In Michael Murphy’s rollicking new Jake & Laura mystery, the hard-boiled writer and the aspiring movie star head for sun-drenched Los Angeles during Hollywood’s Golden Age, where a cold-blooded murderer lurks behind the scenes.
Targeted Age Group:: 20+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
This book and series was inspired by The Thin Man movies staring William Powell and Myrna Loy. In addition to a hard boiled mystery, I loved the wit, sophistication and romance of the husband and wife team and strive to create those traits in Jake and Laura.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Dashiell Hammett created Nick and Nora Charles. They are funny, and in love, and in spite of The Great Depression of the time period, are financially well off. Jake is a former Pinkerton detective turned mystery writer and Laura is a well-known actress. In All That Glitters they travel to Hollywood in 1935 where she’s set to begin her first movie.
The Naughtiest, Bawdiest Year Yet
I struggled to carry three overstuffed suitcases through a crowded Grand Central Station, and keep up with Broadway actress Laura Wilson. I accidently bumped her backside and apologized.
She stopped and glanced at me. “Jake Donovan, did you just pat my bottom?”
I couldn’t help laughing as several passengers gave me a cold stare.
Her playful smile faded. She turned her back and pretended to fluff her black curls with her white gloved hands. She spoke in a whisper I could barely hear over the din of the travelers. “Don’t look now, but two broad-shouldered lugs in dark suits are following us.”
“Three.” I dropped the bags and flexed my fingers. “The other is next to the hot dog vender pretending to read a Life magazine. They’re government agents making sure we get on the train.” I couldn’t wait to get out of New York City and leave behind our recent bouts with danger and intrigue.
“You knew and didn’t say anything!” Laura took off in a huff and left me with the luggage.
I grabbed the bags and made my way through the crowd. I caught up to her near a newsstand. “I should’ve said something, but I didn’t want you to think three agents meant we were in—”
“Danger.” She folded her arms. “I don’t need you to take care of me, darling. If that’s why you’re coming to Los Angeles with me, then stay here.”
At least she still considered me her darling. She was right, of course. I’d looked after Laura since high school, but each time I left New York and returned, she’d grown tougher and more independent, a trait that often worked against me.
I wasn’t traveling to California to take care of her. I was here because she asked me to come with her and because, until recently, we spent two years apart. We needed time together to make sure we could spend the rest of our lives with each other. At least I did.
Before I could apologize, a slightly built gent in a tweed suit bumped against her purse. With a clipped British accent, he begged forgiveness, tipped his brown derby and hurried off.
I dropped the bags and rushed after him. I jostled several travelers, apologizing as I went. I jostled a rabbi who gave me a Bronx cheer. I apologized and sidestepped a plump lady. I couldn’t avoid her onions and salami breath that jolted me like a Jack Dempsey uppercut. I begged forgiveness and received a kick in the shin. I winced and grabbed my leg but spotted the brown derby bobbing toward the exit over the sea of travelers.
As he reached for the door, I snagged the man’s sleeve and spun him around. I rubbed my shin and caught my breath. “Skinny Levinson. What a surprise seeing your mug in Grand Central Station.”
Wide eyed, he didn’t blink for several seconds. “Jake, I…” His English accent vanished, replaced by the Bronx dialect I’d known since the year I opened my detective agency and pinched him in a bus depot. “Come on. I thought ya moved to Florida.”
“And I heard you quit picking pockets.”
Skinny held up both palms. “Times are tough, you know?”
One of the agents appeared, grabbed Skinny’s arm and yanked it behind the pickpocket’s back. “You alright, Mr. Donovan?”
The crowd parted like we had the plague.
“It’s okay,” I clapped Skinny on the shoulder. “I spotted an old pal I hadn’t seen in ages and didn’t want him to get away.”
The agent let go. “Just doing my job, Mr. Donovan.”
“And I appreciate it.”
The agent backed up, allowing me room to use a trick Dashiell Hammett taught me in our Pinkerton days. Pretending to smooth my old friend’s suit, I stepped between the men, slipped two fingers inside Skinny’s suit coat and retrieved Laura’s wallet without either of them noticing.
I hid the wallet behind me and shook Skinny’s hand. “Stay out of trouble.”
He bowed slightly, and his English accent returned. “A pleasure to see you again, sir.”
The agent stepped aside. The pickpocket pushed through the door and disappeared into the noise of honking cars, whistles and shouts of New York streets.
I stuffed the wallet into the back of my trousers and thanked the agent for his careful attention.
Moments later, I found Laura with the other two agents beside her. I handed over her wallet.
She threw her arms around me and kissed me like I’d just returned from the war. She stiffened and let go. “Chasing after bad guys again? That’s these gentlemen’s job. You promised, Jake, no more gumshoe work until you’re old and sitting with me on a porch somewhere. When strangers stroll by, you can guess their occupations.”
The agents exchanged uncomfortable glances. With a hint of sympathy for me, they tipped their hats and blended into the crowd.
“Old habits are hard to break, but I promise.”
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