Sunday, July 01, 2007


by George Axelrod
Hard Case Crime
202 pages

The covers on this book informed us that writer, George Axelrod, wrote some fairly well known movie scripts; The Manchurian Candidate, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and the Seven Year Itch. When I first read this, I wondered at the disparity of the genres. Consider they range from tense, no-nonsense political thriller to a lighthearted romance and an off-the-wall, goof-ball comedy.

What happens with Blackmailer is that Axelrod incorporates many of these unlikely elements and the result is a disappointing stew with little to recommend it. As a murder mystery, it begins well and introduces us to some colorful, New York socialites who may or may not be crooked. A Hemingway-esque author has died leaving behind one last, unpublished novel. Now a former gangster, a Hollywood movie sexpot and social dilettante all want to get their hands on it for one reason or another. Enter Dick Sherman, publisher and would be detective.

The pacing of the book is quick and it is an easy read, if unconvincing one. There are several problems with Blackmailer that are unredeemable. The book is terribly dated. Mysteries like this back in the 50s were common and figuring out who-done-it doesn’t require any effort at all. Never mind that that book’s actual cover serves to offer that solution immediately. Consider the tag line, “She Was Born Bad.” Since there are only two female characters in the plot, one blonde and the other a brunette…well. Were this a femme-fatale offering, that could be forgiven, but it is not. In this case it’s window dressing to disguise a lackluster offering.

It is extremely rare that any Hard Case Crime will miss the bulls-eye, bad sadly Blackmailer does.


Bobby Nash said...

The cover's nice.


Ron Fortier said...

That it is, Bobby. One of the true constants about HCC books are their
gorgeous covers and this one is certainly no exception.

Glen said...

Really not one of HC's best, I don't think it was that great even when you try to put it into the context of its time.

Out of it, only the part where the protagonist found his ex-wife in the movie theatre really stuck with me at all.

I think the coming out of nowhere ending is really a knock against the book, too.

Cory!! said...

My problem as I read the book was that it felt so much as if he was trying to present a "behind the scenes" story of Hollywood with painfully obvious versions of well-known Hollywood people that I spent more time thinking "Does he really hate Marilyn Monroe" than about the actual story.

Ron Fortier said...

Good point, Cory. I have to agree with you about his use of thinly
disguised celebrity. I too found
it annoying.