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"Timothy Hallinan's The Fame Thief has everything I've come to expect in a Hallinan novel: indelible, complex characters, fantastic plot, and moments of hold-your-breath suspense."
—Charlaine Harris, author of the New York Times bestselling Sookie Stackhouse series
"Wisecracking Junior is great company, the occasional whiff of the supernatural is nicely kooky, and there’s a satisfying balance between the present-day mystery and the vivid flashbacks."
—The Seattle Times
"As usual in a Junior Bender novel, the writing is reminiscent of the best of crime fiction’s golden age — as taut and hardboiled as Dashiell Hammett’s yet peppered with the sort of smart-aleck lines Raymond Chandler loved to toss off."
—The Associated Press
“In Hallinan’s satisfying third Junior Bender novel (after Little Elvises), the L.A. burglar/PI continues to excavate show business’s forgotten past, investigating in this installment the also-rans of postwar Hollywood.”
"Could not stop laughing. Tim Hallinan is sharp as a blade, has a wicked eye for human nature and keeps the reader guessing and rooting for Junior Bender all the way."
—Helen Simonson, New York Times bestselling author of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
"The Fame Thief will keep you laughing long after you close the cover."
"The third book in any series can be expected to rest on its laurels, but Hallinan raises the bar."
—Bill Barnes, Unshelved
"The refreshingly unassuming Junior is a fun riff on the typical private investigator: his specialty—committing crimes, rather than solving them—brings him an unusual perspective. The elderly Dressler is a fabulous, deadpan wiseguy in "eye-agonizing" golf pants, backed up by two unusually domestic versions of the standard muscled goon. And Junior's own domestic concerns—a teenage daughter, her jokester boyfriend, an ex-wife and a randy new girlfriend—fill out the eccentric, likable cast. Fast-paced action and a building body count pair nicely with humor in this series, bound to keep the reader coming back for more."
"Hallinan’s natural storytelling skills will hold readers rapt through his Shakespeare-quoting, five-act tale as they relish his attention to Los Angeles cultural details and ability to weave two time periods together so effectively."
—Library Journal (starred review)
"Junior is at the top of his game in this third in the comic crime series, dispensing facetious remarks while assembling all the disparate pieces into a masterful exposé of a long ago Hollywood frame-up."
—Stop You're Killing Me
"The tangled plot ... produce[s] some surprises along the way, but the real draw here remains the fasttalking, quick-thinking Junior, a slightly seedier but equally entertaining version of Lawrence Block's Bernie Rhodenbarr. If comic crime is your thing, you need to know Junior Bender."
"The main character (not really a hero, because heroes are on the side of justice, right?) is a fun guy to hang out with. He’s a witty burglar who kept me reading, turning the pages as fast as I could."
"I started reading Timothy Hallinan’s books several years back and was drawn into his series featuring adventure travel writer Poke Rafferty. Read ’em all, loved ’em all ... So I was a bit concerned when Hallinan started a new series featuring Junior Bender, occasional burglar and full-time go-to guy for those who need a bit of private investigation that strays outside the fine lines of the law. My worries were unfounded: Hallinan is three-deep into the new series, and the books are every bit as good as their forebears—with the added attraction of some Hiaasen-esque comic tone."
—Bruce Tierney, Bookpage
"Hallinan succeeds in crafting the wonderful blend of a Hollywood exposé and a noir mystery with the complexities of a caper... This third Junior Bender mystery satisfies as an extremely enjoyable mystery with loads of dark humor and a brilliant cast of characters who are enmeshed in a spider web plot that spanned through the decades."
—King's River Life Magazine
"Funny and smart and suspenseful all at once."
—The Long Beach Gazette
"Timothy Hallinan's Junior Bender books are so much fun to read that they're almost illegal."
"Junior’s levity provides an excellent set-off to the dark underpinnings of the criminal world he inhabits. Along the way to the truth, he strives not only to keep himself alive, but also to bring a sort of justice to those who have been wronged, even so many years later. More please, Mr. Hallinan."
