Angel's Gate: A Shortcut Man Novel

Angel's Gate: A Shortcut Man Novel

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by p.g. sturges

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The latest novel in the acclaimed Shortcut Man series is a rousing tale of sex, sleaze, and salvation in the City of Angels that’s “filled with enough dark humor and shady characters to satisfy the most rabid noir fan” (Associated Press).

The latest rousing tale of sex, sleaze, and salvation in the City of Angels, featuring Dick Henry,


The latest novel in the acclaimed Shortcut Man series is a rousing tale of sex, sleaze, and salvation in the City of Angels that’s “filled with enough dark humor and shady characters to satisfy the most rabid noir fan” (Associated Press).

The latest rousing tale of sex, sleaze, and salvation in the City of Angels, featuring Dick Henry, the Shortcut Man, by p. g. sturges, whom Michael Connelly calls “a worthy successor to Chandler”

In Angel’s Gate, Dick Henry is drawn into a case involving an aging but still amorous Los Angeles movie mogul named Howard Hogue, who keeps a stable of twenty-plus young starlets available for his highly ritu­alized and private attentions. . . .

Henry is retained by the sister of a young woman who has gone missing and soon he is becoming friendly with Devi Stanton, the “housemother” to the starlets. Despite Devi’s morally questionable responsibilities, she is willing to help (and enjoy the company of ) the Short­cut Man, a relationship that will be crucial to his survival.

After Hogue’s star director batters one of the star­lets in a drug-fueled romp, Henry is drawn into a deeper mystery from years past involving a haunting death on a boat and a missing screenplay written by what appears to be a local homeless man.

As he peels back layer upon layer of sordid Holly­wood history, Dick Henry must contend with crazed drug dealers, Hogue’s personal doctor, crooked cops, private security henchmen, and Hogue himself, who is so powerful and bunkered in his movie-biz mil­lions that he is not intimidated by the ever-resourceful Henry. Amid a final showdown and genius plot twists, the Shortcut Man must outwit his opponents if he is to have any chance to survive.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
At the outset of Sturges’s uneven third crime novel featuring L.A. fixer and ex-cop Dick Henry (after 2012’s The Tribulations of the Shortcut Man), Henry gets a disbarred attorney, who owes a client ,300, to pay up by threatening to expose that he’s practicing law without a license. But first Henry urinates on a ficus plant in the man’s office. Henry later employs a contact with horrific body odor to prevent another client from being scammed. Such humorous moments bring some relief from the many unpleasant people and their sordid crimes that preoccupy Henry in the course of the book—beginning with a psychotic and megasuccessful Hollywood director, who beats up, tortures, and then uses a gun to sodomize an unsuccessful actress. Fans of the screwball comedies made by the author’s celebrated film director father, Preston Sturges, will note that the son has taken a different path. Agent: Ryan Fischer-Harbage, the Fischer-Harbage Agency. (Feb. 26)
Kirkus Reviews
The Shortcut Man is back once more, and he quickly becomes mired in more than one case of sex, drugs, blackmail and--what else?--murder. Ex-cop Dick Henry enjoys helping innocent victims recoup their losses in inventive ways. Whether he's showering indoor plants with body fluids or sending in a man whose noxious fumes cause people to hurl their breakfast burritos, shady characters promptly get the message and do his bidding. In this latest noir thriller, Henry's hired to find a woman who disappeared six years earlier. His investigation takes him to Ivanhoe Productions, a legit movie company with a sleazy special talent program designed for owner Howard Hogue's pleasure. (He has a thing for tall, busty blondes.) When one of the girls is brutally assaulted by Hogue's star director, Eli Nazarian, Henry steps in to help "housemother" Devi Stanton when she calls him for assistance. Before you can say apple cheese danish, Nazarian and Hogue's lackey, Melvin Shea, are found tied together, sans pants, in a refrigerator box behind Dunkin' Donuts, and neither has any clue how they--or the dead dog between them--got there. With big bucks and reputations at stake, Shea, Nazarian and a crooked doctor try to cover some very dirty tracks, as Henry uncovers the details of a murder that took place at Hogue's mansion years earlier, an act that could bring down a famous actor and the movie mogul himself. Sturges (The Tribulations of the Shortcut Man, 2012, etc.) piles on the chuckles, throws in a host of extreme characters and provides readers with nonstop action. And he does so with enough finesse to compensate for the novel's weaknesses.

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Angel’s Gate

  • Nevil Jonson had been giving Jack Hathaway the long, cold screw but I would put an end to it. Daydreaming in my cumulus-ride 1969 Cadillac Coupe de Ville convertible, headed west on Wilshire Boulevard, a section called the Miracle Mile, A. W. Ross’s gift to the world of urban planning, only when I passed the La Brea Tar Pits did I realize I’d gone too far.

    I reversed course, passed the tar pits again. A million fossils had been extracted from the site, but only one human being. Before stoplights, plumbing, algebra, electricity, and lotto tickets, a young woman had met her demise hereabouts, blunt force trauma to the head.

