THE LONG SHOT by Paul Monette


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Hollywood murder mystery--stretched out to more ambitious proportions with some amusing supporting characters and (mostly) with the murky, non-romantic relationship between two lost, lonely 32-year-old souls: a poor-little-rich-girl celebrity and a homosexual, failed writer. The celebrity is heiress Vivien Cokes, supposedly as recognizable to one and all as Jackie O. The writer is Greg Cannon, who--along with cute, crass old neighbors Edna and Sid--sells fake autographed-pix-of-the-stars by mail order. And Vivien and Greg come together when Vivien's husband, gorgeous and secretly homosexual movie-star Jasper Cokes, is found dead in his hot tub with Greg's young lover Harry (also dead)--an apparent suicide pact. But Greg is convinced that Jasper and pure-hearted Harry weren't lovers. . . and were really murdered. So in no time the two cynical ""widows"" are sharing feelings, trading quotations from Walden (the late Harry's favorite book), and more or less sleuthing together, with a trip to Jasper's New England alma mater. The suspects: Jasper's two longtime classmate-cronies--Artie the bodyguard (a frustrated actor who envied Jasper) and Carl the manager (whom Jasper had just fired). But when Greg and Vivien finally confront these two, it appears that Attic has a solid alibi (he was doing his transvestite gay-bar act at the time). . . and then Carl is dead by gunshot: admission of guilt or another faked suicide? The latter, of course--and a third, even more contrived suspect will come to the foreground in the last chapters and be secretly executed, vigilante-style, by Jasper's friends and fans. True, these creaky, lurid melodrama clichÉs are somewhat muted by Monette's dreamily scenic, slow-moving, often pretentious prose; and they're occasionally lightened by the campy comic relief of Edna, Sid, and the movie-fan game (""The Crawford fans had to be handled carefully, since they had a way of asking for an autograph that made it seem like what they needed was a good caning""). But the real energy here has gone into the Greg/Vivien relationship--an initially intriguing match that soon bogs down in empty, ponderous exchanges (reminiscent of bad Italian movies) and ends up in a wallow of self-pity and sentimentality. Overall, then: passably stylish and atmospheric entertainment (a definite improvement over Monette's puerile Taking Care of Mrs. Carroll, 1978), but almost entirely ineffectual in its straining for serious emotional substance.

Pub Date: March 31st, 1981
Publisher: Avon