The Hollywood Op

This collection (or “casebook” as the author calls it), originally published in 2011, features eight short stories showcasing Scott Elliott, the protagonist of one of Terence Faherty’s ongoing series. This new edition of THE HOLLYWOOD OP includes a new introduction by the author and is an excellent introduction to the Scott Elliott character.

For the uninitiated, Scott Elliott was one of countless movie bit players during the 1930s. Then his career was interrupted by World War II. When he returned Elliott quickly discovered the Hollywood he had once known had changed forever – and had completely forgotten about him. To make ends meet – and maintain what few industry leads he still has – Elliott becomes a sort of private investigator for Hollywood Security, a firm hired to do the kinds of bothersome jobs the studios would rather avoid.

“Unruly Jade,” the story that opens the collection, is a perfect example of the sort of work Hollywood Security takes on. Elliott is assigned to baby-sit an actor during a night of barhopping. But Elliott is distracted from his client when he overhears plans to rob a woman of her expensive jade necklace.

In “Garbo’s Knees” three concrete slabs, bearing the autographs and footprints of movie stars, are stolen from the warehouse of Sid Grauman (the owner and operator of the famous Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard). The elusive Greta Garbo signed one slab. Elliott is tasked with finding and recovering the slabs, but stumbles upon the thief’s long-held family secrets.

“Nobody’s Ring,” the earliest of the Elliott stories, has Elliott finding a ring during a Hollywood dinner party. But none of the guests claim the ring. Elliott traces the ownership and finds himself in the midst of a case involving jealousy and murder.

“Sleep Big,” first published in this collection, is a novella-length story placing Elliott in the middle of the events of Raymond Chandler’s debut mystery novel, THE BIG SLEEP. Elliott rubs shoulders with Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, and even solves a murder that, Hollywood legend has it, stumped Chandler himself during his adaptation of his novel for the 1946 movie.

Chandler is an obvious influence on Faherty’s narrative style. The stories are all told from Elliott’s first-person perspective, and include sarcastic interior observations of the clients and others Elliott encounters. Hollywood and the movies are among these observations, but tinged with a subtle affection owing to Elliott’s former career.

The period recreation, covering Hollywood during the 1940s and up through the late 50s, is effective and mostly avoids heavy-handedness. But hardly a metaphor or simile gets past Faherty without reference to the movies.
In his new introduction Faherty argues that Elliott fits more within the characteristics of film noir rather than noir crime literature. The original introduction from the 2011 edition is also included. In both pieces Faherty traces the development of his character as well as the basis or inspiration of each of the eight stories.

The Elliott stories highlight Faherty’s imagination and creativity, along with his love for both mystery fiction and movies. Crime fiction fans will find these stories a bit lighter in tone than typical noir fiction, but unfailingly entertaining.

Those first experiencing Scott Elliott will want to track down Faherty’s novels – like KILL ME AGAIN and COME BACK DEAD – for more of Elliott’s behind-the-scenes snooping. —Alan Cranis

Get it at Amazon.

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