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Still Shot

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Overview

Entertainment critic and film noir author Carroll Quint gets a panicky call from his mother, former movie starlet Karen Kaas. Vicky Vandamn, a roommate of Karen's some thirty years ago when they worked at Talbot Studios, disappeared from Hollywood under mysterious circumstances. Now she's been found dead on her houseboat in nearby Sausalito, a reported suicide victim. Quint's mother is certain that Vicky, who was involved with a rough Hollywood crowd, was murdered. "Act like one of those private eyes in your ...
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Overview

Entertainment critic and film noir author Carroll Quint gets a panicky call from his mother, former movie starlet Karen Kaas. Vicky Vandamn, a roommate of Karen's some thirty years ago when they worked at Talbot Studios, disappeared from Hollywood under mysterious circumstances. Now she's been found dead on her houseboat in nearby Sausalito, a reported suicide victim. Quint's mother is certain that Vicky, who was involved with a rough Hollywood crowd, was murdered. "Act like one of those private eyes in your book, dear, and find out who killed her."

Quint tries to do just that, and soon finds himself tangled up with lazy cops, a paranoid PI, a billionaire former movie-studio head, and a Peeping Tom-who kept a very close eye on Vandamn. When all appears to be lost, Quint's mother comes up with a revealing old still photo and a clue involving Fred Astaire's hands that set Quint on a collision course with the murderer.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Kennealy deals another winning hand in his second Carroll Quint mystery (after 2007's Jigsaw). Quint, an entertainment writer for the SanFrancisco Bulletin, reports to editor-in-chief Katherine "the Great" Parkham, who's worried about the Bulletin's possible acquisition by Sir Charles Talbot, a media magnate and famed art collector. Hoping to prevent the paper's sale, Parkham asks poker expert Quint to uncover how Talbot's son, Charlie, cheats at cards. Meanwhile, Quint's mother, a former Hollywood actress, asks him to investigate the recent Sausalito "suicide" of an old friend, aspiring actress Ulla Kjeldsen (aka Vicky Vandamn), who once dated Talbot Sr. Quint discovers that Vicky died while working on a scandalous memoir, which has since disappeared. The murder of an art curator and the disappearance of a Picasso painting from Talbot Sr.'s collection send Quint on a wild ride for answers that will keep readers turning the pages. (Apr.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
A Hollywood starlet who disappeared years ago resurfaces just in time to die, an apparent suicide nobody believes. Carroll Quint (Jigsaw, 2007) is supposed to be the movie and drama critic for the San Francisco Bulletin, but he seems to spend all his time sleuthing. His boss, Katherine "the Great" Parkham, wants him to head off financier Sir Charles Talbot's bid to purchase the Bulletin by proving that his son, Charles Jr., is winning his high-stakes poker games by cheating. His mother, a long-retired bit player, wants him to prove that Ulla Kjeldsen, an old roommate of hers who called suicide the sin of sins, didn't kill herself aboard her houseboat. The first case peters out disappointingly, but the second seems to open up wide enough to include half the retirees in Tinseltown. Some of them, like Father James Carmody, can't believe that Ulla, aka Vicky Vandamn, killed herself. Others, like retired Detective Willie Chanan, LAPD, can't believe she didn't die 30 years ago. Carroll himself can't believe that he's ever going to find a copy of Payback, the elusive tell-all memoir that obviously linked Ulla to the Talbots and led to her death-and the death of several others. Carroll's second features too many secrets, too many felonies, too many detectives working at cross-purposes, too many dead folks in the back story, and ultimately too many killers.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781612328638
  • Publisher: Speaking Volumes, LLC
  • Publication date: 2/5/2013
  • Pages: 302
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

Jerry Kennealy has worked as a police officer, as well as a licensed private investigator, adding great authenticity to his novels. Besides the Polo mysteries, two of which have been nominated for Shamus Awards, he's written several non-series thrillers lately. He's a member of the Mystery Writers of America and the Private Eye Writers of America.
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Read an Excerpt

Still Shot
By Kennealy, Jerry St. Martin's Minotaur

Copyright © 2008 Kennealy, Jerry
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780312370916


