Nostalgia City Mysteries

Mark S. Bacon

Tag Archives: Hollywood

Innocent clue leads Collins down a rabbit hole of death

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Frog in a Bucket (An Eddie Collins Mystery, Book 5)
Clive Rosengren
Kindle $5.99, paperback $14.99
Coffeetown Press   Aug. 2021
242 pages

Eddie Collins is working on a movie. He and other actors, dressed in suits, sit at banquet tables playing show biz trivia to pass the time. Finally, the filming is about to begin. An assistant director calls for quiet. The banquet speaker, played by veteran actor Tony Gould, his mane of silver hair in place, stands at the lectern, adjusts the microphone, then keels over.

The collapse is not in the script.  A doctor is summoned, then an ambulance.

Click the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page.

The shooting is finished for the day, and as the actor is carted off the hospital, Collins has time to ponder a small mystery with his wardrobe suit coat. That morning he’d noticed a tag sewn into the jacket with the name Ken Thompson on it and the words Crash and Burn. The name probably belonged to the actor who used the suit before, and likely the words identify the name of a movie. In the pocket of the jacket Collins finds a finds a key attached to a metal disc with the word Pandora engraved on it.

With just a little work, Collins discovers that Thompson did act in a picture called Crash and Burn.  Understandable, but Collins is skeptical.  Costume companies don’t usually stitch names into costumes. And what about the Pandora key?

An actor might not have enough curiosity or interest to carry his inquiry any further, but Collins is also a private investigator. Several years ago economic necessity prompted him to find supplemental work and his “tendency to stick my nose into places it probably shouldn’t belong” prompted him to open a detective agency.

Back on the set next morning, Collins gets two surprises.  The first is word that Gould has died. The second surprise arrives when he steps into the trailer that serves as his dressing room on the movie lot.  A white young man with grungy dreadlocks is snooping through his clothes. The man says he’s looking for a key.  He gives Collins double talk saying he was cleaning out Gould’s dressing room and was told that a key was missing.  Before Collins can pin him down, the guy dashes out the door and disappears in the bustling studio.

Is there a connection between Gould and Thompson? What does the Pandora key unlock? How did Gould die? Collins considers the questions while the production resumes temporarily and film executives debate a replacement for Gould.

Collins learns that Gould died of an insulin overdose; he finds that Gould and Thompson worked on Crash and Burn together; and a Burbank police detective appears on the set to ask questions about Gould’s death. The actor/detective is promptly dragged into a layered mystery involving a private production company and a decades-old missing persons case. 

Following Collins through movie sets and along Hollywood streets is a pleasure.  The story flows smoothly with author Clive Rosengren’s relaxed, easy first-person writing style and sense of humor.

A driver pulled up along side and then abruptly cut in front of me and roared off, blonde hair flying in the wind. I honked and flashed her a digital salute.

“You think that did any good?” Carla asked.

“Probably not, but it’s the gesture that counts.”

The story’s movie-set authenticity comes from  Rosengren’s 40 years as an actor, nearly half of that in Tinsel Town. Speaking of authenticity, movie buffs will appreciate some of the trivia questions Collins and his fellow actors trade during down-time on the set. Don’t expect any “Frankly my dear I don’t give a damn” questions. These are for true movie aficionados .

And the story is not all laughs as you’ll be reminded of Hollywood’s real-life dark side. But Collins adroitly handles the bad with the good.  Follow along.  It’s a thoroughly entertaining and exciting trip.
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Clive Rosengren was an actor for nearly 40 years appearing on stage and in movies and TV. He is a multiple Shamus Award nominee by the Private Eye Writers of America.  His other Eddie Collins books include Murder Unscripted, Martini Shot, Velvet on a Tuesday Afternoon and Red Desert. He lives in southern Oregon.

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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