Let's All Kill Constance

Let's All Kill Constance

4.5 6
by Ray Bradbury

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On a dismal evening in the previous century, an unnamed writer in Venice, California, answers a furious pounding at his beachfront bungalow door and again admits Constance Rattigan into his life. An aging, once-glamorous Hollywood star, Constance is running in fear from something she dares not acknowledge -- and vanishes as suddenly as she appeared, leaving the


On a dismal evening in the previous century, an unnamed writer in Venice, California, answers a furious pounding at his beachfront bungalow door and again admits Constance Rattigan into his life. An aging, once-glamorous Hollywood star, Constance is running in fear from something she dares not acknowledge -- and vanishes as suddenly as she appeared, leaving the narrator two macabre books: twin listings of the Tinseltown dead and soon to be dead, with Constance's name included among them. And so begins an odyssey as dark as it is wondrous, as the writer sets off in a broken-down jalopy with his irascible sidekick Crumley to sift through the ashes of a bygone Hollywood -- a graveyard of ghosts and secrets where each twisted road leads to grim shrines and shattered dreams ... and, all too often, to death.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Bradbury, a legend in his own time, seems never to run out of creative inspiration. He follows up last year's acclaimed From the Dust Returned with a mystery novel that's also a loving, tongue-in-cheek tribute to early Hollywood. Set in 1960, the book features an unnamed science fiction writer ("what if... in some future date people use newspapers or books to start fires," he muses aloud). Late one night (stormy, of course), while he's trying to finish a novel, ancient but still-beautiful screen star Constance Rattigan bursts into his house frantically waving a 1900 Los Angeles telephone directory-the "Book of the Dead," as the writer calls it. Someone has left it at her house, with the names of those still alive circled in red and marked with a sinister cross-her name among them. Is she being marked for death? With his sidekick, Elmo Crumley, the writer dashes from one storied Los Angeles spot to the next, looking for the would-be murderer and warning the others on the list. The tour includes Rattigan's house, set on a nerve-wracking bluff and home to tons of ancient newspapers and a spookily decrepit old man who turns out to be Rattigan's brother, Clarence. Many other eccentrics make an appearance in this whirlwind of staccato dialogue, puns and references to old Hollywood and Chandler-era L.A. noir. Bradbury's giddy pleasure is infectious; though he throws in an unexpected conclusion, it's the author's exuberant voice more than the mystery itself that will have readers hooked. (Jan.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
This atmospheric noir novel from sf great Bradbury has a protagonist who could be a stand-in for the writer, a fast-talking damsel in distress, and a host of other odd characters who live in a decrepit Hollywood full of ghosts from the 1920s and 1930s. The screenwriter hero's proverbial dark and stormy night in 1960 is interrupted by Constance Rattigan, a has-been film star who is terrified that someone is out to kill her and those connected with her past, who confides in him and then disappears. The screenwriter and his detective pals fear for Constance's physical and mental safety as, one by one, her trail leads to dead bodies. Though professing to be a mystery, this book is more about mood than plot, raising larger questions of identity while providing loving descriptions of crepuscular Hollywood landmarks and citizens. The staccato writing style even reflects screen dialog, and Bradbury draws on his adolescence in California to add authenticity. Recommended for all public libraries and those in love with long-ago Hollywood and its lost souls. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/02.]-Devon Thomas, Hass MS&L, Ann Arbor, MI Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A third sort-of-mystery for the screenwriter hero of Death is a Lonely Business (1985) and A Graveyard for Lunatics (1990), now grown old enough to be a disillusioned hack, but not old enough to have acquired a name. It's a dark and stormy night when silent star Constance Rattigan turns up outside the writer's bungalow quivering with fright. The reason lies in a pair of anonymous gifts: a 60-year-old Los Angeles telephone directory from 1900 and her own little black book, discarded long ago but now mysteriously returned annotated with symbols that seem to mark her and her few surviving friends for death. At dawn, hours after his intuitive wife Maggie has phoned from a teachers' conference to ask who's in bed with him, he awakens to find Rattigan gone. Her astral disappearance is the first indication, apart from the antic prose, that this is no ordinary whodunit, even though the body count will eventually stretch to include astrologer to the stars Queen Califia (née Alma Crown), whose go-for-it reading of June 10, 1932, got Constance to leap into holy matrimony with Clarence Rattigan (né Overholt); Constance's brother, Father Seamus Rattigan of St. Bibiana's; and her ancient father, Grauman's Chinese projectionist Clyde Rustler. As the hero and his sidekick, beer-swilling shamus Elmo Crumley, rocket like pinballs from down-again filmmaker Fritz Wong to Hollywood Everyman Alberto Quickly and Hollywood Everywoman J. Wellington Bradford, hope fades that their madcap adventures will end in solving the case. But SF legend Bradbury (One More for the Road, p. 227, etc.) miraculously produces a solution that honors both the mystery formula and his own deeper roots in fantasy. Only one questionremains: Has the superheated prose on display here finally caught up with the postmodernism of Don Webb's pastiches, or has postmodernism caught up with the prophetic Bradbury? Tune in next week.
Time magazine
“Bradbury remains a conjurer.”
Washington Post Times-Herald
“Ray Bradbury’s writing remains as rich and ripe as ever.”
Chicago Tribune
“Ray Bradbury remains a master storyteller, and his writing still cracks my hat.”
Time Magazine
"Bradbury remains a conjurer."

