A generation ago, Marty Burns was Somebody: the teen star of a sitcom showered with more money, fame, and pubescent nymphets than he could handle. Now his only legacy from Salt & Pepper is jarring grins of recognition from fans who catch it on Nick at Nite (some of whom don't even know it's 30 years old). If you think Marty's Hollywood past is enough backstory for this first novel, though, you couldn't be more wrong, because when Marty— now a salty-tongued shamus taken in by jaundiced pimp Long John Silver's starry-eyed tale of his true love for Jenny Leo, the lissome girl who disappeared from Silver's personal bed even after he made the principled decision not to take her into his stable—agrees to look for Jenny, he stumbles onto a menace even older and darker than TV syndication. It isn't just that Jenny (neÇ Janine Lassiter) has already been turned into fodder for L.A.'s snuff industry, here fronted by Laughing Boy Pictures' smiling Jack Rippen on behalf of his new Japanese backers; no, the backers from Yoshitoshi, mystifyingly eager to buy into the Hollywood industry, have plans for several of Jenny's young friends—plans rooted in a fiendish history that stretches back to the 16th century. Enough reincarnations, swordfights, disembowelings, and ritual murders for a whole series that'll never turn up on Nickelodeon. Newcomer Russell asks you to accept an awful lot of dumb luck and demonic samurai for the dubious satisfactions he provides.
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