Junior Bender is a thief who’s never been caught, and he’s proud of that fact. But when 93-year-old Irwin Dressler, a former mob boss and one of the creators of the old Hollywood, summons him to his presence and gives him a job, Bender can’t refuse.
The job is kind of odd. Dolores La Marr was rated the most beautiful woman in the world by Life magazine in 1950. Her life up to that point had followed a familiar trajectory–almost abducted by her star-struck mother at 13 and pimped out to the Hollywood moguls, she first had small parts, then small speaking roles, and was just graduating to real stardom. But she is struck down–framed decisively as a gangster’s moll, with ties to Big Crime, her career was ruined and now she spends her days alone in a palatial flat in Los Angeles, obese and forgotten. Irwin Dressler wants to find out who was behind her downfall, since it’s clear she was specifically targeted. Bender’s pretty sure everyone involved with the case is long dead, and he thinks Dressler is crazy to be worried about it now, but he’s in for a surprise.
The Fame Thief is the 3rd in the series, although it can be read alone. I haven’t read the other 2 yet, but I’m going to. Author Timothy Hallinan writes in a style reminiscent of the classic 40s noir, channeling Chandler as it were, but his wry asides and humourous descriptions keep the plot moving. It’s really well done and lots of fun, with hilarious details. Bender moves from one seamy motel to another, and his current place of residence, Valentine Schmalentine, more than lives up to the name, simultaneously specializing in cheese and sleaze. He keeps up with his ex-wife and 14 year old daughter, who is level-headed and mature for her age, and uses her to not only do some of his background research for him, via Google, but also to protect his ex from her latest boyfriend, a scheming realtor.
Although The Fame Thief is funny, the plot has a poignant twist. There’s a certain depth here, as the reader is left reflecting on old grudges that grow stronger with age, on fleeting beauty, and how being very beautiful makes one vulnerable to both admiration and deep hatred. I felt echos of Hollywood tragedies through the book, from Marilyn Monroe onward.
The Fame Thief is a great read, really enjoyable. I highly recommend it.
I’m glad that the publisher has offered one of you a giveaway copy of The Fame Thief . Just leave a comment below if you’d like to win. The giveaway is closed.