Chapter 1
She wants to see you, Carroll, ten o’clock this morning.” 
 The voice on the phone belonged to Darlene, the receptionist at my place of employment, the San Francisco Bulletin. “She” was Katherine “the Great” Parkham, the Bulletin’s editor in chief. Parkham had stormed in less than a year ago from the New York City–based conglomerate that owned the paper, with an advertised agenda of either selling or burying the Bulletin. So far, neither had happened, but we were all on the edge of our ergonomic swivel chairs, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
“Did the Great say what it was all about, Darlene?” I asked, glancing at the nightstand clock. It was 8:45 a.m.
“No. But she didn’t sound to be in the best of moods. I wouldn’t be late if I were you, Carroll.”
I said “Thanks,” rolled out of bed, and jumped into the shower. I work in the paper’s entertainment section and have the enviable task of reviewing movies and plays. A job to die for, really. Unfortunately, with the low salary I’m being paid, that’s a real possibility. Still, it is a job I love dearly and would hate to lose.
I shaved and dressed in record time and was in the Bulletin’s parking lot by 9:45. One of the few perks is a designated parkingspot; however, this morning someone had angled their shiny black Jaguar sedan into two spots, leaving no room for even a tiny vehicle like my Mini Cooper. I had to park in the garage across the street, which charged twelve bucks for four hours.
I walked back to the Jaguar and took a business card from my wallet. I was thinking of writing something nasty, but for all I knew, the car belonged to one of Katherine Parkham’s friends, so I just printed a modified line of Bogart’s from Casablanca on the back of the card: “Of all the spots in all the towns in all the world, why did you have to take mine?”
I slipped the card under the Jag’s windshield wiper. When I finally made it to my cubicle, a FedEx deliveryman showed up. He was new to me: stick-thin, with bad posture and a worse attitude.
“I got a package for Carroll Quint,” he said in a hostile voice.
“Thanks,” I said, reaching out for a box the size of an unabridged dictionary.
He jerked it back. “No. Ms. Quint has to sign for it.”
“I’m Carroll Quint,” I told him, trying to keep the exasperation out of my voice. This was a situation that happened to me at least once a week, and all because my mother, whom I love dearly despite the fact that she decided to name her one and only child Carroll simply because it means “champion” in Gaelic. What it meant to me was a childhood filled with taunts and teases. Since I’d grown up in the rough-and-tumble Mission District of the city, it also meant a lot of fistfights with local toughs who thought that a skinny little guy who wore glasses and had a girl’s name was an easy target.
It hadn’t been quite as bad as the Johnny Cash classic song “A Boy Named Sue,” but it came close.
“Jeeez,” the FedEx guy said, handing me the box. “I read your reviews, and I always thought you were a broad.”
I scribbled my name on his electronic order pad and opened the package. It was a press release for a new animated movie about a penguin that somehow ends up in New York City on Christmas day. There was a DVD, a slick twenty-page brochure, three figurines of cute little penguins, a small box of Godiva chocolates, and an invitation to the press-only premiere, which included a premovie supper with champagne and caviar—clever little bribes to woo a favorable review. Since I bribed easily, I marked the date on my calendar with a big red X.
Max Maslin, the editor of the entertainment section, leaned into my cubicle and gave me a wide smile and a two-thumbs-up gesture. Max was a short, pudgy guy with a rubicund nose of the type they like to show on Santa Claus when he’s home relaxing after his once-a-year gig. Max favored tweed suits and checkered shirts, mostly to hide the small holes caused by the bits of red-hot tobacco that burst from his battered Dunhill pipe.
“Nice piece on the Denzel Washington flick,” Max said. His mouth turned down a bit and he coughed into his hand before adding, “The Great wants to see you.”
“I know. Is there a problem?”
“Not that I’m aware of. Good luck, Carroll.”
Parkham had been remote and even a bit hostile to the paper’s staff at first, but she was beginning to thaw, to the point where she had lunch with underlings such as Max and me every few weeks. Still, a summons to her office was something to be concerned about. Just last week, she’d fired two sportswriters and the Washington D.C.–based political reporter.
Her office was on the building’s top floor, with a view looking out over the bay. It looked much the same as it had when her genial but slipshod predecessor, Boyd Wilson, ran the paper: oak-paneled walls dotted with oil paintings of majestic sailing ships battling monstrous waves; old, but comfortable cracked-leather chairs, a dark black-and-maroon rug of the type you see in the lobbies of expensive hotels, a massive coffin-shaped walnut desk cluttered with phones, computers, a rosewood humidor, and a crystal ashtray in the shape of a horseshoe.
Her one personal addition was a black-on-white abstract painting, which to me looked like a skid mark on snow. I’d learned recently that it was an original by Franz Kline and was worth a small fortune—to someone with a large fortune.
“Come in,” Parkham hollered when I knocked on her door.
She was hunched over a telescope, looking out in the direction of Alcatraz Island.
“Help yourself to coffee,” she said without taking her eye from the telescope.
