Monday, February 13, 2012

Review: Movie by Parnell Hall

Movie by Parnell Hall

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Detective Stanley Hastings finally has his chance to hit The Big Time as a screenwriter. Sidney Garfellow, a documentary director people have actually heard of, has hired him to write the screenplay for his first 'regular' movie. Stanley dreams of leaving his less-than-rewarding career as an investigator for a personal injury lawyer for the Silver Screen. What stands in the way of this? Well, Sidney Garfellow, who keeps changing his mind about what he wants, forcing Stanley to rewrite and rewrite again. Then there's the film's star, who ignores Stanley's golden prose in favor of more 'natural' lines he's written himself. Oh, and there's people getting killed on the set. Just a little problem there...

Hall draws heavily on his own experiences when writing Stanley Hastings: he has worked on the stage, in films, and, at one time, as a detective himself. He writes hilarious songs, often about the foibles of being an author. It is no surprise that he has some experience with screenwriting himself: he wrote the screenplay for C.H.U.D. At least Stanley gets to write a movie with "four hot babes" in it.

I've read several of the Hastings novels, and I always enjoy the verbal humor in them. This novel is no exception. Stanley gives us his unvarnished and aggrieved opinions of the director, the actor, and Murty the sound man. He exchanges marvelous barbs with his boss, who visits the set, and Sergeant McAuliff, a series regular who is hired as a consultant. After the deaths begin, Detective Clark is brought in to investigate. Stanley doesn't like Clark: in a previous novel, Stanley was his prime suspect. The cops are smart, especially Clark, who is far from the closed-minded nabob mystery authors so often employ. The plot is good, and there's enough twists to keep the reader guessing.

The drawback: in some scenes, Stanley and the police detectives spend a lot of time talking about who was where at what times. I tend to speedbump over those sections, but you might want to take the time to read it: the solution just might be hiding in there.

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