Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Book: Alone, by Loren D. Estleman (2009)

Third consecutive book about Hollywood in one form or another. I don’t plan these things, people. They simply happen.

Any list of crime fiction’s premier stylists would have to include Loren Estleman. His insouciant prose has brightened up many a dark book, but it fizzes like champagne in his lighter tales about Valentino, the UCLA archivist whose business cards read “film detective.”

A rare treasure is dangled before Valentino by a university donor: the only extant print of How Not to Dress, the brief promotional film marking the first screen appearance of Greta Garbo. But before light strikes frame one, Valentino finds himself amidst blackmail and murder. He’s got other problems. A crooked building inspector has rousted him from the movie palace he’s attempting to restore to its former glory, leaving him at the house and the throat of his closest friend and colleague. And there’s his budding romance with an LAPD forensics expert.

Alone is a confection, and a good one. Estleman has struck upon an ingenious method for writing about classic Hollywood in a contemporary setting. I will say that the jabs at current films are out of character and occasionally wrong; Brian De Palma’s name is spelled incorrectly, and Pulp Fiction is misquoted in the author’s afterword. It’s important for curmudgeons to get the details right. Still, it’s a minor quibble. Go. Buy. Read.