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Stoney Winston, sometime director of low-budget TV commercials, makes his debut as a narrator-sleuth in this ragged first novel--which tries awfully hard (with so-so success) to be quirky and fetching as it recycles a number of over-familiar mystery-plot elements. Stoney's first case? Well, implausibly, he's pressured into moonlighting as a private-eye for film-studio-owner Denise Tolman--who's being blackmailed with porno-footage of her 18-year-old step-daughter Lee. (The small Tolman studio depends on business from easily outraged Fundamentalists.) Can Stoney unmask the anonymous blackmailer and find the now-missing Lee? He'll certainly try--especially after discovering the body of a dead girl (an occasional porno actress) on the yacht belonging to lecherous TV-preacher Isiah [sic] Hammond (Lee's former boss). But, as assorted goons start harassing Stoney, the case becomes more and more convoluted--with two more corpses and several overlapping conspiracies still to surface. Stinson doesn't do anything special with the stale subjects of porno-filmmaking and TV-preacher hypocrisy. His attempts to give hero Stoney offbeat charm are largely hapless--specially some feeble, inept imaginary conversations with famous people (Woody Allen, Sigmund Freud, et al.). And only a few of the show-biz characters here come to life (unlike the supporting players in Simon Brett's mystery novels). But Stoney and the low-budget film world show glimmers of comic/seedy potential--enough to hope for more distinctive and relaxed episodes in the future.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1985
Publisher: Scribners