Reading Charles Fleming’s The Studio Kill, I kept waiting for the tight writing and lightening quick storytelling of James Ellroy. It had the elements of an Ellroy noir: Hollywood, Mickey Cohen, starlets, over zealous news reporters, and a main character who toed the line between good and bad. But this isn’t an Ellroy story and after a chapter I looked at it like an old film, with an interesting murder mystery, guy meets girl, and the era when the candidness of today’s Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr stars were eschewed for a classier, yet seedier, image of Hollywood.
After reconciling myself to the fact that Ellroy’s voice wasn’t present, I got into the story. It was an easy read, a more of a whydunit than a whodunit. Main character John McClennan keeps busy, maintaining the reputation of his employer Continental Studios. When he is asked to look into the death of a studio head’s wife, a woman he had a brief fling with, he tries to figure out the who and the why as bodies continue to fall around him. Meanwhile, he hooks up with studio writer Frances, a frustrated young woman slugging away at a movie she is forced to change due to the whims of a crazed director. Danny Vine rounds out the characters, a newspaper columnist who gambles his reputation for a scoop on his competition.
Fleming does manage to take a twist of a period piece crime thriller and make it fresh. I didn’t feel the characters were cliché but had some depth that made me care about what would happen. The pacing of the story was steady until the “big reveal” then it felt like a let down after investing time into characters and a plot that was presented in a fresh and interesting way.
The Studio Kill is available for download to mobile devices or traditional book form. Click the link below to get your own copy.
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