1947. Eight years after tussling with starlets, mobsters and studio heads in The Prince of Beverly Hills (2004), former Beverly Hills cop Rick Barron is back, now on the other side of the desk.
Everything happens fast at Centurion Studios, where Rick Barron is head of production. Hours after wrapping his first film as director, he decides to put off the war movie he’s supposed to be making next in favor of Bitter Creek, a tough Western penned by playwright-turned-screenwriter Sidney Brooks that he is first shown at the wrap party. The next day, he buys the screenplay, starts pre-production, sends a location scout to Wyoming to look at cattle ranches and hires newcomer Vance Calder to star. It isn’t long, though, before problems crop up. Somebody mails Rick photostats of Communist Party membership cards in the names of Sidney Brooks and Louise Brecht, who just happens, under the name Glenna Gleason, to be Rick’s wife and leading lady. The suicide of Alan James, who’s testified as an unfriendly witness before the House Un-American Activities Committee, makes James’s old friend Brooks apprehensive about his own subpoena. And with good cause, since the dire consequences of his appearance before the HUAC come as rapidly as Rick’s career moves. In one of those unrelated plot lines Woods’s fans evidently love, the runaway romance between Vance Calder and Susie Stafford, his Bitter Creek costar, hits a snag when Susie, en route from moving her things from her ex-lover Henrietta (“Hank”) Harmon’s apartment to the spacious house Vance just bought from Brooks, vanishes with every indication of foul play. You’ll be relieved to know that by the end of the year, Bitter Creek opens to strong notices and considerable Oscar buzz.
Precious little mystery or suspense, but the book’s momentum and the blacklist plot line will keep the pages turning.