The Terror of Tyrants
We Don’t Need No Stinking Badges
The Grove Point Press
Reviewed by Cheryl Green
Lights, cameras and even more action for Warner Brothers Studio press agent Joe Bernardi. He is now on his way to Tampico, Mexico to get Humphrey Bogart out of jail. Seems Bogie got into a fight while there to film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
What Joe finds is a lot of sabotage being done to the film sets and equipment. Is it the gangster El Jefe who wanted the studio to hire 60 more of his people? Or could the studio be trying to close the movie down since the studio head hates it?
Joe meets a lot of people, including Walter Houston and even Ann Sheridan, who was brought in to lighten up the movie. Pedro Castano, former policeman, is a new actor who becomes a good friend of Joe’s in a very short time. I say this because, before you know it, Pedro’s body is found in a nearby rock quarry.
Looks like Joe will have to get into Sherlock Holmes mode to solve this caper. He has to make sure the right person is arrested or Jimbo Ochoa will be serving hard time. All Joe really wants is to have some hard boiled eggs – plain without any sauce on them. He will have to find out who framed Jimbo as well as babysit the reporters, who are always looking for the next scoop.
Things to ponder: who was Pedro arguing with the day before he was murdered? Is Hal Croves really who he says he is — or is he incognito? Finally, is Phil Drago really as stupid as he appears or is he just a “yes” man for the studio?
Peter S Fischer has done it again – he has put me in a time machine and landed me in 1948. He has written a fast paced murder mystery that will have you up into the wee hours reading. If you love the old movies and get star struck then this is the book for you.
“Murder She Wrote” Creator Peter S. Fischer
pens ”The Hollywood Murder Mysteries”
“I sit down on one of the benches and clasp and unclasp my hands. I pick up a copy of ‘Look’ from a table. I open it up. Good news. Charlie Gehringer, the old Detroit Tiger second baseman, got elected to the Hall of Fame.
Good for him. Stead and reliable and too often underrated. Score one for the good guys. Israel gets to
join the United Nations. There were 12 votes against.
Probably those spoilsport Arab countries who couldn’t
lick one small band of determined Jews. Score two for the good guy. I turn the page to a huge celebration going on in Bangkok. Siam has just changed its name to Thailand. I’m breathless. I’m astounded. Actually, I couldn’t care less but apparently ‘Look’ thought it was a big deal. I toss the magazine aside wondering how 20th Century Fox is going to handle the re-release of ‘Anna and the King of Thailand’.
Love Has Nothing
To Do With It:
The Hollywood Murder
By Peter S. Fischer
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read my first novel from Peter S. Fischer. You may not have recognized the name–but when you hear “Murder She Wrote” or “Columbo” you will know that a wonderful writer was behind those whodunit programs! And his latest is just as enjoyable…
One of the things I liked about Murder She Wrote was that there was a central home site where Jessica lived. It allowed individuals to get to know the main characters and become intimately involved with the series. For myself, I think I’ve watched every program there was, and some of them more than once..
And it was the setting that I loved for Fischer’s latest series: The Hollywood Murder Mysteries. I’ll be getting the rest of these because I know that I’ll enjoy them as much as Murder She Wrote!
Joe Bernardi is the main character and a publicist for Warner Brothers… We are in Hollywood…but…
The Year is…1949, for this third book. Note that each is set in a different year. What that means is, I think, since I haven’t read the rest yet, is that readers will learn what was happening in Hollywood during that particular year, as illustrated in the above excerpt.
Of course I recognized names such as James Cagney, who plays an interesting role in the book, as well as Joel McCrea and George Burns even was having his obituary updated by one of the characters, who was sure he’d soon be dead…
Bernardi is a likable guy who arranges “things” for all of the actors being filmed at any given time. For instance, Cagney agreed to play umpire for a group of kids against their parents. The story shared by the author may or may not have been real but it certainly added a warmer, friendlier dimension of Cagney’s character than we would never see in any of those gangster films in which he starred!
But Bernardi was called when his ex-wife was being accused of murder!
Not only does this create trouble with his present lover, he recognizes that he still cares for his former wife, at least enough to want to help get her free.
Lydia was once married to Tyler Banks who was an agent that fronted only unknowns and was an abrasive character that Bernardi had never liked. Banks had called his ex-wife out of the blue and asked her to go and get an envelope from his home and bring it to him. She did and then he rudely told her to leave. But soon after, Lydia heard a shot and went back in, finding him dead and the envelope gone!
But a very influential man, the father-in-law of Banks, had pulled some political strings and the police are ready to go to trial and convict. Except…the detective that had been working on the case until he was told to move with the accused, had just developed the guts to stop following this type of instruction from his boss. So behind the scenes, he worked with Bernardi and Lydia’s boss, bail bondsman Mick Clausen, who was also in love with Lydia–much to Bernardi’s delight! Hopefully, this would convince Bunny that he loved her, not Lydia!
