It’s a Mystery: Hollywood

I have this strange fascination with early Hollywood. Watching an old timey black & white show shot in southern California, wellsir, that’s about as good as it gets. And as we all know, I do love me a mystery. Fortunately, there are plenty of mysteries set in early 20th century Hollywood.

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And the Killer Is … by G. A. McKevett is the 25th and latest entry in the Savannah Reid mysteries series. While not all titles in this collection focus on Hollywood, And the Killer Is… moves between flashbacks to the golden age of Hollywood and the present. In this tale, 90-year-old former silver-screen siren Lucinda Faraday is found murdered, strangled with a pair of vintage stockings, and it’s up to PI Savannah Reid of the Moonlight Magnolia Detective Agency to bring the killer to justice.

Close Up by Amanda Quick is 2020’s addition to the Burning Cove mysteries series. Set near Hollywood in the 1930s resort town of Burning Cove, Close Up finds crime scene photographer Vivian Brazier in danger as she investigates the deadly Dagger Killer. Along with private eye Nick Sundridge, who solves cases with help from his dreams, Vivian is caught in the killer’s crosshairs and must find the murderer before she becomes his next victim.

Script for Scandal by Renee Patrick is the newest arrival in the Lillian Frost and Edith Head series of novels. Yes, that Edith Head. In 1939 Los Angeles, former aspiring actress Lillian Frost discovers herself entangled in the investigation of a 1936 bank robbery that’s been made into a Hollywood script. And her beau, LAPD detective Gene Morrow, the original investigator of the robbery, is a suspect in the subsequent murder of his partner. It’s up to Lillian to clear his name!

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The Impersonator by Mary Miley, an entry in the Roaring Twenties mysteries series, offers a different kind of intrigue. A 14-year-old heiress disappears and is found some years later by her uncle, acting in a vaudeville playhouse. But is this actress actually the heiress? After concluding that she is simply a lookalike, the uncle plots to use her to claim the fortune.

Girl About Town by Adam Shankman & Laura L. Sullivan, the first book in the Lulu Kelly mysteries series, spins the tale of a destitute woman who witnesses a mob murder and, as payment for her silence, is made into a Hollywood star. Along with a New-York-heir-turned-hobo she attempts to clear herself of attempted murder charges.

Velvet on a Tuesday Afternoon by Clive Rosengren, the third book in the Eddie Collins mysteries series, finds former-actor-current-PI Eddie Collins helping an old flame look for her missing brother. Clues point to the brother’s ties to military police and eventually lead to Skid Row. Will Eddie succeed in finding the man as well as rekindling an extinguished romance?

Shell Scott Mysteries

Be it because my brain is so focused on various worries or because I use up all my reading neurons on news, I currently have very little interest in perusing for pleasure. Add to this that I typically don’t like serious stuff or conflict or stress or Nazis or the earth moving closer to the sun but wait it was a dream and it’s actually moving farther from the sun, well, there ain’t a whole lotta words I wanna interact with right now.

But one genre that has stood by me throughout good times and bad is the less-than-hardboiled detective book. And my favorite purveyor of said genre is Richard S. Prather.

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Shell Scott is everything you could want in a detective: physically imposing, young yet experienced, able to outfight your average thug, possessing a tendency to do what’s right and sporting a flair for the fairer s-e-x. He drinks hard, lusts freely and displays a wide streak of goofiness. And while many fictional detectives have an antagonistic relationship with local police, Shell often works with the law.

Prather wrote most of the Shell Scott mysteries in the 1950s and 60s, overlapping James Bond, Mike Hammer and many other spies and detectives. As one might expect, the morés and attitudes of the day permeate the prose, so there’s something to offend everyone I reckon. However, it’s the prose that makes this series stand out.

According to thrillingdetective.com, the Scott stories were “…smirky, outlandish, innuendo-laden, occasionally alcohol-fueled, off-the-wall tours-de-farce that, depending on your point of view, were either a real hoot, or a lot of adolescent, sexist swill and hackwork.” And I am in total agreement with this viewpoint. Fortunately for me, I frequent the adolescent section of the maturity scale, making me the target audience for Prather’s wordsmithing.

But what better way to see what Shell Scott is about than reading a few pithy quotes? First up is a taste of grit:

“The sudden sight of the girl so messily dead had shocked me, and I guess I let my guard down. The hiss of the slug near my head and the crack of the gun seemed simultaneous.”
      ~ from The Kubla Khan Caper

Characters we have previously met frequently die in these tales. Try not to become too attached. Yet the tone is often silly. Scott does not think highly of thugs and he lets the audience know it:

“He had the look of a cat who would wear monogrammed shorts. Or even silk underwear with his whole name printed on it. And maybe his picture. A picture of him in his shorts.” 
     ~ from The Meandering Corpse

 But the floweriest prose generally focuses on descriptions of women:

“She smiled like a woman getting chewed on the neck by Pan. It was a nice smile. I liked it. It went in my eyes and reamed out my arteries and steamed my blood and opened up half a dozen glands like cooked lotus blossoms.”
     ~ from Kill Me Tomorrow

And those descriptions can become downright bizarre:

 “… she didn’t wear one of those bosom contraptions, either – like lifters, expanders, separators, elevators, pushers, poochers, upmashers, tiptilters, squeezers, and aprilfoolers – that have come along since plain old brassieres went out of style, and that are so adorable you almost want to leave the gal home and take her contraption out dancing.”
     ~ from The Meandering Corpse

I guarantee you won’t find that particular sentence anywhere else in literature.

