Hollywood Heights by Mary-Beth Brophy
Percy Minor is an aspiring actress trying to survive in 1920s Hollywood, where desperate would-be ingénues are the ultimate party favors at smart celebrity dos. When her roommate is murdered along with Louis B. Mayer’s latest pet director, Edmund Cantor, Percy is faced with an ultimatum: team up with the Big Five studios’ sinister private police force, the Shadow Squad, to unmask the killer or become the Squad’s next victim.
Percy finds unexpected allies among Los Angeles’ most vulnerable: Pike, a gay member of the Shadow Squad; his lover Tony, an LAPD detective; and Estelle, a female Pinkerton hired to dig up blackmail material on Percy. Together, they discover that Cantor’s murder may be linked to his murky Broadway past.
Percy’s investigation leads her to a high-end brothel, the notorious Garden of Allah, and even gangster Mickey Cohen. But as the body count climbs, she realizes that she is probing a mystery that Mayer may not want solved. And in an era when vulnerable young women can simply vanish and the murder of a gay man wouldn’t raise an eyebrow, she must bring down the Shadow Squad if she hopes to escape with her life.
It’s a long fall from the Hollywood Heights.
The Book Doctors: We’re suckers for Hollywood stories. David even wrote one himself. There’s a wonderful tradition, and a big fan base, for a noirish story with tragically flawed heroes, cool-as-hell villains with their huge brute muscle-headed minions, and of course the drop-dead dames with their glamorous gams. The difficulty is that there have been so many stories written about this little part of the world, from the old school stylings of Raymond Chandler in The Big Sleep, to the neo-noir of James Elroy in LA Confidential, to the modern madness of Don Winslow in Savages. So when you start your pitch with the phrase “aspiring actress” we’re already bored. Swear to God, that’s all it takes. If you have to go through 50 pitches every day, just looking for some reason to say no, that phrase shines like a neon cliché sign. You have to show us how your writing is different, fresh, a new take on a time-honored tradition. When you use general generic words like “sinister” and “murky”, we drift. As Arielle says, a pitch is like a poem, every word counts. The gay angle is interesting, but that was one of the key plot points in LA Confidential. What are you going to do that we haven’t seen before? And there’s not enough word pictures that show us this fabulous world you’re promising us. Inside the brothel for example. At the lavish parties. Bathe us in that spectacular lavish era. Vulnerable women and gay men get chewed up and spit out in Tinsel Town then disappear; that’s been the staple of these kinds of stories since the 1930s. We need to see more of how you are going to add something to this genre. The way you introduce the murders is also quite undramatic. It’s a dead body. And you bury it in the middle of the sentence. Jolt us with that dead body. And speaking of sentences, the second sentence is just TOO LONG. We can’t remember where we were at the beginning by the time we get to the end. We tried reading the sentence out loud. It was so exhausting we needed a nap by the time we were done. We didn’t get enough of a climax either. We want you to show us worst-case scenario, what’s going to happen to this dame: details, word pictures, make sure we’re hanging by our fingertips off the edge of the cliff thinking: She can’t possibly overcome these seemingly insurmountable odds. A great setting, stylish writing, very promising, not enough specificity, not enough plot, not enough twists and turns, or details from the Hooray for Hollywood Golden Years.
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