The Pictures by Guy Bolton

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The Pictures by Guy Bolton

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: It's one of those books which you pick up idly - and don't put down. I read it in a couple of days and I'm still thinking about a couple of the characters. Definitely recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: March 2017
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1786070395

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It's the spring of 1939: in Hollywood The Wizard of Oz is in production at MGM and it's important that nothing interrupts shooting or causes bad publicity for the actors or the studio. The police department recognises that it's good for Hollywood that all goes smoothly and it's Detective Jonathan Crane's job to see that the crimes and misdemeanours of the stars are swept under the proverbial carpet. The studio rewards him handsomely for this and there's perhaps a little bit of antagonism within LAPD that Craine's got it easy and wouldn't know how to investigate a case if it came up and slapped him, but in Craine's mind all that's going to change.

He's just back at work after the death of his wife who was an MGM star: their son, Michael, discovered the body in the bathroom of their home and Craine conspired with the studio to cover this up as 'a dreadful accident' rather than the suicide it actually was. In LAPD it's better close a case than solve it. But Craine's back at work on the understanding that he's going to be kept away from involvement with the studios; after all he has a young son to bring up. He'd like to do it right: but eight-year-old Michael, who hasn't spoken in the months since his mother's death, has been left at a Catholic boarding school, even during the holidays. Then Craine's services are called on one last time. Well, actually, it's a couple of cases which need tidying away: a producer on The Wizard of Oz commits suicide and across town there's a brutal murder. Problems start when a rookie detective makes connections which would have been better not made.

I'd no intention of reading this book: I mean, it's November and the book isn't published for months yet, but it's always worth having a quick look at a book just to see which reviewer it might appeal to. An hour later I was a good fifty pages in and two hundred plus before the day was out. I knew which reviewer it was going to appeal to! There's a seamless mix of fictional characters and those we all know. Louis B Mayer is the studio head, worried about how The Wizard of Oz is going, but carefully not knowing what's happening in the studio with regard to drugs and prostitution. Joan Crawford has a walk on part, but the story revolves around Jonathan Craine and the rookie detective Patrick O'Neill. Craine wouldn't think of himself as corrupt - he's just pragmatic - and O'Neill's always conscious that he's not quite living up to his famous-policeman father. It's an uneasy combination that comes off the page well.

There's a real pace to the story and an effortless evocation of the Hollywood of the nineteen thirties. Guy Bolton has worked in publishing, film and television and throughout The Pictures I felt that I was in the hands of an author who had an affection for his subject, but hadn't put on the rose-coloured spectacles. It's his first novel and is particularly assured for a debut: I'm interested to read more from him and I certainly wouldn't object to hearing more about Detective Jonathan Craine. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If you'd like to know more about the real lives of some of the people involved in The Pictures, we have a review of and cautiously recommend Possessed: The Life of Joan Crawford by Donald Spoto. For more fiction from nineteen thirties Hollywood we can recommend The Forgotten Lies by Kerry Jamieson.

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