Dying to Be Famous

Dying to Be Famous

by David Hiltbrand

Matt Hanes's dreams of superstardom were in reach when the vast American viewing audience selected him to be among the ten finalists on Star Maker—the reality TV phenomenon that plucks one talented nobody from obscurity and rockets him or her to instant fame. But someone decided Matt wasn't worthy . . .

Private investigator Jim McNamara has


Matt Hanes's dreams of superstardom were in reach when the vast American viewing audience selected him to be among the ten finalists on Star Maker—the reality TV phenomenon that plucks one talented nobody from obscurity and rockets him or her to instant fame. But someone decided Matt wasn't worthy . . .

Private investigator Jim McNamara has made a name for himself hunting killers in the world of rock 'n roll. Now he's diving into the shark-infested waters surrounding TV-land to discover who slew a young man with a million-dollar voice—and finding something rotting beneath the glitz and excitement of America's hottest on-screen obsession. And he's got to work fast to unmask a lethal music critic before any more contestants get eliminated from the competition . . . permanently.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.56(d)

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Dying to Be Famous

Chapter One

Know why I hate TV? Two words: pineapple roasties.

I was in Hawaii in this glade right off the beach. I've never been to the Aloha State but if it looks anything like it did in this dream I was having, I'm adding it to my must-visit list. Feather it in there alphabetically right before Iceland and Kenya.

Anyway, the sun had already set, but this bower was well lit with torches. I was reclining in a hammock while a trio of dusky Polynesian maidens offered me a series of native delicacies. The girls looked like they had stepped out of a painting by Gauguin during his Baywatch period. I wrinkled my nose at each of the dishes. Everything was a variation on poi (which, it probably goes without saying, I've never tasted), but to me it all looked like the kind of gruel that even Oliver Twist would turn up his smudgy nose at.

My obdurate refusals were clearly distressing to the ladies. Pleasing me was very important to them. Finally, one smiled and said, "I know what he'll like." She whispered something to the other two, who began giggling while covering their mouths and glancing shyly at me.

A few seconds later the prescient one returned with a sizzling platter. The aroma was incredible. I already knew I'd like it; they knew I'd like it. We were all smiling. On the platter, pineapple cubes sat atop similarly sized morsels of succulent pork. Cooked above an open-pit fire, the two ingredients were fused together and lightly caramelized.

Ladies and gentleman, I give you pineapple roasties. As far as I know, the dish does not actually exist, but in this dream, I'm telling you it wasmaking my mouth water like Pavlov's starving aunt. The girl must have had oven mitts for hands. She picked up one of the sizzling savories and brought it over to my mouth. I opened wide and then . . .

The phone rang, jolting me awake. In my haze, the only things I knew for sure were that I was in my bed and it was really cold. I like to have fresh air when I'm sleeping, even in the wintertime. That may go a long way toward explaining why I still live alone. But just for the record, allow me to point out that Connecticut in January bears no relation to a Hawaiian luau.

"Hello?" I croaked.

"Jim McNamara? One minute, please. I have Mitch Reynolds on the phone for you."

And just like that, I'm pissed off. From sound asleep to resentful in five seconds. Has to be some kind of record. Even for me.

The thing is, my eyes had found the glowing numerals on the bedside clock. Not only had Mitch Reynolds woken me up at an ungodly hour—he'd delegated the job.

"Hey, Jim! How's it going, buddy?" erupted a voice in my ear—high, energetic, insinuating. But the tone was flat and distant and I could clearly hear otherpeople arguing in the background. He had me on speakerphone. Strike four.

"Do you have any idea what time it is?" I heard how dopey I sounded. Sleepy and huffy is a pathetic mix.

"Just after midnight here in L.A.," he responded, without a trace of remorse. "Do you know who this is?"

I knew him by reputation. He was, according to the headline writers, the guy who invented reality TV. I know I was supposed to leap out of bed and salute, but as Shania sang, "That don't impress me much."

To me, Mitch Reynolds's claim to fame was about on the same level as the genius who invented pop-up ads on the Internet: They both should be shot as enemies of the state. Belay that order. Make it castrated and then shot.

I answered his question by yawning.

"Look, man," Mitch said, "we need you out here right away. The mothership has sprung a leak."

There was a long moment of silence while it became obvious to both of us that I had no idea what he was talking about.

"Star Maker!" he finally explained. "We've got a problem on the show. A big problem. The kind that requires absolute discretion. My friends in the music business tell me you can be trusted not to shoot your mouth off. And we need to keep a very tight lid on this. Look, I can't really go into specifics—or even generalities—on the phone, but we need you here pronto."

There was another pause. I got the distinct impression he was waiting for me to say, I'm on my way! I usually deal with rock stars, who as a breed are incredibly self-involved. But TVpeople make rock stars look like Samaritans.

I thought about his . . . well, I guess it wasn't an offer, really. Let's call it a summons.

"No," I said.

After hanging up, I unplugged the phone jack and huddled again under the covers.

I tried to burrow back into my Polynesian idyll. But no pineapple roasties for me.

Dying to Be Famous. Copyright � by David Hiltbrand. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

David Hiltbrand was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, the son of a Juilliard-trained pianist. After graduating from Sonoma State University in Northern California, he held a variety of jobs: Boston cab driver, hoistman in a Colorado silver mine, manager of a Times Square movie theater. Eventually he drifted into rock journalism, writing record and concert reviews for the New York Daily News, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and People magazine. He has interviewed everyone from Paul McCartney to Metallica's James Hetfield. David has been a TV critic for People, a senior editor and columnist for TV Guide, and has won back-to-back Writer's Guild Awards for writing the ABC soap opera "All My Children." He is currently a feature writer at the Philadelphia Inquirer. He is married, lives in Malvern, PA, and has three children who listen to nothing but hip-hop.

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