Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Book Review: Play Him Again by Jeffrey Stone

Play Him Again by Jeffrey Stone is a novel that doubles as a crime story and a movie industry history.

The events take place in the late 1920’s in Los Angeles. The prohibition is in place and the bootleggers make tons of money by supplying booze to the people who can afford it. One of the aforementioned men is Matt Hudson, a street-wise guy, who does big business with the movie crowd and who dreams of shooting the first all-talking-picture ever.

Before doing that though he has to solve a murder. His oldest friend, and great conman, Danny Kincaid has been brutally tortured and killed. Who was it that killed him and why? Did Danny cross roads with someone too clever or powerful for him to handle?

Well, since the police decided to rule his death an accident, now it’s up to him to bring the perp or perps to justice, even though his chances of doing that seem to be quite slim. He has no clue what his friend was up to, he has a business to take care of, and he does have a dream to pursue and a woman to please. Quite the busy man, isn’t he?

Luck though will decide to give him a helping hand, so he’ll soon discover what the latest con his friend’s put into place was. And he’ll be devastated, since it was his idea that he used, and which had probably got him killed.

Now he has more than one reason to investigate the case, while at the same time he’ll have to deal with a local gangster who’s started stealing his booze supplies, and keep trying to convince some studio executives to give him the green light for his movie.

There are a lot of action scenes in this book, but one could also read it as a document of a whole era: the Hollywood in the 20’s, the fabric of a society in its high and lows, the prohibition that made some people rich and led others to death, the corruption inside the police force, the past of a future to be.

The author does a great job recreating that period in history and delivers to the reader a hero with many flaws, who tries hard to find a balance in a world where doing the right thing could land you into trouble. Hud’s psyche is a tortured one. People don’t get him, not the ones that matter the most anyway, and that makes him every now and again question himself and his own motives. He may be a bootlegger but he’s also a man with principles. He may be an honest man but he more often than not has to deal with crooks. He may cherish life but he may have to kill to survive.

Placing this novel under a particular genre is not such an easy thing to do. I can say one thing though: I really enjoyed reading it.

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