HOLLYWOOD GOTHIC by Thomas Gifford


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Since the failure of his dull, realistic finance-thriller, The Man from Lisbon (1977), Gifford seems to have decided to just have fun--by revamping the most familiar thriller scenarios, with tongue somewhere in the vicinity of cheek. He did well enough with the Hitchcock chase-caper in The Glendower Legacy (1978); and now he's tackling the Hollywood murder-saga, complete with studio rivalries, dark secrets, lurid diaries, and one false ending after another. Gifford's sleuth is Oscar-winning screenwriter Toby Challis, convicted of killing his promiscuous wife Goldie, but suddenly a free man when the prison-bound plane crashes in the mountains north of Hollywood. Aided by a group of retarded kids and lovely mountain resident Morgan Dyer (owner of the Murder, He Says, Bookshop), Toby survives the crash, completely alters his appearance, and--refusing simply to flee--returns to L.A., determined to learn who really killed Goldie and framed him. Certainly the answer must be connected to Maximum Studios--run by Goldie's legendary grandfather Solomon Roth and her loathed father Aaron Roth. Was Goldie blackmailing Aaron with the diaries left by her miserable movie-star mother? Was sleazy magazine man Jack Donovan her accomplice? Why has the mob been allowed to move in on the Studio? And why have the Roths been paying blackmail to a mysterious Englishwoman for decades? Toby gets his hands on those diaries (top suspect Donovan is killed), tracks down the Englishwoman--and it all leads to shoot-outs, suicide, confessions, and a showdown in Griffith Park. All very familiar stuff--even the final twist--and it goes on rather too long for such a derivative hash. But, though Gifford has no real fix on the New Hollywood scene, there are amusing moments (Aaron is into ""Clown Therapy""), a fair measure of charm, and a generally good-natured and classy manner--disappointing if you're after genuine suspense, reasonably diverting if you're willing to be tolerant and half-amused.

Pub Date: Oct. 31st, 1979
Publisher: Putnam