“Here is where our country was at the end of the last century: boozing, whoring, fame-guzzling, oblivious to the millennial hangover just around the corner. Before there was sex in ‘the City,’ before we knew the Devil wore Prada, before Grey was a color that came in fifty shades, there was Show World. A speedball of a read with real Girls OD’ing on sex, drugs, power, and celebrity. What a show!”
–Brando Skyhorse (The Madonnas of Echo Park, PEN/Hemingway winner)

Nice things reviewers said:
(I could have had three times as many not-so-nice things, if we had room!)

“Show World is simply a good hard look at the world the way it is… it’s a cautionary tale to be sure, a reminder to hold tight and hang on.” –New Orleans Times-Picayune

“In the end though, what’s most intriguing about Show World is not Barnhardt’s ease in describing Washington and Hollywood power plays, but his convincing handling of the friendship of his heroines. Samantha and Mimi’s banter about booze, weight, and fickle sexual exploits rings as true as their fights, jealousies, and insecurities.  Flawed these two may be, but they’re also intensely likable and smart–just two players coming of age in the Age of Spin.” — Carrie A.A. Frye, Asheville Mountain Express

“Fast-paced and sardonic, Show World astutely observes the inverted values of its wickeldy drawn characters.”  — BOOKLIST

“Sharp characterization and deft wit ring as strong as ever in this new book. Sam and Mimi’s friendship — that of two friends so close and yet opposed in many ways — eerily reflects the polar extremes of the late ’70s through the early ’90s — morality vs. decadence, the rewards of the soul vs. those of the flesh, “real life” vs. show biz. Mr. Barnhardt makes these two complex, often downright irritating characters nonetheless likable and eminently memorable. And once again he leaves his readers wanting more.  Sooner.  Please.” — Joy Dickinson, Dallas Morning News

Um, sorry Joy, about that 15-year wait…

“There are clever inventions (the lyrics to the hit single ‘Inside You’ are a rude treat) and a few vivid scenes (Sam’s sad-funny reunion with her father, living in TV-drugged bliss with his middle-aged girlfriend at the Paradise Acres trailer park is a comic gem). But the novel takes aim at too many easy targets and never reconciles its campy melodrama with the coming-of-age story were prepared to expect. Barnhardt is better than this.” — KIRKUS

Oh no I’m not!

“After the exuberant Emma Who Saved My Life and the 788-page blockbuster Gospel, Barnhardt has trimmed his sails somewhat in a novel that, despite several allusions to Mary McCarthy’s The Group, is closer in spirit to Valley of the Dolls… What he has actually written is a page-turning, pills-and-sex saga…” — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

“Yes, it’s as if Valley of the Dolls has been fast-throttled to 1998, but you know, it’s good. The question is, Are You Experienced? This is a novel about the peril of giving one’s life over to the World of Show, i.e. film, media, entertainment, politics. From a distance it may seem like the stuff of tawdry tabloids, but all Barnhardt has done is accurately observe the sordid, amoral mainstream of Los Angeles (especially in the novel’s last third). From one who has been there, done that, I can attest his depictions are accurate. Perhaps there’s a shortage of sympathetic characters, but like they say: you want a friend in LA, then get a dog. The final chapter reads like some outtake from ‘Videodrome,’ with realities colliding and meshing and morphing.”  –L.S. from Chapel Hill on

“In other reviews of this book, a lot seems to have been made of Barnhardt’s supposed ‘departure’ from his ‘usual’ style in this book. On the contrary, I found both the characterizations and the tone of the prose similar to both Emma and Gospel. Barnhardt’s real strength here is the narrative, the way in which he breezes by, touches down, delivers acerbic commentary, and flies on. “Caring” about the characters seems secondary to the actual aim of the book, which I would characterize as pre-millennial nausea. I think it’s Barnhardt’s aim to show there is no real ‘there’ there, but to also offer shades of possibility in these characters, as well as a kind of search (however misguided) for identity in an option-saturated, shaded world…” — ‘A Customer’ on

“Barnhardt further evidences his remarkable command of subject matter. Show World’s story is nothing like those of Emma or Gospel (both of which I enjoyed). Barnhardt’s versatility in storytelling from novel to novel is one of his finest qualities as a writer and Show World is easily his finest and most focused effort to date. I loved reading this book. Alternately funny, lurid, observant, and extraordinarily moving, no publisher has released a more entertaining novel in the past few years. I read the final 100 pages non-stop. I could not put the book down. Very highly recommended.” — another ‘A Customer’ on

‘A Customer’ is always right!