What You See in the Dark
Muñoz’s first novel, What You See in the Dark, was published in 2011. Set in 1950’s Bakersfield, it tells the story of Teresa, a young and aspiring singer too far away from Los Angeles to share that city’s glamour. In Dan Watson, the most desirable young man in town, she believes she has found someone to help her realize those dreams.
When a famous Actress arrives from Hollywood with a great and already legendary director, local gossip about the young lovers turns to speculation about the celebrated visitors there to work on what will become an iconic, groundbreaking film of madness and murder at a roadside motel. No one in Bakersfield anticipates how the ill-fated love affair between Dan and Teresa will soon rival anything the director could ever put on screen.
What You See in the Dark received a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, which called it “a stellar first novel…with a subtlety worthy of Hitchcock himself.” The film critic Charles Taylor praised it as “a remarkable first novel” and wrote that “his prose is precise, his people alive and yet ghostly, as if, like the streets and characters we see in The Last Picture Show, the people, the town itself, everything were in a rehearsal for its own disappearance.”
“One of the cleverest suspense conceits I’ve encountered in a long time…This atmospheric tale of twisted minds and small-town murder would’ve put a demented gleam in The Master’s eye.” --Maureen Corrigan, NPR.org
“Manuel Muñoz’s vividly suspenseful first novel is a fine blend of Hitchcock’s chilly elegance and the sordid passions of James M. Cain: a dark, intimate, heartbreaking tale about four very different women, each one longing to escape the confines of her everyday life through the romantic illusions concocted by Hollywood. Their voices will haunt me for some time to come.”
“A powerful portrait…What You See in the Dark is a gem, full of drama and keen social observation, worthy of a movie treatment of its own. It’s imbued with the noir sensibility of James Cain’s The Postman Always Rings Twice and Mildred Pierce.”
“Manuel Muñoz has written a novel that is gripping to read and illuminating in what it says. What You See in the Dark begins with a sweet romance and a dark surprise as it traces the winding path of violence in our dreamy American longings. How beautifully the pieces of this book fit together, and how radiantly original it is.”
“An audacious debut novel…the book, like its double-entendre title, operates superbly on so many levels: as a sharply detailed portrait of small-town life, as a skillful whodunit and as a meditation on escapism and celebrity.”
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
“In his dazzling debut novel, Manuel Muñoz takes into the heart of small-town 1950s California with pathos, sensitivity, and astonishing beauty. The book is a love story, a tragedy, and a cautionary Hollywood tale all in one. Be forewarned: once you pick up this gorgeously riveting book, you won’t be able to put it down until it’s done.”
“What You See in the Dark is beautifully written and perfectly told, an irresistible novel about desire that will keep you reading through the night. It is a true romance and a True Romance, and Manuel Muñoz has the wisdom to know the difference.”