Beverly Hills Dead
Putnam, Jan 2008, $25.95
In the 1940s the House on Un-American Activities Committee is just beginning its witch hunt and Hollywood is starting to feel the effect. Rick Barron, head of production of Centurion Pictures, has no interest in politics, but his antenna quivers when Communist Cards are sent to him with the names of Bitter Creek screenwriter Sid Banks and Laurie Brecht, who happens to be his movie star wife Glenna Gleason.
Rick arranges for the matter to be taken care of quietly, but Sid is blackballed when he refuses to name names to the HUAC members. Most of Hollywood runs from Sid to avoid being painted with his taint. His movie is near completion with new stars Vance Calder and Susie Stafford in the lead. The pair becomes romantically involved and she is to move into his home when she vanishes. Soon afterward she is found dead in a dump. Rick demands the police find her killer while Sid becomes a willing friendly witness for HUAC, which restores his name. However, both Rick and Sid know HUAC has unfinished business with them as the Congress will leave no stone unturned.
This historical mystery focuses on the beginning of the HUAC “Red Scare” witch hunt that terrorized much of Hollywood in the late 1940 and early 1950s when the studio heads were more concerned over the bottom line than the “J’accuse” mentality of DC. The murder mystery is cleverly devised so that red herrings and twists keep the audience guessing the identity of the killer. However that also detracts from a deep look at the opening phases of the HUAC on film making. Still this is an entreating tale that will have fans seeking the previous entry THE PRINCE OF BEVERLY HILLS.