Books by Ron Goulart

GROUCHO MARX, KING OF THE JUNGLE by Ron Goulart
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: July 11, 2005

"A few amusing takes on rewriting scripts, placating studio producers and kowtowing to authors and stars, but too many punch lines that will make you wince and would probably make Groucho do the same."
A blonde, a B-movie and a bevy of Groucho wisecracks. Read full book review >
GROUCHO MARX, SECRET AGENT by Ron Goulart
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: July 15, 2002

" If not quite the ne plus ultra of goofiness, darn close."
When the Grim Reaper whispers in movie director Eric Olmstead's ear, barely covered by his Sinbad turban, at studio head Warren Lockwood's Halloween costume party, Olmstead faints, then rouses himself to go home and commit suicide, leaving behind a note to his estranged wife Dinah, the bimbo star of several of Lockwood's major 1939 productions. Unable to believe that Olmstead took his own life, Dinah asks her old pal Groucho Marx and his writing partner Frank Denby (Groucho Marx and the Broadway Murders, 2001, etc.) to snoop around. In between attacks of uncontrollable puns, they discover that Olmstead was a reluctant sleeper agent for the Fatherland; that top-secret defense plans have been pilfered from Lockwood's other venture, an aerospace plant; that an arcane code can be deciphered by studying the dictionary, the only volume keeping all the Westerns company in Olmstead's library; that Olmstead's butler has burgled his safe, decamped to Catalina Island, and been killed there; and that FBI agents Goodrich and Lewis don't want Groucho's autograph, even though the patrons of Moonbaum's Delicatessen clamor for it. Many, many puns later, the spies and murderers are routed, leaving Frank to cuddle with his pregnant wife while Groucho settles into his regular booth at Moonbaum's. Read full book review >
GROUCHO MARX AND THE BROADWAY MURDERS by Ron Goulart
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Aug. 1, 2001

"Like its three predecessors (Elementary, My Dear Groucho, 1999, etc.): silly, slight, good-natured slapstick that suggests the whodunit hasn't forgotten or learned a thing since 1939. "
As the Super Chief chugs out of Union Station, ex-crime reporter and Groucho Marx scriptwriter Frank Denby and his wisecracking wife Jane, originator of the sassy Hollywood comic strip Molly, who are headed to New York to turn the strip into a radio series, are startled to find Groucho also aboard, guitar in hand, warbling "Lydia the Tattooed Lady." Ever the thespian, Groucho plans to play the Lord High Executioner in a Broadway version of The Mikado. But first, he and the Denbys must deal with movie mogul Daniel Manheim's near-death in the observation car. Who wants Manheim cuddling up to Forest Lawn sod? Half the train's occupants, it seems, including two actresses (both former mistresses of recently slain mobster Nick Sanantonio), a chorus boy, and possibly Manheim's own bodyguard. Arriving in New York, Groucho escorts starlet-with-a-past Dian Bowers to her estranged husband's Broadway debut in Make Mine Murder, where they watch her zealous mentor, Manheim, unexpectedly plop through a stagedoor, finally dead. Then the drunken personal physician to one of the stars sobers up just long enough to Remember Something—and is murdered for it. Is this a joking matter? You betcha, and the Denbys and Groucho pun their way—with a few more rousing choruses of "Lydia"—to a goofy conclusion that wouldn't hold up even as a B-movie plot. Read full book review >
ELEMENTARY, MY DEAR GROUCHO by Ron Goulart
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Nov. 1, 1999

It's 1938, and Mammoth Studios is filming The Valley of Fear, in which Sherlock Holmes is played by Miles Ravenshaw, that notorious English ham. But the work is interrupted when someone shoots the director, Felix Denker, an enigmatic German ÇmigrÇ. Not to worry, however, since on hand to sort things out is Groucho Marx, that notable comedian-sleuth (Groucho Marx, Private Eye, 1999, etc.). Aiding and abetting Groucho is ex-crime reporter Frank Denby, who's no slow coach of a quipster himself. It's while the two are on their way to sell a funny script idea that they stumble on Denker's corpse, and, on the basis of sketchy evidence indeed, decide that the LAPD will welcome the help of amateurs (it doesn—t). Meanwhile, Ravenshaw, to hype his troubled film, has publicly vowed to outsleuth the Marxian fake—ham versus sham, in effect. Groucho—or rather Goulart's one-dimensional and entirely unconvincing version of him—goes to work. The game's a foot and a half, he announces, and proceeds to disinter the dead director's Nazi connections, paving the way to some other not-so-startling revelations. Along the way, he has to flee from bad guys firing pistols, while Frank endures the obligatory head-bashing. But the usual suspects are duly rounded up and penned together for the denouement, when Groucho gets to say the magic words. Plotting negligible, jokes painful. Groucho oucho. Read full book review >
GROUCHO MARX, PRIVATE EYE by Ron Goulart
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: April 9, 1999

His heartless producers have renamed Groucho Marx's radio show, dug him up a new sponsor—Mullens Pudding, which brags about coming in five flavorful flavors—and stuck him with a horrid supporting actress, Polly Pilgrim, who plays his daughter on the air and his scourge everywhere else. Sadly, Polly's cyanide repartee is swiftly humbled when her actress mother Frances London is picked up for killing her recent beau, Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Russell Benninger. Will Groucho and his scriptwriter, ex-crime reporter Frank Denby, buck some threatening local mobsters and the equally corrupt Bayside cops and get Frances out of jail? Can a duck walk? In no time at all, Groucho and Frank establish that Benninger was up to his roving eyes in drugs, that he'd run afoul of some pretty tough characters, and that Groucho is perfectly capable of wising off even at gunpoint. (Frank's girlfriend, cartoonist Jane Danner, is just as witty, and Mullens Maiden Victoria St. John's ramblings add a touch of Dada to the proceedings.) As in Groucho Marx, Master Detective (1998), though, the tired, busy plot seems to have come from a bunch of lower-paid writers than the ones who wrote the dialogue, and Goulart's constant habit of splitting up Groucho and his alleged amanuensis seems like a lazy way to get around the problems of first-person narration. Still, it's refreshing to spend another couple of hours in 1938 Hollywood, where the Third Reich is a distant rumble and the most minor characters, from whores to countermen, identify themselves as actors. Read full book review >
GROUCHO MARX, MASTER DETECTIVE by Ron Goulart
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: April 9, 1998