I heaved a silent sigh of relief. If Parkham was going to can me, there would be a poignant little speech along with the coffee: “Sorry, we’re letting you go. Good luck” was her blunt way of dismissal, according to those who had received the ax.
I poured myself a cup of coffee from the bullet-shaped thermos on her desk and risked spearing a Danish butter cookie from a small plate of pastries.
“I hear you’re a hotshot poker player, Quint,” she said, still focusing on the bay. “No one here at the paper will play with you anymore. Do you cheat?”
“No,” I replied honestly. To win a few dollars from the likes of Max Maslin and the poker regulars from the sports section, one didn’t have to cheat. One simply had to be reasonably sober and know the rules of the game.
Parkham straightened up, put her hands on her hips, and stretched her back. She was a tall, broad-shouldered woman with wedge-cut brown hair sprinkled with gray. Her face was angular, with high cheekbones; her eyes chocolate brown. No one would call her pretty or beautiful, but she was damn good-looking. Think Katharine Hepburn in her prime, six inches taller and with forty more pounds. She was wearing a dark brown pantsuit and a cantaloupe-colored blouse. The single-stone diamond ring on the finger of her right hand had to weigh in at four karats.
“You play poker in the local card houses and on the Web, I’m told,” she said.
I wondered who the teller was. “Yes, once in awhile. It’s not a problem.”
She walked over to her desk and sat down. “It’s only a problem when you lose, Quint. Where did you learn to play poker?”
“My uncle is a professional gambler,” I told her. Uncle Nick, my mother’s younger brother, is more than that. A nice way to describe him would be as my mother does, a “scoundrel.” My father is more blunt: “He’s a crook.” Dad calls Nick “Uncle Crime” because Crime doesn’t pay—not for food, lodging, or just about anything else.
When I was a kid, he would come and stay with us for weeks at a time, and I’d pester him to teach me his dazzling array of sleight-of-hand card tricks.
“Could you cheat if you had to?” Parkham asked.
“Why would I want to do that?”
Parkham waved me to a chair. “Sit. This is totally off the record. I’m looking for someone who could spot a cheater in a poker game. Are you up to that?”
I sipped coffee and got comfortable in the old leather chair. “What kind of game are we talking about? Are there professionals at the table? Because if that’s the case—”
“No pros, just some successful businesspeople.” She leaned back and steepled her fingers in front of her face. “Smart, educated, very successful. I’m one of them.”
“Who’s the cheat?” I asked.
Parkham pursed her lips and blew a stream of air at the ceiling as if it were smoke from one of her cigars. “I’m not positive he’s cheating, but he couldn’t be that lucky. No one could.”
“Are we talking about a lot of money?” I asked, stretching out a hand for another cookie.
“He’s walked away with somewhere between ten and twenty thousand dollars from each of the last three games.”
It was my turn to blow air through my lips. It came out as a loud whistle. “That’s fairly high stakes for an amateur game.”
“Everyone at the table can afford the losses.” She leaned forward and slammed the heel of her hand on the desk. “But I don’t like to lose, Quint. I especially don’t like to be cheated out of my money.”
“You should really get someone with more expertise than I have, boss. I could ask around—”
“You ask no one, Quint. One word of our conversation leaks out and you’re toast. Now, can you help me or not?”
“Tell me more about the game. What kind of poker are we talking about? Stud? Texas hold ’em? Is there a dedicated dealer, or do you all take turns?”
“Dealer’s choice,” she said. “We take turns with the cards. There are four regular players. Charlie joined the group a couple of months ago. He makes five. Most of us deal Texas hold ’em; he usually calls for seven-card stud.”
Finally a name was coming out. “Charlie?”
“Charles Talbot,” Parkham said with a grimace.
The name surprised me. Talbot was a true merchant of menace; a Scotsman who ran banks, insurance companies, and, for a time, a movie studio in Hollywood. In fact, as an aspiring young actress, my mother had appeared in a few movies made on his back lot. Back then, there had been rumors about his having been tangled up with the local mob, and throwing orgies at his Beverly Hills mansion. He’d returned to England some thirty years ago, and had been knighted by the queen. He was now back in the States, living in nearby Napa, in the midst of the wine country.
“Sir Charles Talbot?” I said. “Why in the name of—”
“No. Not the old man. His son, Charlie. Most people call him ‘Junior.’” She pulled out a drawer, withdrew a pack of playing cards, and slid them across the desk to me. “Can you tell if they’re marked?”
I riffed the cards, then spread them across the desk. The deck was a typical Bee brand, with countless tiny red-and-white diamonds all over them. There really aren’t that many ways to mark a deck of cards: blocking out one or more of the diamonds with white-on-white ink; shading the red diamonds—daubing, or tinting, them a slight shade darker; shaving the edges; or “sand work,” where the cheater uses a small piece of sandpaper to file off a tiny part of the pattern on the card he wants to mark.
You can buy a marked deck of cards at any magic shop, or on the Web, but they’re very obvious once you know what to look for, and they are used primarily in magic acts, not serious card games.