    A body then was as inconvenient as a body today. She had been tossed into the tar pits where her murderer watched until she sank. Nine thousand years later a team of Hancock Park amateur paleontologists had recovered her. Piece by piece.

    It set me thinking. Somewhere back there must have been a man like me. A man the grieving family came to, looking for answers about their disappeared kinswoman. What had he told them? Tales of jealous gods? Tales of saber-tooth tigers?

    Perhaps, back then, as now, justice did not absolutely require a body. Maybe common sense, circumstantial evidence, would have sufficed. My predecessor would have studied her friends, her family, her lovers. Because, mostly, only those who loved were capable of hate. Then he would draw a conclusion. And then—then, who knows? She might have been inconvenient.

    I wondered what they called that man. They call me the Shortcut Man.

     • • • 

    I found my destination, the old Desmond’s building. I parked on Dunsmuir, walked up to the once-grand stretch of boulevard.

    The building directory was aged, too, the white plastic letters crooked. Nevil Jonson, Esq. was on the fourth floor. Suite 404.

    Jonson practiced a narrow subspecialty at the periphery of the profession. The DA called it UPL—the unauthorized practice of law.

    A blatant violation of a client’s trust, most frequently by keeping his money and doing nothing, the usual result was a pablum letter from the State Bar. If the guy did it fifty times he might be prosecuted for a misdemeanor and fined a thousand bucks.

    Sometimes, rarely, the lawyer was actually disbarred and ordered to cease practice. In fact, Nevil Jonson had been so ordered. Of course, a practiced bureaucrat, Jonson ignored the order. He then managed to ensnare one Jack Hathaway as a client; that’s where I came in.

    The elevator grumbled to a stop. I exited into a lobby serving four offices and a restroom. Jonson’s office was off to my right. I opened the door and stepped inside.

    Suite 404 smelled like a case of diminishing returns, musty, dusty, humid. Out-of-date moderne furniture sagged brownly around the waiting area. A fluorescent overhead flickered intermittently.

    “How can I help you?” inquired a woman behind a glass partition. A small vase held plastic flowers.

    “I’m Dick Henry.” I demonstrated my Mr. Affable smile. “Here to see Mr. Jonson.”

    Linda Hart looked up at the man in front of her. He wasn’t among the usual run of customer. He didn’t look worried, rabid, or defeated. Maybe he was another alkie running on a fresh tank of early-morning resolve.

    It had taken Linda just a few weeks to realize her boss was a cheat, a thief, and a tartuffle. A man who did nothing for his clients but accept their retainers. Not that the look of the office wouldn’t warn a prudent customer. She always took her paycheck directly to the bank. “Is Mr. Jonson expecting you?”

    “You told me he would be. Yesterday.”

    “Have a seat, Mr.—uh . . .”


    “Mr. Henry.”

    The magazines on the table were as stale as the air. I thumbed through a few, learned about cold fusion, pagers, and quadraphonic sound. At least they had come to exist. I still relied on the promise of flying automobiles.

    “Mr. Jonson will see you now.”

    I followed the woman down a short hall, lined with cardboard boxes, to the door at the end.

    Jonson’s private office had long, narrow windows affording little light. Buildings along the Miracle Mile had actually been designed to be seen through a windshield at thirty-five miles per hour. Not lived in and looked out of.

    A tall, bony man with a rubicund complexion rose from a disorderly desk. Thin hair, enhanced to a shade of wiry Gouda, fluffed for volume, shaded his scalp. A red tie was the final touch. Matching his face. He approached me solemnly, hand extended. He had perfected a grave, funereal tone. “I’m Nevil Jonson.”

    We shook hands. “Dick Henry.”

    He gestured me into a seat. “Coffee?”

    As a rule, office coffee will be no better than the lobby magazines.

    “No, thanks.” I looked around. Nine or ten certificates hung from the walls. There was one sign of life. A vigorous ficus tree rose gracefully from a big, bright, Chinese-yellow ceramic pot three feet high, three feet in diameter.

    Jonson took a sharpened pencil from a jar and a fresh legal pad from a credenza behind him. “How may I be of service, Mr. Henry?”

    “I’m here for a little advice.”

    Jonson smiled in neutral. “You’re prepared to pay for a little advice?”

    “Of course.”

    “Please continue,” said Jonson, pencil point to tongue.

    “I have a friend who spent a good deal of money on a certain matter. Now, months and months have gone by, eleven months, and my friend can’t get any work done, and the man he hired to do it can’t seem to be reached.”

    Jonson nodded, made bullet points. “A compliance issue. Perhaps fraud. What’s the sum involved?”

    “Thirty-three hundred dollars.”

    Jack Hathaway, my old friend at World Book & News, the newsstand, had fallen in love with a Filipina bar girl. All that stood in the way was another bar girl he had married fifty years ago near an air force base in Manila. He had no paper from the event, just an indelible memory of an incredible act she had performed on their wedding night. A feat, even.

    “I just want to set things right,” Jack had explained, raising his shoulders sheepishly.

    What was wrong with bigamy? In this case.

    “I want to die a proper married man,” said Jack.

