Monday, November 18, 2013

HUGH MOON - Catching A Rising Star

HUGH MONN – Private Detective
By Lee Houston Jr.
Prose Press
175 pages

Last year I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing writer Lee Houston Junior’s debut title featuring his futuristic private eye, Hugh Monn.  It was a collection of tales showcasing the white haired, ex-military vet and his life on the alien world of Frontera. I gave the book major thumbs up and I trust all of you went out a grabbed a copy.  That book reminded me a great deal of the 1950s paperback era and all the marvelous sci-fi authors who appeared in the pages of those Ace Doubles.

Now comes Hugh Monn’s newest case and, much to my delight, it’s a full length novel.
A film company, Stellar Studios, arrives on Frontera to shoot a romantic-comedy vid featuring the very sexy and popular alien star, Ruby Kwartz.  When her human manager, Augustus Dubois, recommends they hire a local to act as an additional bodyguard.  The lucky man they choose is our protagonist.  From the start Hugh isn’t comfortable around the movie entourage finding they gauche and egotistical but they are willing to pay triple his usual rates.  Typical of all private eyes, there’s no way Hugh can turn down that kind of creds.

Then the big star’s publicist, Nola Pierce, also a member of the same red-skinned race, confides in Hugh that she believes Ruby is in real danger.  Although unconvinced at the start, as the gumshoe begins to investigate he uncovers a few unsavory facts about Dubois and Ruby’s co-star, Dirk Hartford.  Then, only hours after location filming begins on a nearby beach, a flying camera goes bonkers and nearly crashes into Monn, Hartford and the actor’s Primoid bodyguard.  Monn doesn’t believe in accidents, especially when he’s working a case.  Is Ruby Kwartz’s life in jeapordy?  And if so was the beach incident meant to eliminate him or her co-star?  And if so, why?

Houston delivers all the standard wise-cracking humor these kind of mysteries of noted for and it is surprising how well the form works even in such an exotic off-world setting.  All the while reading “Catch A Rising Star,” I was reminded a great deal of those wonderful Shell Scott mysteries by the late Richard Prather.  That both Hugh and Shell have premature white hair just can’t be a coincidence; can it?  This is a marvelous book written by a talented writer who knows both genres well and thus merges them so smoothly as to be totally entertaining.  This book cemented my membership in the Hugh Monn fan club, a group that’s about to get a whole lot bigger.  Take my word for that.

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