Nostalgia City Mysteries

By Mark S. Bacon

Category Archives: crime novel

Join Eddie Collins, actor-turned PI, on a back-lot tour with laughs, deaths and Hollywood tales

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Murder Unscripted
Clive Rosengren
Coffee Town Press, Oct. 2017
240 pages
$5.95Kindle  $13.41 Trade paper

Passing by the famous Hollywood sign in the hills above tinsel town, Eddie Collins drives his Olds Cutlass though an uncharacteristically rainy Southern California afternoon.  “As the wipers droned back and forth like two annoying metronomes, I began to feel an emptiness oozing into me.”

He’s just learned that his ex-wife, movie actress Elaine Weddington, died in her trailer at Americana Pictures, a bottle of medicine lying next to her.  Accident or murder?  Although it’s been more than eight years since they split, as her career started to take off and Collins’ acting opportunities flattened out, he harbors good memories.

Weddington was in the middle of filming Flames of Desire and her death puts the movie’s future in jeopardy.  Since Americana Pictures had taken out a completion bond to protect the studio’s investment, the bond company hires a private investigator: Eddie Collins.

As his acting jobs became more hit or miss, he opened Collins Investigations to keep him “sane and solvent.”  Since he had worked for the bond company before, he is hired to look into the murder at the Flames of Desire set, regardless of his connection to Weddington.

Mixing crime and the movie biz, author Clive Rosengren starts his Eddie Collins mystery series with the Weddington case in Murder Unscripted.  Two other novels are in print, another is due out later this year and the author is working on book #5.  A Hollywood actor himself for many years, Rosengren knows his way around a movie set and treats readers to insider tidbits that make the story all the more realistic. 

After the rain, Rosengren says, “patches of water on the street…reflected the light like movie streets invariably do.  One never sees a dry street at night in the movies, even during the sweltering heat of the summer.”

A second murder complicates the case.  Collins is led all over the movie lot and outside to dingy bars as he questions, Sam Goldman, the studio head, along with movie stars, assistant directors and various hangers on, most with secrets that aren’t in the PI’s script.

The story progresses in a relaxed, comfortable style with Collins sharing reminiscences of films and actors of the past as he tries to establish the whereabouts of various suspects at the times the murders were committed.  Rosengren fills the book with Collins’ light-hearted observations that kept me smiling. 

“A lot of people stand around at a movie set.  The most popular place is the craft [catering] services tables.  Munchies abound, the bill of fare running the gamut from squeaky-clean to double-bypass.”

Collins is occasionally reminded of scenes from old movies.

“…I saw a bearded old man who looked like Walter Huston peering at me through the window.  His beady little eyes followed every move I made.  The spines of the cacti must be protecting his own Treasure of the Sierra Madre.  Since I didn’t look like either Bogie or Tim Holt, he probably couldn’t figure out who the hell I was.”

Collins is 41, unmarried, tall and describes himself in Hollywood terms as a cowboy type.  He’s not a full-time shamus and an early chapter shows him dressed in western duds, acting in a TV commercial for Chubby’s Chicken.  After Collins and a partner have gone through 17 on-camera takes, including biting into the chicken, we learn the necessity of an actor’s spit bag. 

The PI side of Collins’ life is complete with a secretary loaded with moxie, a small office and tiny attached apartment, a fondness for Jim Beam and beer chasers and an occasional eye for attractive women.

“She always dressed in richly colored blouses that gave the faint suggestion of a woman who didn’t mind staying out late.”

Rosengren has an enviable knack for phrasing:

“She looked as uncomfortable as Gidget sitting in the middle of an Elk’s convention.”

“As lonely as an Orange County Democrat” referring to one of California’s few right-wing enclaves.

Searching for a wandering dog, Collins observes: 

“There was no sign of Clyde, other than what he had deposited on the lawn.”

Collins has such a smooth, somehow familiar narrative voice—a term usually applied to authors, but I’m applying to the first person point of view character here—he sounds like someone you would like to know.

Just as life is a journey, not a destination, you read Rosengren to follow Collins’  intriguing, at times idiosyncratic—and wholly entertaining—life as he pokes around his Hollywood haunts in search of the truth.   Naturally, he ultimately solves the murders, but getting there is the most fun.  Then, of course,  you crave another case with Eddie.

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A new addition to the Vice series

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Here’s something to add to your spring/ summer reading list.  Vice Enforcer is the second book in Stovall’s Vice series.

Vice Enforcer
S.A. Stovall
DSP Publications   April 2018
250 pages
$6.99 Kindle  $16.99 Trade paper

Holding on to a life worth living can be hard when nightmares of the past come knocking.

Eight months ago, Nicholas Pierce, ex-mob enforcer, faked his death and assumed a new identity to escape sadistic mob boss Jeremy Vice. With no contacts outside the underworld, Pierce finds work with a washed-up PI. It’s an easy enough gig—until investigating a human trafficking ring drags him back to his old stomping grounds.

