer, brutal brilliance that the reader often feels like a passenger trapped on a runaway train racketing along a downhill track. Mr. McKay is a superbly accomplished writer; not since Hannibal Lecter has there been a literary character of such silken and absolute menace as Toyer.

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Toyer 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
TheBookProwler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Too many of the main characters' actions were not consistent throughout the book, and did not add up at the end. The choice of prefrontal lobotomy as the "best" procedure for revenge was weak. This would not have left him intellectually aware, but physically incapable, as he'd rendered his victims.
NativeRoses on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Highly recommended to readers who enjoy suspenseful, dark, psychological thrillers. Toyer is a highly functional lunatic who ruins the lives of beautiful, successful women into living dolls (his toys) for fun. He learns about these women, charms his way into their homes and then drugs them. While drugged, Toyer toys with them psychologically by asking them what they were planning to do the NEXT day and telling them they are his NEXT. This is horrifying because they know exactly who he is and what he does. The thought of lying in a coma for the rest of their lives is a fate worse than death for many of them. Then Toyer permanently disables them by using a surgical utensil to cut their spinal cord off from their brain, which puts them into a permanent coma. The newspaper has named him Toyer because he toys with his victims and the police. By turning them into living dolls, one could argue that they become his toys.Maude Garance is a neurologist who is stressed from treating Toyer's victims. She is enraged by the effect he has on his victims and their families. She is further enraged at the police and DA who are not aggressively hunting for Toyer because he can only be charged with mayhem rather than homicide. Maude is in a personal fight against Toyer and eventually turns to Sara, an ambitious, young reporter from the L.A. Herald, in an attempt to stop him. Maude talks to Toyer through the paper's op-ed page about feelings and hopes. Sara's editor appreciates the paper's expanded readership. Toyer enjoys his new fame and decides to write a book in which he describes in detail how he destroys his victims. Like with OJ, a publisher actually agrees to pay millions for his book and Toyer decides the money should be divided among his victims' families. Eventually Maude and Sara become Toyer's targets. To say more would be a spoiler . . .A fascinating aspect of this mystery is that it is written from several points of view -- including Toyer's. Characters are written very well and the view into Toyer's mind is particular chilling.The book's prose is excellent and it has a very dark, disturbing tone almost all the way through.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is by far one of the greatest books I've read. I love the way McKay writes the story in the point of view of many of the characters. This book kept me on the edge of my seat, and I didn't stop reading it until I was finished. I recommend this book to many people.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Use of present tense is always annoying, but I'll put up with it if the book is otherwise enjoyable. This one was not. It desperately needed editing; too much of the author trying, unsuccessfully, to effectively put words together. After 50 pages, I just skipped to the end, hoping the cat was unharmed more than for curiosity about how the plot finally winds down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book, although I was a little disappointed in the ending. I felt it left too many questions unanswered,hopefully a sequel is in the works.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sorry Jimmy Buffet, Hannibal Lechter he's not! Although an enjoyable read, Thomas Harris has nothing to worry about here. Readers, spend your money on more worthy books.
Guest More than 1 year ago
the promos for the book hyped it beyond belief. if he didn't use his celebrity to publisize it--he wouldn't have gotten it published. it was a cliche from first page to last. interesting use of present tense gave it a better rating than a '1'.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Gardner McKay has a way with words and he weaved a real thriller that is different from other novels of the serial killer type. We have read the novel several times and have listened to the audio tape. Very dramatic and characters are unforgettable. This surely will become a movie. We hope the author writes more.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was one of the most drawn out books I have ever read. It never takes me more than a day or two to finish a book of this size but I was still reading Toyer four days after I started it. I had the villian nailed down to one of three people midway through the book and was praying for McKay to stop Toying with me and end the pain