—Ted Hertel, Deadly Pleasures Magazine
"There is enough gruesome violence, tense drama, and oddball characters in The Fame Thief to satisfy any fan of modern noir. Highly recommended for mystery fans, like myself, who enjoy humorous, but violent, noir."
"The Fame Thief is a rare commodity, a good read that is satisfying on multiple levels. Highest recommendation."
—New Mystery Reader
“Read The Fame Thief. It’s a great book, an interesting mystery, and one of the best novels about living in Los Angeles that I’ve read in a while."
"These are classic noir LA mysteries, giant twisty dark puzzles but with a wicked sense of humor, which I dearly love. I read The Fame Thief in one sitting. This series is absolutely perfect for summer reading!”
"Junior is hard not to like. He's funny, smart, resourceful, and his heart is pure, even if his career choice is not."
—Over My Dead Body
Praise for the Junior Bender Series
“A modern-day successor to Raymond Chandler.”
—Los Angeles Daily News
"Hallinan introduces us to a drugged-out, pain-impervious hit man, a nonagenarian puppet master who rules the L.A. underworld, a tabloid reporter who uses his job as a cover to blackmail the rich and the famous, and a host of other characters as dangerously outrageous as the murderous crew obsessed with obtaining the black bird in Hammett's 1930 masterpiece."
"If Carl Hiaasen and Donald Westlake had a literary love child, he would be Timothy Hallinan. The Edgar nominee's laugh-out-loud new crime series featuring Hollywood burglar-turned-private eye Junior Bender has breakout written all over it... A must-read."
—Julia Spencer-Fleming, New York Times bestselling author of One Was a Soldier
"Junior Bender is today’s Los Angeles as Raymond Chandler might have written it. Tim [Hallinan] is a master at tossing out the kind of hard-boiled lines that I wish I thought of first."
—Bruce DeSilva, Macavity & Edgar Award-winning author of Rogue Island
"Loved loved loved Crashed, Tim Hallinan's first Junior Bender mystery. Great narrative voice, complex plot, 3-D characters. Hallinan’s deft comic tone and colorful characters have earned him comparisons to Donald Westlake and Carl Hiaasen. Check it out now."
"Timothy Hallinan’s affable antihero, an accomplished thief but inept sleuth named Junior Bender, makes a terrific first impression in Crashed.... Bender’s quick wit and smart mouth make him a boon companion on this oddball adventure."
—New York Times Book Review
"Junior Bender is bound to be the topic of conversation amongst book lovers and crime fiction fans for a long, long time."
—Robert Carraher, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
"The story is well designed and well told, and the dialogue sparkles. In a genre perhaps slightly overstuffed with crook-heroes, the book is like a breath of fresh air."
"One thing that immediately hits you about Timothy Hallinan’s writing is the clarity and snap of his prose. Junior Bender isn’t a gumshoe, but the cadence of his voice and his observations harken back to other great detectives who were expert at landing a crucial, devastating remark, as well as using their fists or a pistol. It’s a cliché, of course, to bring up Raymond Chandler’s Marlowe, but the similarities are nevertheless present in fitting ways."
—Derek Hill, Mystery Scene
“This is Hallinan at the top of his game. It's laugh-out-loud funny without ever losing any of its mystery. It’s a whole new style and I love it. Junior Bender—a crook with a heart of gold—is one of Hallinan's most appealing heroes, rich with invention, and brimming with classic wit. I can’t recommend it highly enough.”
—Shadoe Stevens, Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson
“Bender's been a burglar since he was 14. He's "never been caught, never been charged," but he has been kissed. In "Little Elvises," he describes one particular smooch as full of "sweetness" with a "shot of cayenne." And that's a perfect description for Bender himself. He has a big heart. It's just crooked. Bender still loves his ex-wife, adores his precocious daughter, but he's become the go-to guy for folks who can't go to the cops. Think of him as a detective for the delinquent, a fixer for felons."
—Carole E. Barrowman, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
“Hallinan is a stunning talent.”
—Gregg Hurwitz, author of They're Watching
"This is one of those books you long for, wait for, and find once or twice a year."
—Beth Kanell, proprietor of Kingdom Books, Vermont
“So,” I said, halfway into the second glass, “what did somebody do to Dolores La Marr?”
