“Green Light For Murder” by Heywood Gould / Saturday, May 18, 2013 / Reviewed by Clay Stafford

Today’s featured book is Green Light For Murder by Heywood Gould

I’ve heard it said that the only good producer is a dead producer.  In “Green Light for Murder”, Heywood Gould takes that literally.  This is a true insider’s look at the nuts of Hollywood and the City of Angels.  Here’s a police procedural that will make you laugh out loud.

The story revolves around a crazed and underappreciated (in his mind) filmmaker who plays out a schizophrenic drama in his head with an imaginary film crew while committing murders he wrote in scripts whose bits were stolen from him by less-than-talented filmmakers who are now on the filmmaker’s hit list.  Running parallel with that is the story of a pot-smoking and poetry-writing Los Angeles detective who is also trying to keep his own head and life in check.  “Green Light for Murder” is a bird’s eye view of the chess game between them.  There are numerous support characters and everyone in the novel seems to have an issue with everyone else, which makes for great conflict.  As always, Gould – writer for such memorable books (and films) as Fort Apache, the Bronx, Glitter Burn, Double Bang, Cocktail, and more – creates incredibly memorable and distinctive characters.  And, it goes without saying if you’re familiar with Gould’s work, there is all the sex and innuendo we expect in a Heywood Gould novel.

It’s being touted by the publisher as “A Detective Tommy Veasy Mystery.”  You need to know upfront that it is not really a mystery (in my definition) because we already know the who-done-it right from the start, but it does have a detective and a serial killer.  That’s not a bad thing, it’s just when I pick up a “mystery,” I think I’m going to be given clues to solve the crime.  Like Michael Connelly’s great “mystery” book “The Poet,” which uses the same device but in a completely different crime-writing style, you already know who the killer is from the start.  This is more of a police procedural on how the dude is caught.

Heywood has a great style.  There’s not much set-up in any of his scenes.  He jumps right in after the action has started and, because it is not the normal writer writing about a character examining his navel and telling you why before the action begins, you actually have to think a little bit about where you just came from to follow it.  What you get, though, with that interplay is a truly visual novel with numerous layers.  There’s not a word in the book that hasn’t been sweated over to make sure it is exactly the right thing to say.  To my knowledge, I’ve read every book Gould has ever written.  All read like you’re watching a movie, which is probably why his works are so easily transferred to the big screen.  “Green Light for Murder” is no exception.  Even written in first person, you get the feeling that you are watching it take place rather than reading about something that took place in the past.

Gould and I worked for the same film company at the same time in Hollywood and I recognize immediately, and laugh with memory, at his take on certain film community situations.  If you really want to know the nut side of the creative and non-creative people in Hollywood (including a few of the guys in the LAPD), this is a great parody, though it is more real than fictitious.  Filled with humor, great one-liners, and more than one running gag, it is a funny read, so be in the mood for it.  Some might call the portrayal of some of the characters absurd; I call it – from personal experience – another day in Hollywood.

Heywood is one of the smartest guys I know and an incredible observer.  He brings those skills to this book, but you have to be smart with him to get it.  It’s a good start for a great series.  I’m looking forward to the next thing that comes out of this man’s mind.

– Clay Stafford is an author / filmmaker and founder of Killer Nashville. Stafford’s latest projects are the documentary “One of the Miracles” and the music CD “XO”.

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