A controversial screenwriter on the verge of being blacklisted gets bumped off.
As Hollywood rings down the curtain on the 1940s, gossip-monger Laura Lee Paisley is giving rivals Hedda and Louella a run for their money by “exposing” Communist Party members all over Tinseltown. John Ray Horn, former cowboy star, ex-con and sometime shamus (While I Disappear, 2004, etc.), is asked by his onetime lover Maggie O’Dare, queen of the action serials, to find out who’s fingered maverick screenwriter Owen Bruder as a Red sympathizer. Horn is reluctant to help the brilliant but abrasive Bruder (read Clifford Odets). But when he learns that Maggie is Bruder’s daughter, he acquiesces. As Bruder steels himself to testify before a Congressional committee that’s clearly out for blood, Horn tries unsuccessfully to rattle Laura Lee Paisley and takes the measure of the committee’s ambitious chair, J. Parnell Thomas, before visiting the Bruders a second time to gather more information. On the way back to his car from consulting Bruder’s highly supportive wife Lillian, he finds Bruder facedown in his swimming pool. In digging up dirt on a handful of Bruder’s colleagues and fending off the brutal thugs hired by Mitchell Cross, Thomas’s chief investigator, Horn gets help from his best friend, Joseph Mad Crow, and Mad Crow’s open-ended houseguest, populist troubadour Woodrow Wilson “Woody” Guthrie.
An engrossing novel of Hollywood’s blacklist, packed with period trivia, and a passable mystery.