Miles Devonport, Pierce’s partner, is top of his class at the police academy while single-handedly holding his family together. But when one lieutenant questions Pierce’s past and his involvement in the investigation, Miles must put his future on the line to keep Pierce’s secrets.

The situation becomes dire when it’s discovered the traffickers have connections to the Vice family. The lives of everyone Pierce cares about are in danger—not least of all his own—if Jeremy Vice learns he’s back from the dead. Pierce and Miles face a conspiracy that reaches the highest levels—one that will gladly destroy them to keep operating. As Pierce uses every dirty trick he learned from organized crime to protect the new life he’s building, he realizes that no matter how hard he tries, he might never escape his past.

But he’s not going down without a fight.


Author S.A. Stoval lives in California’s San Joaquin Valley.  She’s an attorney, writer and video game enthusiast.  Her first book in the noir series was Vice City.

Winter blahs? Try a good mystery

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Dames Fight Harder – Maggie Sullivan Mysteries, Volume 6
M. Ruth Myers
321 pages
Tuesday House  Nov. 12, 2017
Kindle $3.99   Trade paper $12.99

Shamus award winning writer Myers brings out her sixth Maggie Sullivan mystery.  The series started in the 1930s.  It’s now 1942 in Dayton, Ohio.

Murderer or independent woman? Murder at a construction site draws Ohio private investigator Maggie Sullivan into a case that makes cops mistrust her and friends doubt her. The suspect, Rachel Minsky, is Maggie’s closest friend – and all signs point to Rachel’s guilt.

Rachel ignores the rules society imposes on women. That independence, in 1942, as well as her success in business, has made her enemies. Yet the dead man also had an unsavory secret or two, starting with his missing mistress. Who was the murderer’s real target? And what is Rachel hiding from the only person who can save her?

The city Maggie scours for clues to the real killer has been altered by America’s recent entry into World War II. Shortages of men and material have created new motives for murder. As the case and Maggie’s relationship with policeman Mick Connelly heat up, Maggie finds herself caught in currents that threaten to drown her.

M. Ruth Myers, author of more than a dozen books, was a newspaper reporter in Michigan and Ohio. Her books have been translated into seven languages. She earned the Shamus Award in 2014 for Don’t Dare A Dame, the third book in her Maggie Sullivan series.  Find Myers at https://ruthnew.com/bookstag/maggie/

 

The Art of Vanishing, A Lila Maclean Academic Mystery (Book 2)
Cynthia Kuhn
262 pages
Henery Press  Feb. 28, 2017
Kindle $2.99    Trade paperback $15.95

Cynthia Kuhn’s latest book is the second in her academic mystery series.  The first book in the series, The Semester of our Discontent, received the Agatha Award.

When Professor Lila Maclean is sent to interview celebrated author and notorious cad Damon Von Tussel, he disappears before her very eyes. The English department is thrown into chaos by the news, as Damon is supposed to headline Stonedale University’s upcoming Arts Week.

The chancellor makes it clear that he expects Lila to locate the writer and set events back on track immediately. But someone appears to have a different plan: strange warnings are received, valuable items go missing, and a series of dangerous incidents threaten the lives of Stonedale’s guests. After her beloved mother, who happens to be Damon’s ex, rushes onto campus and into harm’s way, Lila has even more reason to bring the culprit to light before anything—or anyone—else vanishes.

Cynthia Kuhn is professor of English at Metropolitan State University of Denver and current president of Sisters in Crime-Colorado. The Art of Vanishing was a a Lefty Award nominee for best humorous Mystery. The third in the series, The Spirit in Question, will be out in the fall.  Visit her at cynthiakuhn.net.

 

Rainbirds
Clarissa Goenewan
336 pages
Soho Press   March 6, 2018
Kindle $14.99  Hardback $25

Set in an imagined town outside Tokyo, Clarissa Goenawan’s dark, literary debut follows a young man’s path to self-discovery in the wake of his sister’s murder.
 
Ren Ishida has nearly completed his graduate degree at Keio University when he receives news of his sister’s violent death. Keiko was stabbed one rainy night on her way home, and there are no leads. Ren heads to Akakawa to conclude his sister’s affairs, failing to understand why she chose to turn her back on the family and Tokyo for this desolate place years ago.

But then Ren is offered Keiko’s newly vacant teaching position at a prestigious local cram school and her bizarre former arrangement of free lodging at a wealthy politician’s mansion in exchange for reading to the man’s ailing wife. He accepts both, abandoning Tokyo and a crumbling relationship there in order to better understand his sister’s life and what took place the night of her death.

Clarissa Goenewan is a debut novelist.  She is an Indonesian-born Singaporean writer. Her award-winning short fiction has appeared in literary magazines and anthologies in Singapore, Australia, the UK, and the US.  Goenewan’s website home is: http://clarissagoenawan.com/

 

Editor’s note:  Prices for the above books may vary depending on the retailer and when you access sales sites.  Click on the book covers for more information.

 

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