“Does Talbot wear glasses?” I asked. Many poker players don sunglasses to conceal “tells” from other players. Movies and novels often come up with plots where one player wears special glasses that allow him to see marks on cards, but I’ve never heard of it happening in an actual game.
“No glasses, and he plays in his shirtsleeves. I’ve watched him carefully.”
I shuffled the cards a few more times. “These look okay to me. Does Talbot bring the cards to the game?”
“No. The game moves from house to house. The host supplies the cards, always a brand-new deck, and we change the deck every couple of hours.”
I dealt out a hand of five cards, facedown, to both of us. “How does he win? Steadily throughout the game? Or does he haul in the big pots?”
“A few big pots—really big pots.”
“Is he always dealing when he wins?”
Parkham leaned forward and opened the rosewood cigar humidor on the corner of the desk. She paused for a moment, then slammed the lid shut. “No. It doesn’t seem to matter who’s dealing the cards. Why is he cheating? His family is loaded. Priceless selections from his father’s private art collection will be on display at the de Young Museum next week.”
I knew about the museum exhibit, and was hoping that Terry Greco, the Bulletin’s art critic, would be able to wrangle an invitation for me. She had been working hard on the project for the last couple of weeks, which was one of the reasons I hadn’t been seeing much of her lately.
“Maybe Daddy has cut off Junior’s allowance.”
Parkham twisted her ring around so that the diamond faced inward. “I doubt it.”
“Why don’t you just come right out and tell him you think he’s had more than his share of luck?” I suggested.
She gave me one of the withering stares that she was becoming famous for around the office. “Because I can’t. This is not to be repeated to anyone, understood?”
I nodded.
“Sir Charles is thinking of buying the Bulletin, and making Junior the editor.”
My head snapped back like Sylvester Stallone’s after catching a left hook in one of the Rocky movies.
Parkham said, “Talbot owns two newspapers—both of them in the United Kingdom. He likes to have a hand on the throat of the press, wherever he lives. He’s here now, and he wants a local paper.
“You’d actually sell the Bulletin to him?”
“Six months ago, I would have said yes, Quint.” She opened the humidor again, this time dragging out a long, thin cigar. There was no smoking allowed in the building, of course, at least most of the building—the lone exception being her office. So far, no one had had the guts to challenge her on the subject.
“The paper is turning around,” Parkham said. “Advertising is up; circulation is up. I’m starting to like the Bulletin. But, if Talbot ups his ante, I’m going to have a difficult time getting my people in New York to turn the deal down.”
She turned over the five cards I’d dealt her.
“A pair of fours. What do you have, Quint?”
I flipped my cards over. “Two queens.”
Parkham gave a sour smile. “See, I knew you could cheat. Now, help me find out how Junior is cheating, and then I’ll suggest to Sir Charles that he lose interest in the publishing business.”
I’d have volunteered to do anything short of a felony to keep Talbot from taking over the Bulletin.
“How do you suggest I do that, boss?”
“I want you to sit in on the next game, play a few hands, and see if you can figure out what young Talbot is up to.”
“It may take more than a few hands,” I protested. “And the amount of money involved is a lot more than I—”
“Relax. I’ll sponsor you, Quint. Five thousand dollars in chips. Just don’t bet foolishly.”
“What, if I should win a few hands? And I cash out with more than the five thousand?”
“If it’s Talbot’s money, you can keep it,” Parkham said. She stood up and thrust an arm across the desk. “Deal?”
“Deal,” I said, shaking her hand. I was glad neither of us squeezed too hard, because that huge diamond she’d twisted around dug sharply into my palm.
“Won’t the other players think it’s strange that someone like me, a humble Bulletin employee, is playing in a high-stakes poker game?” I asked.
She brushed her hands together as if she had flour on them. “I’ll just describe you as an associate, and if anyone asks, I’ll tell them that you’re gambling with the money you’ve made on that book of yours, though we both know that’s not true.”
Parkham was talking about my first published work, Tough Guys and Private Eyes, a critique of the film noir movies of the forties. It had garnered some excellent reviews and very few sales.
Parkham ran her eyes over me and added, “Dress up a bit, Quint. Presentable slacks and a sport coat will do. I’ll let you know where and when to show up.”
I gathered the cards together neatly and palmed a cookie in a manner that would have made Uncle Crime proud of me. “Mind if I keep the cards?”
“Help yourself. How’s your father doing?” Parkham asked as I was about to head for the door.
Women of all ages were always asking me about my father, John Quint. He’s a musician—a singer and jazz pianist of some note—and plays at many of the posher restaurants and social events around town. He’s also what used to be described in movies and onstage as a “ladies’ man.”
“Instant Cary Grant,” one longing admirer had dubbed him. He and my mother have been divorced for many years. Dad lives in the flat directly above Mom, and I know that they often share bread and breakfast—whether they share anything else, I don’t know, and don’t want to know.
“He’s fine,” I told the Great. “He’s in Vegas, a gig in the lounge at the Bellagio.”
“Tell him I said hello when he gets back,” she said, then picked up the phone and started barking at some poor soul in the paper’s business section as I made my way out the door.  Copyright © 2008 by Jerry Kennealy. All rights reserved.