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.86(d)

Read an Excerpt

Let's All Kill Constance

Chapter One

It was a dark and stormy night.

Is that one way to catch your reader?

Well, then, it was a stormy night with dark rain pouring in drenches on Venice, California, the sky shattered by lightning at midnight. It had rained from sunset going headlong toward dawn. No creature stirred in that downfall. The shades in the bungalows were drawn on faint blue glimmers where night owls deathwatched bad news or worse. The only thing that moved in all that flood ten miles south and ten miles north was Death. And someone running fast ahead of Death.

To bang on my paper-thin oceanfront bungalow door.

Shocking me, hunched at my typewriter, digging graves, my cure for insomnia. I was trapped in a tomb when the hammering hit my door, midstorm.

I flung the door wide to find: Constance Rattigan.

Or, as she was widely known, The Rattigan.

A series of flicker-flash lightning bolts cracked the sky and photographed, dark, light, light, dark, a dozen times: Rattigan.

Forty years of triumphs and disasters crammed in one brown surf-seal body. Golden tan, five feet two inches tall, here she comes, there she goes, swimming far out at sunset, bodysurfing back, they said, at dawn, to be beached at all hours, barking with the sea beasts half a mile out, or idling in her oceanside pool, a martini in each hand, stark naked to the sun. Or whiplashing down into her basement projection room to watch herself run, timeless, on the pale ceiling with Eric Von Stroheim, Jack Gilbert, or Rod La Rocque's ghosts, then abandoning her silent laughter on the cellar walls, vanishing in the surf again, a quick target that Time and Death could never catch.


The Rattigan.

"My God, what are you doing here?" she cried, rain, or tears, on her wild suntanned face.

"My God," I said. "What are you?"

"Answer my question!"

"Maggie's east at a teachers' conference. I'm trying to finish my new novel. Our house, inland, is deserted. My old landlord said, your beach apartment's empty, come write, swim. And here I am. My God, Constance, get inside. You'll drown!"

"I already have. Stand back!"

But Constance did not move. For a long moment she stood shivering in the light of great sheets of lightning and the following sound of thunder. One moment I thought I saw the woman that I had known for years, larger than life, leaping into and jumping out of the sea, whose image I had witnessed on the ceiling and walls of her basement's projection room, backstroking through the lives of Von Stroheim and other silent ghosts.

Then, that changed. She stood in the doorway, diminished by light and sound. She shrank to a child, clutching a black bag to her chest, holding herself from the cold, eyes shut with some unguessed dread. It was hard for me to believe that Rattigan, the eternal film star, had come to visit in the midst of thunders.

I finally said again, "Come in, come in."

She repeated her whisper, "Stand back!"

She swarmed on me, and with one vacuum-suction kiss, harassed my tongue like saltwater taffy, and fled. Halfway across the room she thought to come back and buss my cheek lightly.

"Jeez, that's some flavor," she said. "But wait, I'm scared!"

Hugging her elbows, she sogged down to dampen my sofa. I brought a huge towel, pulled off her dress, and wrapped her.

"You do this to all your women?" she said, teeth chattering.

"Only on dark and stormy nights."

"I won't tell Maggie."

"Hold still, Rattigan, for God's sake."

"Men have said that all my life. Then they drive a stake through my heart."

"Are your teeth gritting because you're half-drowned or scared?"

"Let's see." She sank back, exhausted. "I ran all the way from my place. I knew you weren't here, it's been years since you left, but Christ, how great to find you! Save me!"

"From what, for God's sake?"


"No one gets saved from that, Constance."

"Don't say that! I didn't come to die. I'm here, Christ, to live forever!"

"That's just a prayer, Constance, not reality."

"You're going to live forever. Your books!"

"Forty years, maybe."

"Don't knock forty years. I could use a few."

"You could use a drink. Sit still."

I brought out a half bottle of Cold Duck.

"Jesus! What's that?"

"I hate scotch and this is el cheapo writer's stuff. Drink." "It's hemlock." She drank and grimaced. "Quick! Something else!"

In our midget bathroom I found a small flask of vodka, kept for nights when dawn was far off. Constance seized it.

"Come to Mama!"

She chugalugged.

"Easy, Constance."

"You don't have my death cramps."

She finished three more shots and handed me the flask, eyes shut.

"God is good."

She fell back on the pillows.

"You wanna hear about that damn thing that chased me down the shore?"

"Wait." I put the bottle of Cold Duck to my lips and drank. "Shoot."

"Well," she said. "Death."

