THE PICTURES is a book practically designed just for me. The old school Hollywood setting, the murder mystery, the compromised tough guys spouting tough guy dialogue at each other – this novel couldn’t be aiming any more for my sweet spot if it rolled me over and tickled my tummy after every chapter. And you know what? In effect, it practically did.
In late 1930s Los Angeles, even though he has just suffered a great personal tragedy, it seems like business as usual for MGM’s pet police detective, Jonathan Craine. He’s long lost his passion for police work and is clearing up cases in the easiest (and slackest) way possible, and if they concern the studio he makes sure that it’s done quietly and with little fuss. But then a series of crimes rock him from his stupor, and he realises that – no matter how much it hurts his standing – he’s going to have to find the real culprits.
If you’ve read a lot of this kind of fiction, the influences are not hard to spot. There’s L.A. CONFIDENTIAL, both novel and film; THE THIN MAN suaver end of Dashiell Hammett; and most definitely Stuart Kaminsky’s Toby Peters – although this a far less glib version. Bolton takes all of this illustrious history and makes it very much his own, to create a novel that ticks all the boxes, but for tough guy fiction is really quite affecting.
This is obviously the type of fiction I love and somewhat the type of fiction I write (although I’d never be brave enough to try an LA setting.) I just love the grit and glamour combined that comes from a film star murder story. Absolutely it’s five stars from me, but then I’m a deeply biased audience.