Wednesday, February 02, 2011
Wild Night, by L.J. Washburn, takes place in Depression-era Hollywood. Lucas Hallam is a former lawman, Pinkerton, and cowboy who has also spent a little time on the owlhoot trail during his heyday. Now, in the 1920s, he works part time as a Western movie extra and also maintains a private detective business.
While scouting a ghost town as a possible movie location he gets into a shootout with a couple of thugs. The town's owner and sole inhabitant, Liz Fletcher, thinks they were after her stash of hooch. Back in Hollywood later that day, Hallam is hired by an evangelist, Rev. Forbes, to accompany him to a meeting that evening. They go, and in short order Hallam is knocked out and the two people they went to meet are dead, with the reverend standing over them with a gun in his hand. He swears he didn't do it but the cops toss him in the graybar hotel anyway.
Hallam is asked to clear the minister, and even though Hallam doesn't like the man, he agrees to help. Only he and Forbes know a fact about the night of the crime that no one else does, and they're holding it back.
As Hallam delves into the church and Forbes' past he finds himself the target of a gunman. Seems like someone doesn't want him to find the truth. Or does it?
Washburn writes a strong mystery with an extra twist in the end that I didn't see coming. Her prose is clear and eminently readable. Best of all, Hallam is a wonderful character--strong, simple, honest, brave, and nobody's fool. The early Hollywood setting--with its studios, speakeasys, and cultish temple--captivated this reader and rings true. Some of the luminaries of the day also step in for cameos. I've already started the sequel and I'm grateful that the Kindle has made these hard-to-find books available again. Check them out.