    In other words he wanted to go down screwed.

    “Thirty-three hundred dollars.” Jonson did some more scribbling on the legal pad. “Which means we’re still in small claims territory.”

    “It’s a lot to him.”

    Jonson smiled with his teeth. “Now, look. There’s no reason to be embarrassed. But I have to know what’s what. To help in this matter. Is this friend you’re talking about you?”

    “No, it isn’t.”

    Jonson set pad and pencil aside. “Then I’m a little perplexed. There’re going to be fees, here. I don’t work for nothing. I’m going to need to know who’s who and who’s going to pay. Who is this friend you’re talking about?”

    “His name is Jack Hathaway.”

    Jonson’s eyes narrowed for a second.

    “By the way, Mr. Jonson, where’s your restroom?”

    “Out by the elevators,” said Jonson. He was suspicious. “Who’s Jack Hathaway?”

    “Jack Hathaway is your client.” I rose from my chair. “This is a ficus, right?”

    Jonson was on his feet, suspicious. “Yes, it is a ficus. What are you trying to pull?”

    Pull was, indeed, the word. With a zzzip I emancipated the Love Captain, directed its attention to the dry leaves in the yellow pot.

    Jonson’s eyes saucered in horror.

    I pointed a finger from my free hand at him before he got any bright ideas. “Don’t make me piss on your loafers, Nevil, because I’d be happy to.” His thin-soled, tasseled lawyer-shoes wouldn’t handle it all that well. They weren’t built for complications.

    “You owe Mr. Hathaway thirty-three hundred dollars. You’ve had his money for eleven months. Including my fee, the total comes to four thousand nine hundred ninety-nine dollars. Which keeps us, as luck will have it, in small claims territory.”

    Jonson finally found his voice. “G-get the f-fuck out of my office. I don’t respond to blackmail.”

    I finished off, shook, reeled in, zzziped.

    Jonson pointed at the yellow ficus pot. “You’re going to pay for that. I’m calling the police.”

    “Call anybody you want, Nevil. What I’m talking about is your specialty, UPL. The unauthorized practice of law? You’re lucky I don’t represent all the people you’ve been screwing. Though I do have your client list.” No, I didn’t.

    I walked up to him, nose to nose. “I’m only interested in Mr. Hathaway. He wants his money back and I want my fee.”

    I saw his degree on the wall. “That your degree?”

    He looked at it, perhaps recalling earlier hopes and jubilations.

    “Have your secretary write the check I asked for, Mr. Jonson. Right now. And don’t make me come back. Or I’ll wipe my ass with your certificate.”

    See how my business works? My efficient arbor service made my final ultimatum a credible threat.

    Three minutes later, check in hand, I rolled up La Brea, Chase Bank up ahead on my left. I passed the La Brea Bakery, loving the smell of freshly baked bread.

    In my opinion, the baking of bread was the line of demarcation between civilized and uncivilized man. Homo bakens. Before I died, I promised myself, I would learn to bake bread. Sourdough.

    I took a deep breath. Even more satisfying than the smell of fresh bread—was the smell of justice in the morning.

  • Meet the Author

    p.g. sturges was born in 1953 in Hollywood, California. Punctuated by fitful interludes of school, he has subsequently occupied himself as a submarine sailor, a dimensional metrologist, a Christmas tree farmer, an optical metrologist, a musician, a songwriter, an author, a playwright, and a screenwriter.

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    Angel's Gate: A Shortcut Man Novel 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
    ABookAWeekES More than 1 year ago
    I honestly had no idea what to expect as I began reading Angel's Gate by author p.g. sturges. Described as a kind of tongue-in-cheek, noir novel, I was initially attracted by the thought of a good mystery. Set in Los Angeles, the novel follows the story of shortcut man Dick Henry. A former cop, Henry now goes around town, "getting things done" for the illustrious characters who occupy Hollywood. We first gain a glimpse into his work when he retrieves a client's money from a fraudulent lawyer. After getting the money (and urinating in the fraudulent lawyer's ficus tree), Henry reveals himself to be a man with good intentions, even if his methods are unconventional. The first few chapters are a bit confusing as each one introduces different characters and points of view. Fortunately, the setup is made clearer as each character develops into unique individuals. Without giving too much of the plot away, the novel basically follows Henry as he is thrust into a large conspiracy, lead by the womanizing head of a large movie studio. When one of the studio executives "stars" is brutally beaten and sexually abused, Henry is called in to help clean up the mess. All parties involved, including a disgruntled producer, violent director, former Nazi doctor, and a women who's job is to take care of all the studio head's women, struggle to keep the incident a secret, for fear of losing their jobs and plush Hollywood lifestyle that they have grown accustomed to. I although it took a little while to get going, I ended up being totally engrossed in this novel. sturges writes with a confidence and lightness that really lends itself well to this kind of noir story. This novel definitely has some graphic scenes, but all are presented in a light-hearted way that never glorifies the violence. The strong characters, multiple intersecting plots, and sturge's sharp wit, all culminate into an entertaining and surprisingly satisfying read.