After a chance encounter, Hollywood wannabes Robert and Gloria decide to enter a dance marathon for the meals and a free place to stay. The contest is a preposterous test of endurance, with hundreds of couples forced to stay in constant motion at all times except for short breaks to eat and rest. Periodically the organizers up the ante by forcing the bedraggled contestants to run sprints around the dance floor or perform other stunts for the amusement of the audience.
As the marathon drags on it begins to take a toll on the contestants. Nerves are frayed, friendships are severed, and violence erupts every so often. Gloria, never a cheery person, becomes increasingly despondent and bitter about life. Convinced she’ll never become an actress and further convinced that it wouldn’t make her any happier if she did, she openly wishes she were dead, only remaining alive, and in the dance contest, through inertia. Robert, who feels the thousand-dollar grand prize could really help him direct a short film to show to the studios, becomes increasingly frustrated with Gloria’s attitude but nothing he says to her seems to help.
The book is actually told in flashback, so the ending won’t be a surprise. But it still delivers a shock due to McCoy’s stark, unsparing prose. This a very short novel that moves along like a freight train which tells you the whole time that it’s going to run you over, and then does.