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The 1921 rape/manslaughter trial of silent film star Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle provides the gritty backdrop for Atkins's outstanding crime novel, in which Dashiell Hammett, then a Pinkerton operative living in San Francisco, plays a significant role. A wild party Arbuckle throws at San Francisco's posh St. Francis Hotel results in tragedy after an actress, Virginia Rappe, is mysteriously injured and later dies. As the author explains in a "behind the story" introduction, the future creator of Sam Spade was actually assigned to help the defense on the Arbuckle case. With enviable ease, Atkins (Wicked City) brings to life Hammett, Arbuckle, William Randolph Hearst and other real figures of the period. Those familiar with the historical case will be impressed by how well the book meshes fact and fiction. Genre fans who enjoy the grim realism of James Ellroy's post-WWII Los Angeles will find a lot to like in Atkins's Prohibition-era San Francisco. (Apr.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.