Friday, December 15, 2017

Forgotten Books, Bill Crider Edition: We'll Always Have Murder - Bill Crider

I wanted to read something I hadn’t read before for Bill Crider Week, which is no easy task because I’ve read a lot of Bill’s books over the years. But somehow I’d never read WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE MURDER, which was intended to be the first of a series featuring Humphrey Bogart, narrated by Terry Scott, a private eye who works for Jack Warner. Like Bill Lennox and Dan Turner before him, Terry Scott is a Hollywood troubleshooter whose job is keeping movie stars out of trouble. In this case, the star is Bogart. Frank Burleson, a sleazy private detective who works for one of the lower-rung studios in much the same capacity that Scott works for Warner Brothers, is trying to blackmail Bogart. Jack Warner wants Scott to get Burleson off the star’s back. But when Scott and Bogart pay a visit to Burleson, they find the guy murdered—with a .45 stolen from Bogart’s apartment during a wild party lying beside the body—and a couple of hostile cops show up mere moments later to complete the frame.

All you have to do is read that description of the opening to know that this is the sort of book I love, and I suspect many of you do, too. Naturally enough, Scott and Bogart set out to find the real killer in order to clear Bogart’s name. If Burleson was trying to blackmail Bogart, it stands to reason he had other blackmail targets as well, and since most of the people who were at Bogart’s party and had the opportunity to steal the murder gun are working together on a jungle picture at Superior Studios, that leads the two investigators into more trouble in a back-lot jungle, where, before you know it, another murder takes place.

What do you want in a book like this? Snappy patter? Gangsters? Thuggish henchmen? Night clubs? Beautiful actresses? Fistfights and shootouts and our heroes being taken for a ride? You get all that and more in WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE MURDER, and all of it told in a smooth, fast-paced style. Bill does a great job of blending historical characters with fictional ones (Peter Lorre’s cameo appearance is wonderful). Writing a historical mystery like this can be tricky. It’s easy to go overboard with the period details. Bill never does this, and as a result, the setting is very evocative without being heavy-handed.

I can’t even pretend to be an objective reviewer in this case, since Bill and I have been friends for more than 40 years, but I can tell you this in all sincerity and you can believe me or not: WE’LL ALWAYS HAVE MURDER is a wonderful book, one of the most entertaining I’ve read in a long time, and I give it my highest recommendation. And I’d say that whether I knew the guy or not.


Adventuresfantastic said...

I have this one but have never read it. As a Bogart fan, I need to correct that.

Charles Gramlich said...

Definitely going to pick this one up