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While I Disappear
John Ray Horn Series, No. 2

by Edward Wright

      John Ray Horn's current life as debt collector for his friend and former movie sidekick, casino owner Joseph Mad Crow, runs smack into his old life as a B movie cowboy star when the woman whose date for the evening he's helped rough up asks if he recognizes her. Rose Galen has faded almost past recognition, but years ago she was the luminous beauty who helped John Ray start to become a real actor, not just someone who looked good on a horse. John Ray wants to repay this debt by helping her now. He barely gets a start on her defenses before finding her murdered body. To the police, she's just another bad luck drunk in a bad neighborhood - rubberstamp it unsolved. John Ray knows better, and finding her killer is the last remaining way he can repay his debt to her. Of course that means digging into the past she was trying to hide -- a past that involves other friends' secrets as it focuses on what happened at one wild silent movie era Hollywood party.

       This is a strongly atmospheric story that cuts across the many worlds of post WWII LA. As a former actor on the rise who's now an ex-con, blacklisted by the studios and living day to day, John Ray's seen the best and the worst of Hollywood. Definitely noirish in flavor - there's a lot more wrong than right in this world. But speaking as someone who normally finds too much darkness in the real world to enjoy it in fiction, don't let that put you off. John Ray himself is flawed, but also appealing, as are many of those around him. His world may be dark, but it's also a believably real one, evocatively depicted with a great deal of depth and detail and occasional lyricism, including bits of light shining amid all that darkness. Nor is there any cardboard in the characters. Even the bit parts are memorable, solid, human: real characters both literally and figuratively. I enjoyed spending time in their company and will remember them for a while after. Highly recommended.

The Book

Berkley Prime Crime
May 2005
Historical Crime [Post WWII Los Angeles]
More at
NOTE: Fairly violent, with some swearing and sex, including violent sex

The Reviewer
Kim Malo
Reviewed 2005
© 2005