Everett Public Library has a variety of Shell Scott mysteries available as electronic downloads. Perhaps they are just the thing to warm the cockles of your heart in difficult times. I know I’m going to get back to reading one as soon as I do some research on bosom contraptions.

The State of Mysteries

If everybody had a murder
Across the U.S.A.
Then everybody’d be killing
Like Cal-i-forn-i-a. 

Perhaps you woke up one morning wondering if there is a mystery novel set in every state of the union.  Well, I am here to tell you, “Yes, yes there is.” In fact, there are mystery series set in nearly every state.  Here are some of the series, and a few single titles, that you can find at Everett Public Library.

Alabama                Southern sisters mysteries
                                         by Anne George

Alaska                 Maxie and Stretch mysteries
                                         by Sue Henry

Arizona                Sheriff Joanna Brady mysteries
                                          by J. A. Jance

Arkansas            Sheriff Arly Hanks mysteries            
                                         by Joan Hess

California            Sarah Woolson mysteries
                                         by Shirley Tallman      

Colorado           Goldy Bear mysteries
                                        by Diane Mott Davidson

Connecticut     Dirty business mysteries
                                         by Rosemary Harris

Delaware                Hawkes Harbor
                                        by S. E. Hinton

District           White House chef mysteries
 of Columbia                by Julie A. Hyzy

Florida               Dixie Hemingway mysteries
                                         by Blaize Clement

Georgia               Trudy Roundtree mysteries
                                        by Linda Berry

Hawaii                Right from the Gecko: a reigning cats & dogs mystery
                                         by Cynthia Baxter

Idaho                    Sheriff Bo Tully mysteries
                                        by Patrick F. McManus

Illinois                   Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels mysteries
                                        by Joe Konrath

Indiana                  Roger Knight mysteries
                                         by Ralph M. McInerny  

 Iowa                     Sam McCain mysteries
                                          by Edward Gorman                         

Kansas                 Mad Dog & Englishman mysteries
                                          by J. M. Hayes

Kentucky           Who Killed Art Deco?
                                         by Chuck Barris

Louisiana          Sookie Stackhouse southern vampire mysteries
                                        by Charlaine Harris                                            

Maine                  Gray Whale Inn mysteries
                                        by Karen MacInerney      

                                                        

Maryland         Tess Monaghan mysteries
                                        by Laura Lippman

Massachusetts      Carlotta Carlyle mysteries
                                               by Linda Barnes

Michigan           Chocoholic mysteries
                                         by Joanna Carl

Minnesota         Cork O’Conner mysteries
                                          by  William Kent Krueger                                        

Mississippi             Sarah Booth Delaney mysteries
                                          by Carolyn Haines 

Missouri              Torie O’Shea mysteries
                                          by Rett MacPherson

Montana              C.W. Sughrue mysteries
                                            by James Crumley

Nebraska              Things Invisible : a Nebraska Mystery
                                             by William J. Reynolds

Nevada                      Tattoo shop mysteries
                                              by Karen E. Olson                                                              

New Hampshire      Booktown mysteries
                                             by Lorna Barrett    

New Jersey               Tamara Hayle mysteries
                                             by Valerie Wilson Wesley

New Mexico          Sister Agatha mysteries
                                             by Aimee Thurlo

New York               Molly Murphy mysteries
                                              by Rhys Bowen                                                      

North Carolina      Judge Deborah Knott mysteries
                                               by Margaret Maron    

North Dakota        The Plague of Doves
                                               by Louise Erdrich

Ohio                          Kate Burkholder mysteries
                                              by Linda Castillo

Oklahoma              Sheriff Milt Kovak mysteries
                                             by Susan Rogers Cooper

Oregon                   Barbara Holloway legal thrillers
                                            by Kate Wilhelm

Pennsylvania     Pennsylvania Dutch mysteries
                                           by Tamar Myers                                                    

Rhode Island         Haunted bookshop mysteries
                                            by Alice Kimberly  

South Carolina    Death on demand mysteries
                                             by Carolyn G. Hart

South Dakota       Julie Collins mysteries
                                             by Lori Armstrong

Tennessee             Taylor Jackson mysteries
                                             by J. T. Ellison

Texas                      Judge Jackson Crain mysteries
                                             by Nancy Bell                                                                                   

Utah                         Sam Kincaid mysteries
                                            by Michael Norman 

Vermont                 Joe Gunther mysteries
                                           by Archer Mayor

Virginia                Meg Langslow mysteries
                                           by Donna Andrews

Washington        Donna Rose mysteries
                                           by Norma Tadlock Johnson                                                              

West Virginia    Owen Allison mysteries
                                          by John W. Billheimer                 

Wisconsin           Maggy Thorsen mysteries
                                          by Sandra Balzo

Wyoming            Sheriff Walt Longmire mysteries
                                          by Craig Johnson

Ron