Continues...

Excerpted from Still Shot by Kennealy, Jerry Copyright © 2008 by Kennealy, Jerry. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    STILL SHOT pays homage to the tough screen sleuths like Marlowe and Spade

    San Francisco Bulletin film critic (and one book author with a few sales to his mom) Carroll Quint receives a call from his mother, retired two bit actress Karen Kass. Her Hollywood roommate Ulla Kjeldson apparently committed suicide in Sausalito she knew the Norwegian born Ulla as Vicky Vandamn and does not believe her friend whom she lost touch with would kill herself. Karen demands Carroll investigate a homicide that the lazy police call suicide so they can avoid an inquiry.----------- Just after the mom call, the newspaper¿s editor Katherine ¿The Great¿ Parkham, who knows Carroll is a super card player (thanks to his maternal ¿Uncle Crime¿) asks Carroll to prove that Charlie Talbot, son of ruthless Sir Charles, is cheating in their friendly poker game. He will play with them at the Talbot estate. Also going to a gala there is the paper¿s art critic and Carroll¿s on and off girlfriend Terry Greco who is working a Talbot museum exhibition.----------- At cards he catches how Charlie cheats, which does not endear him to the punk. On the Vicky front, he seeks a manuscript called Payback that she was writing while he receives ¿help¿ from Della the psychic, Bert the peaking Tom, Freeze the retired Noir cop, Sir Charles¿ fifth trophy wife Erica and of course Terry. However, the murder of art curator Ron Maleuw occurs tying the two cases together with him in the middle holding jokers.------------ STILL SHOT pays homage to the tough screen sleuths like Marlowe and Spade (Carroll¿s first tale JIGSAW revered Hitchcock). Yet even with this adulation this remains a tongue in cheek ¿Hollywood¿ Noir that takes place approximately four hundred miles to the north in the Bay Area and Marin County. The story line is fun to follow as Carroll disproves Sir Charles¿ first assessment that he is a ¿barmeake¿ keep in mind the source of calling him an a-hole British slang is a guy who burned an original Matisse.------------ Harriet Klausner

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