Should we be surprised that Hollywood has been the subject of so much satire? Frankly, it’s hard to imagine that it wouldn’t be. The place is soaked in money, it’s a magnet for people seeking fame and fortune, and it’s virtually infested with ambitious writers. So, when another one of their number comes up with a detective novel that skewers the movie industry, we can hardly claim to be shocked. Howard Michael Gould’s recent addition to the genre, Last Looks, doesn’t quite measure up to Nathaniel West’s The Day of the Locust, but it’s a workmanlike effort. The book is funny at times and suspenseful to a fault.
A lunatic stars in this Hollywood detective novel
Charlie Waldo would be considered a raving lunatic practically anywhere else, but he fits right in in Los Angeles. He left the LAPD after losing a protracted and very public campaign to exonerate a young man he’d mistakenly gotten sentenced to life for murder. In the process, Charlie alienated almost all 9,000 officers on the force and catapulted himself into a nervous breakdown. Now, he lives in seclusion on twelve wooded acres in the hills, passionately committed to limiting his possessions to just One Hundred Things and limiting his carbon footprint as close to zero as humanly possible. It’s not exactly Eden, but he’s surviving.
Last Looks by Howard Michael Gould (2018) 304 pages @@@@ (4 out of 5)
Did this vodka-soaked actor really kill his wife?
Then Charlie gets a visit from his old lover who tries to suck him into working a high-profile case as a private eye. A world-famous British actor, a notorious alcoholic now starring in a top-rated television series, has apparently murdered his wife. Somehow, Charlie is supposed to help make the charge go away. Unfortunately, it really does appear that Alastair Pinch did the deed. And Charlie is resolutely opposed to working the case—until people start sending thugs to scare him off. The die is now cast.
A Hollywood ending
Charlie encounters fierce opposition from all quarters as he investigates the crime. Police officers repeatedly try to jail him on trumped-up charges. Alastair Pinch is determined to resist his help. And those thugs keep coming. It’s all a glorious clusterf**k. Naturally, we have every expectation that Charlie will prevail in the end. After all, this is a Hollywood detective novel, and we all know that tales from Hollywood must end well. But it’s extremely unlikely that any reader will guess what really happened and why.
Howard Michael Gould has a long and distinguished career as screenwriter for film and television and as a playwright. Last Looks is his first novel.
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