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Book Review – Loonies in Hollywood by Terry Nelson

Posted by mcm0704 on October 27, 2013 |

Loonies In Hollywood
Terry Nelson
File Size: 407 KB
Print Length: 224 pages
Publisher: Terry Nelson; 1 edition (August 11, 2013)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English
ASIN: B00EHK4OJ2

Written in a classic noir style, Loonies in Hollywood is a fun romp through an era of Prohibition and the early years of film. Chester Koski, a writer for Famous-Players Lasky, is told by a studio executive to find out what happened at the bungalow of murdered silent film director William Desmond Taylor. Chet, who is a straightforward character simply had this to say in response:

I did as I was told for I am a company man in a company town. 

Before long nearly everyone in Hollywood is aware Chet is trying to solve the murder. He is targeted by a blackmailer, his wife is kidnapped, he is accused of killing his wife’s former boyfriend, gives a 22 year old flapper a gin bath, and his new radio is stolen.

The relationship between Chet and his wife, Eveleen had a bit of a Nick and Nora feel to it, and the banter between the two characters was natural and engaging. When the reader first meets Eveleen, Chet has this to say about her:

She deserved an answer, always does, and I always give her one and it is always the truth.

I thought that said a lot about the characters and the relationship. Plus, I really like a woman who says, “piffle wiffle” instead of some other expletive when faced with a drunken husband. My kids always teased me about saying “piffle” and I never knew where that word came from. Perhaps Eveleen visited me in a dream.

Of course the studio execs would like this all to go away as quickly as possible, with no backlash on them, so Chet starts investigating and turns up a number of suspects. Actress Mabel Normand who was the last to see Taylor alive is high on the list, but there are also several more: Mary Miles Minter, a young actress enamored of Taylor; Minter’s overprotective mother Charlotte Shelby; Tom Dixon, wealthy pencil heir and jealous suitor of Minter; and Edward Sands, Taylor’s former valet and known thief who has disappeared.

Following Chet through the labyrinth of Hollywood connections was both engaging and informative. The details of the time and place were so well done, the reader is there meeting the people and visiting the gin joints, the homes of the powerful and not so powerful in the business, and all the places that the pretentious like to be seen.

The ending was a surprise, and while it is not meant as a serious solution to the murder of Taylor, Chet’s solution is plausible. Chet is a bit of a philosopher throughout the story and the  rationale for some of the choices he made that closes the book is well worth reading to get to.

Terry Nelson will be my guest on Wednesday, so I do hope you will come back and meet him.

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