“What’s the most valuable thing we’ve got, Junior?”
“We?” I asked. “Or me?”
“Let’s start with you.” Dressler rang the bell again.
“My daughter,” I said. “Rina.”
“Okay, that’s you. That’s good, family should always come first, but think bigger. Look, there’s one thing you’ve got that someone can steal, you listening? Of course, you’re listening.
And once they steal it, they’re no richer, but you’re a lot poorer.
You know what it is?” Tuffy came into the room. “Be a nice guy,” Dressler said to him, “and get us some green olives. The big ones with that weird red thing in it.”
“Pimento,” I said.
Dressler said, “Did I ask you?”
“In the refrigerator. In the door, second shelf down, on the right. Jar with a green label. Don’t bring us the jar, just put three olives each on six of the big toothpicks, in the second drawer to the left of the sink, put them on the good china with some napkins, and bring them in. That’s eighteen olives on six toothpicks.
And don’t touch them with your fingers.”
Tuffy’s forehead wrinkled in perplexity, and I thought he probably did that a lot. “How do I get them on the toothpick without touching them?”
Dressler said, “You want I should come in and do it myself?”
Tuffy took a step backward. “No, no, Mr. Dressler.”
“Good. You figure it out. Every time I have to do something myself, I figure that’s one less person I need.”
As Tuffy scurried from the room, and I said, “I admire your management style.”
“We’ll see how much you admire it when it’s aimed at you.
Answer my question. What do you have that somebody can steal and it hurts you but doesn’t give them bupkes?”
“Oh,” I said. Rephrased, there was something familiar about it. “I’ve got a kind of tingle.”
“So tell your neurologist. Do you read Shakespeare?”
He looked at me, one eye a lot smaller than the other. “And?
What is it?”
“My good name,” I said. The window to my memory opened noiselessly, and in my imagination I dropped gratefully to my knees in front of it. I closed my eyes, and said,
“Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls.
Who steals my purse steals trash; ‘tis something, nothing;
‘Twas mine, ‘tis his, and da-da, da-da,-da-da—”
“Has been slave to thousands,” Dressler prompted, and I finished it up:
“But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.
“Iago,” I said. “Not someone who deserves a good rep.”
“If he hadn’t had one,” Dressler said, “he’d have been hung before the end of Act One. Play should have been called Iago,
not Othello. Why name a play after the mark?” He drank the wine as if it were Kool-Aid. “Who needs a good reputation better than a crook?”
“That was a question.”
Context is everything, and we’d been talking about Dolores
La Marr. “An actress.”
“I could learn to like you,” Dressler said, “maybe. First the
Shakespeare, then the common sense. They shouldn’t call it common sense, you know? Nobody’s got it any more.”
I didn’t think there had ever been a period in human history when common sense had been thick on the ground, but it didn’t seem like an observation that would interest Dressler. So I
said something he’d undoubtedly heard a lot of. I said, “You’re right.”
“Everything, the girl lost everything. She was getting good parts in bad movies, working up to bad parts in good movies,
and then Lew was going to give her a good part in a good movie.
Her whole life, she wanted one thing, just one thing, and she worked like a bugger to get it. And then somebody took it all away from her. He that filches from me my good name,” Dressler declaimed, “Robs me of that which not enriches him—”
“And makes me poor indeed,” I said in unison with him.
We both gave it a little extra, since the wine had kicked in, and
Tuffy, coming in with a plate in his hands, stopped as though he’d found the two of us sitting shoulder to shoulder at the piano, playing “Chopsticks.”
“I couldn’t do it,” he said, looking worried. “I brought the olives and the toothpicks, but the olives are just rolling around on the dish ‘cause I couldn’t get them on the toothpicks. I ate the ones I touched. I figure the genius here can figure it out.”
“In my sleep,” I said.
“Just put it down,” Dressler said. “Where’s Babe?”
“He’s, uh, he’s taking a nap.”
“What is this? Juana’s got a headache, Babe’s asleep, and you can’t put olives on a toothpick. I’ve gotten old, I’ve gotten old.
Nobody’s afraid of me any more.”