Let's All Kill Constance. Copyright © by Ray Bradbury. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

In a career spanning more than seventy years, Ray Bradbury, who died on June 5, 2011 at the age of 91, inspired generations of readers to dream, think, and create. A prolific author of hundreds of short stories and close to fifty books, as well as numerous poems, essays, operas, plays, teleplays, and screenplays, Bradbury was one of the most celebrated writers of our time. His groundbreaking works include Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, Dandelion Wine, and Something Wicked This Way Comes. He wrote the screen play for John Huston's classic film adaptation of Moby Dick, and was nominated for an Academy Award. He adapted sixty-five of his stories for television's The Ray Bradbury Theater, and won an Emmy for his teleplay of The Halloween Tree. He was the recipient of the 2000 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, the 2004 National Medal of Arts, and the 2007 Pulitzer Prize Special Citation, among many honors.

Throughout his life, Bradbury liked to recount the story of meeting a carnival magician, Mr. Electrico, in 1932. At the end of his performance Electrico reached out to the twelve-year-old Bradbury, touched the boy with his sword, and commanded, "Live forever!" Bradbury later said, "I decided that was the greatest idea I had ever heard. I started writing every day. I never stopped."

Brief Biography

Los Angeles, California
Date of Birth:
August 22, 1920
Place of Birth:
Waukegan, Illinois
Attended schools in Waukegan, Illinois, and Los Angeles, California

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Let's All Kill Constance 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
"All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages." --Shakespeare, As You Like It (Act 2, Sc. 7) Ray Bradbury, one of the most celebrated fiction writers of our time, has published more than thirty books, close to 600 short stories, and numerous poems, essays, and plays. Bradbury was born August 22, 1920 in Waukegan, Illinois, and now lives in Los Angeles. He is best known for his novels, such as Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, and Something Wicked This Way Comes. The author's new novel virtually defies categorization. Set in 1960, in Venice, Calif., Let's All Kill Constance is a tongue-in-cheek Gothic tale, a noir mystery that balances kitsch and class. A murder mystery? Well, not exactly. It's more like an unmurder mystery. In her time, Constance Rattigan played many parts. An aging film star, the five-foot-two femme fatale with a golden tan still possesses beauty that causes passersby to turn their heads for a second look. A method actress, a woman with a thousand faces, Constance is a chameleon who changes her personality and appearance to adapt to various roles. Trouble is, by assuming multiple personalities, Constance has lost her identity. No longer knowing who she is, she determines to kill the past--to destroy her multiple personae and rediscover her true self. The narrator of this story is an unnamed science-fiction writer, at whose beachfront bungalow Constance Rattigan appears on a dark and stormy night, with lightning flashing and the waves crashing. Constance brings a 1900 Los Angeles telephone directory, a "Book of the Dead" containing names of the dead and the soon-to-be-dead. Constance's name, along with several others, is marked with a red ink circle around it and a crucifix. Convinced that Death has been chasing her down the seashore, Constance is terrified. She enlists the aid of our sci-fi writer-hero, who, with his wacky sidekicks--irascible Detective Elmo Crumley, Blind Henry, and Fritz Wong--uncover the secrets of a decadent Tinseltown. In search of clues, our semi-fearless foursome sally forth boldly, being careful to heed the counsel of Satchel Paige, who said, "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you." They ascend Mount Lowe, to the musty archives of an eccentric newspaper collector; press on to the Psychic Research Lodge of Queen Califia (astrologer, palmist, and phrenologist); visit St. Vibiana's Cathedral and Constance Rattigan's big white Arabian-fortress beach house; drive down Hollywood Boulevard to legendary Grauman's Chinese Restaurant, the most famous movie palace in the world; explore the spooky, ghost-haunted depths of L.A.'s catacombs, and tour the tombs at Glendale's Forest Lawn Cemetery. Slowly but surely, a portrait of Constance Rattigan emerges: a vixen who sells herself--body and soul--in cutthroat competition with other actresses in order to win prize roles in films, and to steal their men. "Why is it," says our narrator, "someone like Constance is a lightning bolt, performing seal, high-wire frolicker, wild laughing human, and at the same time she's the devil incarnate, an evil cheater at life's loaded deck?" As I read Bradbury's ludicrous tale, I felt my thumb slowly turning downward. It suddenly dawned on me, however, that this book is a send-up. The book's opening lines should have alerted me to this fact: "It was a dark and stormy night. Is that one way to catch your reader?" Surely, somewhere the spirit of Charles Schulz must be smiling. Liquor flows freely through these pages. Corks are popped at the drop of a hat. Our narrator muses: "Malt does more than Milton can, / to justify God's way towards Man. / And Freud spoils kids and spares the rod, / to justify Man's ways toward God." Judged "seriously," Let's All Kill Constance is ludicro
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed Bradbury's elegant style, but found the plot difficult to follow at times. It is hard to discern the living from the dead, and they often mush together into a pot. I found little satisfaction in the supposed "surprise" ending, as I seemed to have missed many of the key events. All in all, I left the book feeling as empty as when I had started it. Bradbury here reads similarly to Vonnegut, but I found Vonnegut to be more stimulating!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She races after hr
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Twelve kits stepped out, one aprentice hissed to Crystalkit: "do you promise to secrecy and kill anyone who 'knows'?" Crystalkit: "oh uh uh of c-c-cou-co-c-course!" She stuttered. The black tom aprentice: he nodded and they took her to 'wolf' result one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Yeah right. Sooooo evil, hmm, ickle baby BloodClan?