Valentino works for UCLA as a
film archivist. His primary mission is to find and preserve
old and rare film. When Craig Hunter, an old friend and featured
movie actor turned alcoholic bum calls Valentino it sounds
a lot like a guy looking for a handout and so Valentino blows
him off. Soon Hunter shows up dead, the victim of a gangland
style beating. Valentino feels some guilt for ignoring a call
for help and decides to look into his old friend’s death.
It doesn’t take long for cops, competitors, and other
rare film collectors to zero in on Valentino for answers on
what murder victim Craig Hunter was up to. But Valentino hasn’t
Hunter was never a fan of horror movies but several of these
type of reference books show up in his personal effects.
Valentino knows that the only horror footage of any significant
value would be a screen test of Bela Legosi trying out, unsuccessfully
for the role of the Frankenstein monster; a part eventually
awarded to Boris Karloff. No one was even sure if that film
actually existed because the entire affair was swimming in
rumors. And if it ever did exist, by now it had surely been
destroyed. But enough people believed in its existence to
keep the panic alive.
There is an impressive line-up of suitors vying for this
film, beginning with the mother of a powerful mobster, an
extremely wealthy magazine publisher, and of course the UCLA
film history department. The two cops investigating Craig
Hunter’s murder are also keeping a close eye on Valentino.
Valentino has a few allies as well, including UCLA professor
Kyle Broadhead, his unpaid intern, Jason Stickley, and his
And then the film shows up at Valentino’s door. It
seems that everyone knows where the film is now and Valentino
receives a phone call saying that he needs to bring the film
to a designated location or Craig Hunter’s widow will
soon join him in the grave.
I’m not a fan of the movie industry or in horror movies
but Loren Estleman is the one author that I know who could
write the local phone book and make it intriguing. It’s
a book well worth reading.