“I am,” I said.
“You don’t count. Wake Babe up. He can sleep tonight.”
“Yes, Mr. Dressler.” Tuffy was backing up.
“Aahhh, let him sleep,” Dressler said. “They got a baby at home. Probably up all night.”
“Yes sir.” Tuffy licked his lips and fidgeted.
“Just fucking say it,” Dressler said.
“Kid’s teething,” Tuffy said.
Dressler lifted a hand and let it drop. “Achh, I remember. My sister, two of my nieces and nephews. Misery, it’s misery. Okay,
let him sleep.”
Tuffy left the room rather quickly, and Dressler said to me,
“Give me an olive.”
“I don’t know how to do it, either,” I said. “How to get them on the toothpicks without touching them.”
He pulled his head back, a snake preparing to strike. “Yeah?
And suppose you’d been Tuffy just now, and I gave you an order you didn’t know how to carry out. What would you have done?”
“I’d have been all over the olives with my fingers.”
“And then lied about it?”
“Absolutely. That’s why God gave us lies. So we could get out of things.”
“The hell with the toothpicks,” Dressler said. “Just give me a goddamn olive.”
Forty minutes later, there was a second bottle of wine on the table and Dressler and I were discussing techniques for soothing a teething baby, and Tuffy was in the kitchen, singing Barry
Manilow’s “Copacabana” and heating some chicken noodle soup. Outside, a long summer afternoon had done its slow fade,
and the windows had gone a glassy black. Dressler’s house was completely surrounded by hedges and fences, with gates front and back, so there were no lights to blemish the darkness.Tuffy had gotten to the verse about feathers and long hair, and he was giving it quite a bit. He had a lot of vibrato.
“Is Tuffy married?” I asked.
“No, and it’s not in the cards,” Dressler said. “Not until they change the law.” He harpooned an olive. “But that doesn’t mean he couldn’t whip you thin enough to spread on matzoh.”
He’d said it cheerfully enough, so I thought I’d give it another try. “You really think I should do this Dolores La Marr thing.”
“I not only think you’re going to do it,” he said. “I know you will. I like you, Junior, although it’s probably mostly the wine,
but you’re going to do this for me. If you don’t, you’re going to have to find a new place to hide, and wait there until I’m dead.”
Dressler, as near as I could figure, was 92. That wouldn’t be so long to wait, and I already had the perfect hiding place, in the
Wedgwood Apartments in Koreatown. It was the most successful secret of my life. So I listened a bit smugly.
“And you should do it even if I didn’t want you to do it,” he said. “She’s your neighbor, Dolly is. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” he said. “Jesus said that, right?”
“I guess so.” I thought about the block in Tarzana where
Rina lived with my ex-wife, Kathy, and then I ticked off the names of the people who lived in the nearby houses. “Dolores
La Marr lives in Tarzana?”
“No, stupid,” Dressler said, quite a bit less cheerfully. “In the
Wedgwood, same as you. In Koreatown.”
Posted January 3, 2014
Junior Bender, the protagonist in this, the third in this series, has a franchise, according to the eminence grise of Hollywood, the powerful Irwin Dressler, the 93-year-old mob boss. Junior prides himself as a burglar’s burglar, and has found himself much in demand by criminals as their own private investigator. And that’s why Dressler has two of his goons snatch Junior off the street and bring him to his home. He asks Junior to find out who was responsible for ruining a minor actress’ career over 60 years earlier.
This gives the author an opportunity to describe the Hollywood scene of the 1950’s, together with the glamour of Las Vegas and the prevalence of mafia bigwigs and run-of-the mill hoodlums. It is a mystery why a minor starlet became so important to the mob that she had a single starring role: testifying at the Estes Kefauver crime hearings.
I did not find Junior not quite as amusing this time around as he was in the first two novels in the series, “Crashed” and “Little Elvises, but Mr. Hallinan makes up for it in the dialogue delivered by Dressler, a Jew who was sent west by the Chicago mob to develop Hollywood and Los Angeles, as well as Las Vegas, for it. This book has quite a plot, and Junior has a tough road to hoe to solve the mystery.