Much in the same vein as PB&J and Cheerios, I believe that if you combine mysteries and movies you get a better product. That is why I’m a sucker to pick up any mystery that has a movie title pun or a celebrity actor detective. I’ve been burned a few times, but luckily I have found many more gems than duds. Thus, I was compelled to compose a Top Five Mysteries For Film Buffs list. Starting with…
#5 – Some Like It Hot-Buttered by Jeffrey Cohen
Some people read Louise Penny’s series and wish they could live in that small town. Others wish they could live in the cool tough world of Raymond Chandler. I wish that I could go to the theatre featured prominently in this series. The protagonist in this series, Elliot Freed, runs a theatre called Comedy Tonight that runs a double feature each night: one of a classic comedy and a newer release comedy. Freed runs into trouble when one of his few customers dies during a movie. (They first realized something was up when he didn’t laugh once during Young Frankenstein). The characters are a lot of fun and Cohen name-drops a lot of cool movies.
#4 – Murder on the Yellow Brick Road by Stuart M. Kaminisky
This series is an absolute must for fans of older Hollywood classics. It’s a pulp series following a tough guy named Toby Peters who has a tendency to be hired by the likes of Errol Flynn and Groucho Marx. In this one, he is hired by Judy Garland to solve the murder of one of the actors who played a munchkin. Kaminisky’s pulp descriptions are endlessly entertaining and work perfectly when Toby Peters interacts with a number of celebrities in each volume. (My favorite scene in this book is when Raymond Chandler takes notes on Peters for his own books.)
#3 – Groucho Marx, Private Eye by Ron Goulart
I admit it. I’m a Marx Brothers fanboy. Thus, I was very nervous and intrigued when I found this book. If you’re going to have Groucho be a main character, you absolutely must match his voice. Thankfully, Goulart pulls it off wonderfully. It’s all there. The ranting monologues, the smiling insults, the ADD personality. Oh, there’s even a mystery thrown in there as well. The entire series is way too much fun; the only problem is that they are often hard to find. Yet they’re worth it.
#2 – Kill Me Again by Terence Faherty
Faherty is high up on my list of one of the best authors I’ve ever read. As a writer, he makes very entertaining novels while an aura of intelligence throughout the whole work. One of my favorite of his novels is this one. It was the start of a new series that follows a former actor turned Hollywood problem solver. The latest problem comes from the set of a sequel to Casablanca. (True film buffs have already secured a copy of the book after that last sentence.)
#1 – Frames by Loren D. Estleman
So how did a book that, as of this writing, hasn’t been published for more than six months secure a prestigious number one spot on my list? For this has been one of my favorite books I’ve read in a long time. Valentino, a character that up until now has only been seen in short stories, finds an abandoned theatre. Inside he finds cans of film that may contain the only remaining copies of Erich von Stroheim’s Greed. (Film buffs ought to be drooling at this point.) The book is really funny and it uses film references as punchlines. Right now my most anticipated book is the upcoming anthology of Valentino short stories.
Originally written for Pomp & Circumstantial Evidence. Learn more about what that is at www.magnacummurder.com