You wouldn't think the most ribald movie comic of his age would have a sentimental streak, but Groucho Marx is so sad that Peg McMorrow, a starlet he'd had a brief relationship with two years ago, is dead that he persuades Frank Denby, the former police reporter who's writing his farcical new radio show, Groucho Marx, Master Detective, to see what he can get on the death. It doesn't take long for Frank to find that the official verdict—suicide—is a lot of hooey. (Whatever finally killed Peg, she'd been beaten thoroughly first.) It doesn't take him long to find that the cops are dead serious about burying the case. (A day after Peg's death, they've already closed and vanished the case file, cremated the body, and scattered the ashes at sea.) And it doesn't take him long to find Jane Danner, the comic-strip artist who'll hold his hand and trade quips with Groucho while he's waiting for the trail of blackmail and corruption to lead from blackmailing Peg to organized crime, the Bayside Police Department, and the upper reaches of Monarch Studios. Throughout the starlet-studded proceedings, Groucho is hilarious. Unfortunately, the non sequiturs that pepper his conversation so amusingly seem to have wormed their way into the helter-skelter mystery as well. Historical Hollywood background, celebrity cameos, rapid-fire patter, and ramshackle plotting: Veteran Goulart's series debut is just the thing for readers who think George Baxt and Stuart Kaminsky aren't turning out this sort of product fast enough. Read full book review >
NOW HE THINKS HE'S DEAD by Ron Goulart
MYSTERY THRILLER
Released: Aug. 1, 1992

Another bouncy, flibbertigibbet escapade for artist H.J. Mavity—now deepening the cleavage on bodice-ripper books for editor Lloyd Dobkin—and for her current live-in, ex-hubby, and commercial voice-over specialist Ben Spanner (Even the Butler Was Poor). When Lloyd, who was loathed by his wife, is run over by a man in a ski mask driving a silver Audi while H.J. looks on, she feels compelled to investigate and, with Ben at her side, uncovers a clue: a butterfly birthmark on the tush of a cutie whose picture was submitted for inclusion in one of Lloyd's skin publications. But who is she and where is she now? Could she possibly be the famous Timberlake baby, kidnapped oh so many years ago? Would she inherit zillions if still alive? There's another death, a few dumb moves from a love-crazed chauffeur, and innumerable chances for Ben to do voice impersonations and save H.J., thus freeing her to worry about really major crises—such as turning 32. Cute and good-natured. And if it's a little too short and silly to merit its price tag, at least it's over before it wears out its welcome. Read full book review >
EVEN THE BUTLER WAS POOR by Ron Goulart
Released: Dec. 7, 1990

A short, fast, breezy, comic caper in which H.J. (Helen Jeanne) Mavity arrives at the mall to be paid back $5000 by her former boyfriend, Rick Dell, and instead receives a dying message from his almost lifeless lips: "Ninety nine clop clop." Before the last breath oozes out of him, she's on the phone to her ex-husband, Ben Spanner, the voice-over in a zillion radio and TV commercials, to figure this one out—and to track down her money. The trail leads them to a retirement home, to a funeral home (where they try to steal the dead ventriloquist's dummy), and to an advertising agency where Ben is to play the part of First Muffin in the My Man Chumley restaurant commercial—and where all the characters coalesce: darling Trinity, a bimbo who also dated Rick; Kathkart, the actor who plays butler Chumley; and Arthur Moon, the agency CEO. Most of them, H.L. and Ben discover, were on a piece of film Rick hid in Buggsy, the ventriloquist's dummy, for blackmail purposes. Then H.L. is kidnapped after she tries a spot of blackmail, and it is up to Ben, man of many voices, to save the day. Quick, cute, and likable, and by the time it occurs to you that not much makes sense, it's all over. Like Goulart's The Wisemann Originals, modestly funny—and blessedly short. Read full book review >
THE WISEMANN ORIGINALS by Ron Goulart
Released: March 17, 1989

A heavy-handed spoof of the wise-guy mystery from hard-boiled aficionado Goulart, who's been cranking out anthologies for years. Here, snippy, prissy, impeccable dandy Navarro—an operative of the Ajax Novelty Company (a coyly named investigative agency) —is sent to a Florida comics-convention to discover whether the three Wisemann originals that were sold (a) were really by Wisemann, (b) were part of a cache of Wisemanns that was sneaked out of Nazi Germany in a steamer trunk, and (c) really belonged to collector Coulthard, who originally purchased that trunk but had it disappear from a shipping truck before it reached him. Navarro hires Jack Briggs—an old friend, a drunk, a slob, a misfit but, above all, a graphic artist who is an expert on Wisemann's work—to assist him. The two bumble their way from Florida to New Paltz, N.Y., from woman to woman, from suspect to suspect, with a leaden wisecrack at each stop—until they finally recover the Wisemanns and earn bonuses for Ajax and themselves. Repartee and lighthearted wit are clearly not Goulart's forte. Still, the storyline here is perfectly adequate—and if you can sort of skim over the dialogue, the plot is not without its little pleasures. Read full book review >