Philip Marlow and Lew Archer would recognize a kindred spirit in Jimmy Gage, reporter for SLAP magazine, troublemaker by trade and inclination, and the hero of Robert Ferrigno’s sinuous new crime novel. While taking part in a Hollywood scavenger hunt, Jimmy meets Garret Walsh, a bad-boy movie maker in the truest sense: He’s just been released from prison after serving seven years for the murder of a teenaged girl. But Walsh claims he was framed and is writing a screenplay to prove it. He wants Jimmy to help him peddle it, sight unseen.
The next time Jimmy sees the director, he’s floating face-down in a koi pond and “The Most Dangerous Screenplay in Hollywood” has disappeared. Is Walsh a casualty of bad habits or has somebody crossed him off a list? And is Jimmy next? Combining nerve-shredding suspense and heat-seeking satire, Scavenger Hunt is an addictive read.
Ferrigno (Horse Latitudes) delivers another devastating and entertaining critique of celebrity culture in his darkly comic suspense story set among the players and would-be players of contemporary Hollywood. Jimmy Gage, a reporter for the ferociously dishy SLAP magazine (and the protagonist of Ferrigno's previous novel Flinch), stumbles on an explosive story while interviewing Garrett Walsh, an Oscar-winning Hollywood director who just finished serving seven years in prison for the murder of teenage wanna-be actress Heather Grimm. Walsh swears he's not guilty and tells Gage he's written a movie about what really happened, The Most Dangerous Screenplay in Hollywood. Gage is skeptical, but when Walsh turns up dead (and the screenplay missing), he goes to work to find out the truth. Ferrigno explores the sordid underworlds of Tinseltown and the LAPD through a number of sharply etched characters, such as twin aspiring actresses Tamra and Tonya Monelli, who keep losing parts to their blonde colleagues; Gage's insecure slacker sidekick Rollo ("If you were a woman, would you find me sexually attractive?") and the memorably tough policewoman Helen Katz. Gage is himself a compelling character whose cynicism is balanced by a real moral center. Walsh's death proves to be a mystery of real complexity, involving all the baser motives greed, lust, ambition as well as a noble one: love. Unfortunately, the resolution becomes obvious to the reader long before Gage figures it out, but this insightful and often very funny novel is still a pleasure to read.