There was a very nice and tight little twist or two that totally got me off-track, but of course I enjoy a mystery better when I don’t discover who did it until the end! Needless to say, the writing is fantastic and, for me, the topic was a true escape into our past entertainment world. Expect it to be quite different from today’s! But that’s why readers will enjoy visiting Hollywood as it was in the past… A marvelous concept that hopefully will continue up into the 60s and beyond! Loved it!
JEZEBEL IN BLUE SATIN
By Peter S. Fischer
2012 San Francisco Book Festival “Honorable Mention”
Fans of golden era Hollywood, snappy patter and Raymond Chandler will find much to like in Peter Fischer’s murder mystery series, all centered on old school studio flak Joe
Bernardi, a happy-go-lucky war veteran who finds himself immersed in tough situations.
In “1947: Book One: Jezebel in Blue Satin,” Bernardi is embroiled in the murder of a young actress whose body he discovers late at night on a darkened sound stage.
Naturally, Bernardi is immediately fingered as the prime suspect, leading him to undertake his own hard looks at the characters populating the lowly Continental Pictures studios, a churn-‘em-out minor player in the post-war studio scene.
As befits a writer/producer for the TV series “Murder, She Wrote” and “Columbo,” author Fischer has us guessing as to whodunit. Was it the blustering studio boss who knows a bit too much about the murdered actress? The secretly gay leading man? The aging actress who sheds crocodile tears over her understudy? Or any one of a motley group of characters whose ample motives and strange behaviors raise all sorts of questions?
The story’s surprise ending neatly wraps up this segment of the series, and (spoiler alert!) launches Bernardi toward Mexico for the next book in his series of adventures.
Will this series have staying power? It will if there’s still a place for quick, fun and engaging reads. Fischer is obviously a student of golden era Hollywood, and it’s fun to journey with him through various forgotten landmarks. He also understands that it’s what implied, rather than stated, that’s important in a good mystery. Both factors make it likely that readers hooked on the first book will come back for more.
The series fills a niche that’s been superseded by explosions and violence in too much of popular culture, and even though it’s a world where men are men and women are dames, its glimpses at an era where the façade of glamour and sophistication hid an uglier truth are still fun to revisit.
LOVE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH IT
By Peter S. Fischer
Four Stars (out of Five)
It’s 1949, on a Hollywood movie set where a fictionalized James Cagney is acting in White Heat, a dark gangster film from Warner Brothers. A glamorous setting, to be sure, but studio publicist Joe Bernardi sees the nitty-gritty that goes on behind the scenes. In this third installment of Peter S. Fischer’s Hollywood Murder Mysteries series, Bernardi finds himself intimately involved in a homicide case when his ex-wife is accused of shooting a movie mogul.
Fischer is no newcomer to the mystery genre. Best-known for cocreating and writing for the popular television series Murder, She Wrote, for which he received three Emmy nominations, Fischer has been honored with an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America. Readers may recognize his name from the credits of television shows like Kojak, MacMillan & Wife, and Ellery Queen.
Fischer’s experience shows in Love Has Nothing to Do With It, an homage to film noir and the hard-boiled detective novel. The story is complicated—Bernardi’s ex-wife is in jail for murdering her former lover, Tyler Banks, who leaves behind a long list of disgruntled acquaintances that includes Bernardi himself—but Fischer never loses the thread. The story is intricate enough to be intriguing but not baffling.
Bernardi’s matter-of-fact voice borrows its attitude of cool observation from classic firstperson narrators like Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade. He offers opinions on the usual suspects: the jealous husband, the corrupt cop, and several femmes fatales. Sometimes, Fischer reaches a bit in his attempt to capture the hard-boiled narrator’s voice, as when Bernardi says Banks has been “hanging around … like a lace mantilla on a Mexican grandmother.” At other times, Bernardi’s swagger is authentic and entertaining. Overall, he is a likeable sleuth, with the dogged determination to uncover the truth.
None of the characters is drawn in depth, but readers will recognize and remember everyone, from alcoholic ex-wife Lydia to cagey real-estate magnate Sean Flaherty and shady former business partner Jake Pepper. They all have reasons to want Tyler Banks gone, and the real culprit only becomes clear at the very end. Fischer keeps the tension alive by not going full bore on every page. Instead, he inserts occasional scenes of comic relief that keep the reader offbalance and ensure that each revelation will be a surprise.
Period details lend an authenticity to the setting. In one scene, a jukebox plays Frankie Lane songs, and in another Dinah Shore sings on the radio. Bernardi is offended by the high price of parking in Burbank—25 cents—which adds to the nostalgic feeling. Fischer knows the era well, as evidenced by earlier titles in the Hollywood series like We Don’t Need No Stinking Badges and Jezebel in Blue Satin, set in 1947 and 1948, respectively.
While the outcome of the Tyler Banks murder is an unknown until the final pages of the current title, we do know that Joe Bernardi will survive at least until 1950, when further adventures await him in the forthcoming Everybody Wants an Oscar.
Sheila M. Trask