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Three years after a 1936 bank robbery turned lethal, a Hollywood production based on the story fans fatal flames for costume designer Edith Head (Dangerous To Know, 2017, etc.), her buddy Lillian Frost, and several other less fortunate denizens of La La Land.

Within two days after the $20,000 heist at the California Republic Bank, all three robbers were dead along with Detective Teddy Lomax, whose LAPD partner, Detective Gene Morrow, is Lillian’s beau. So Lillian is understandably outraged when she realizes that the screenplay of Streetlight Story, the picture Paramount’s making about the crime, fingers Gene as the inside man who set up the whole job and betrayed his partner. George Dolan, the former newspaperman who shares script credit, says that he was only brought on to lighten the dialogue and provide comic relief; the bones of the story were the work of ex-con burglar Clyde Fentress. Since Lillian, the social secretary to semiretired industrialist Addison Rice, doesn’t even work for the studio, she can do nothing to keep the project, under the direction of Aaron Ludwig, ne Ludwig Aaronofsky, from moving forward. Someone else, however, seems to have more decisive plans to meddle with the production. In short order two hangers-on with a special stake in the story—hotel handyman Aloysius Conlin, an aspiring actor who did time with Clyde in Folsom, and Clyde’s writing protégée, Sylvia Ward—are murdered. Producer Max Ramsey is undeterred: “All I needed was some gossip in the newspapers!” he announces jubilantly. But Lillian has to wonder what sort of Pandora’s box she’s opened in peering once more into the abyss of the California Republic job, till Edith, initially buried under all the subplots and cameos (Fred MacMurray! Ben Siegel! Billy Wilder!), uses her sharp eye for fashion to come up with a pleasingly unexpected solution.

A meaty, densely packed presentation of Tinseltown riven by potentially murderous factions on the brink of World War II.

Pub Date: Jan. 7th, 2020
ISBN: 978-0-7278-8910-2
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Severn House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2019


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