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Posted February 15, 2004
For those who like their mysteries mixed with nostalgia 'Good Morning, Heartache' will be right up their alley - more likely Tin Pan Alley as song titles from the 40s are dropped as often as clues. Following their success with 'Blue Moon,' society bandleader Peter Duchin and Edgar Award winner John Morgan Wilson have teamed to pen the second in a series (we assume) featuring pianist/bandleader and would-be detective Philip Damon. Opening with a brief reprise to let readers know what has happened in Damon's life to date we learn that he and his orchestra are headed to Los Angeles for a big six-week run at the Cocoanut Grove and an appearance at producer Sid Zell's 50th anniversary party. Every band needs a singer and a trumpet player, which is what Damon's orchestra suddenly found itself without. Gorgeous Gloria, fabulous gal vocalist, has a raspy throat and the regular trumpeter has been faced with a family emergency. Thus, Damon turns to Buddy Bixby. A once heralded jazz prodigy who can both play and sing - not an easy choice as Buddy is a known addict and recent jail resident. Nonetheless, options are limited so Buddy's on board, much to the consternation of Hercules Platt, former police detective and current sax player. The group has barely focused their eyes on La-La-Land when Buddy turns up murdered and Damon has fallen head over piano for Monica Rivers, who is rumored to be on the brink of major stardom. 'Good Morning, Heartache' intrigues with name dropping as well as a cast of imaginative characters, most of whom are to put it kindly duplicitous. Perhaps the most endearing of all is Beatrice, a rather heavy set motherly screen writer who is dating a rabbi. She is 'a tall woman of considerable heft, formidable in appearance, with an informed intelligence that could sometimes be intimidating. But behind her imposing manner was a warm and affectionate bubee, the kind of large, busty woman with wide hips and jiggling arms that knew how to give a friend a proper hug.' Beatrice is also somewhat of an amateur sleuth who dotes on Damon, mixing him evening cocktails and putting him up in a spare room in her Laurel Canyon home. There's little time to savor a martini and watch the sun set before another murder occurs. This time it's little Nicky Pembrook, a child star who works at Rosewood Gardens Race Track. We also meet Lorna Draper, a woman who gives new meaning to the name 'stage mother,' a none too bright surfer, and a dissolute publicity agent. Somehow the always observant Platt senses a connection between these murders and other shenanigans. He carefully leads Damon and readers to the right conclusion. If you like rubbing elbows with Rock Hudson, visiting Toots Shors, and hanging with celebs even if only in print you won't be able to put down 'Good Morning, Heartache.'Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 28, 2003
It¿s 1965 and New York bandleader Philip Damon, recovered after solving the murder of his wife (Blue Moon), is planning a trip to Hollywood with his band to perform at gig for movie producer Sid Zell. With a vocalist out sick and a trumpeter called out on a family emergency, Philip calls on Buddy Bixby to replace them. Even though Buddy¿s just been released from prison, has been linked to a recent murder, and is a former junky, Philip feels he owes Buddy since he helped cover for Philip following the death of his wife. Although the performance goes without a hitch, Buddy¿s body soon washes up and the cops write it off as a drug overdose. Philip refuses to believe that Buddy relapsed, and with the help of his bandmate and former San Francisco Homicide inspector Hercules Platt, Philip dives into Hollywood society where everything is an illusion and no one is who they appear to be. Authors Wilson and Duchin have created an entertaining look at Hollywood in the sixties that touches on the more serious issues facing those times. Although the sheer volume of celebrity names that are dropped is at times overwhelming, Wilson creates a touching moment with Rock Hudson, who spends as much time acting in his personal life as he does on the movie screen. The investigation is low-keyed at first, as Damon is distracted by his obsession is a starlet and Afro-American Platt must deal with the race riots occurring in his Watts neighborhood. Things soon heat up though, and the duo find themselves enmeshed in the lies that abound in Hollywood. Overall, this is a fun and engaging mystery and its setting in Hollywood during the sixties provides for ample red herrings, including hidden pasts, blackmail, financial crimes, and sexual escapades. Good Morning, Heartache is a fun romp through Hollywood and shouldn¿t be missed.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted October 13, 2003
The Philip Damon Orchestra heads for Los Angeles to perform at Hollywood producer Sid Zell¿s fiftieth year anniversary party. The band is also playing at the famous Cocoanut Grave Hotel for six weeks but they have one slight problem. They needs a trumpet player who can sing and the only person who comes close to mind is Buddy Bixby, just released from jail for heroin possession, and somehow mixed up in the murder of Angel Vargas, an illegal Mexican working security at the L. A. racetracks. Despite Buddy¿s track record and because he was good to Philip when his wife died, the orchestra leader hires him. Much to Phillip¿s surprise, Buddy knows Sid Zell and former child star Nicky Pembroke who worked in Mr. Zell¿s pictures. When first Buddy and then Nicky are murdered Philip believes the two deaths are connected with that of Angel because all three men had a sponge in their pocket. Phillip with the help of a friend starts investigating and they don¿t plan to give up until they identity the murderer. <P>GOOD MORNING, HEARTACHE is a terrific amateur sleuth tale that takes place in 1960¿s California during the Watts riots. There is a surplus of suspects but it won¿t matter to the audience who the killer is because they are all selfish and arrogant people who believe the world owes them a living. Peter Duchin and John Morgan Wilson have created a colorful and enjoyable mystery series that this reviewer hopes goes on into and past the Summers of Love and Unrest and Rioting. <P>Harriet KlausnerWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.