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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

Shooting Star

Robert Bloch

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To purchase Shooting Star / Spiderweb

Title: Shooting Star
Author: Robert Bloch
Genre: Novel
Written: 1958
Length: 154 pages
Availability: in Shooting Star / Spiderweb - US
in Shooting Star / Spiderweb - UK
in Shooting Star / Spiderweb - Canada

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Our Assessment:

B : decent if somewhat dated Hollywood pulp

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Shooting Star is narrated by the one-eyed Mark Clayburn, a literary agent who is a bit down on his luck. His specialty is true-crime yarns, and besides being a literary agent he also has a Notary Public's license -- and a Private Investigator's:

Anything to make a buck. Not a very fast buck, either.
       He prefers dealing with the written variety of crime, but when he's offered more money than he's seen in a long time to look into a real-life murder he finds he can't pass up the opportunity. Actor Dick Ryan was murdered, and the police haven't figured out who did it; Harry Bannock is sitting on a potential goldmine of Ryan's Westerns -- but because there was a whiff of drug use around the deceased (the butts of some joints were found at the crime scene) he's box-office poison. Bannock wants the crime solved, so that that drug-taint can be dispelled.
       Oddly, newspaper coverage of the murder and the investigation seemed to have come to an end practically overnight. And as soon as Clayburn starts sniffing around it's clear that someone doesn't want him doing that. His and Bannock's lives are threatened -- and then some of Ryan's colleagues start getting bumped off .....
       Drugs do play a role here, though it takes Clayburn a while to figure out just how. Unfortunately, the drug-speak of this 1950s novel -- and the talk of the perils of marijuana abuse (no real hard stuff here) -- gives it a very noticeable dated feel. "Is he a narcotics addict, have you ever seen him with a reefer ?" Clayburn asks sincerely.
       Over the course of the investigation there are threats, peril, murder, and lots of people with things (or themselves) to hide. Clayburn is a sympathetic enough P.I.; in a bit over his head he also pays for it. It's not the most neatly plotted mystery, but it does fine most of the way -- though Bloch couldn't resist a last-minute rescue at the big showdown.
       Most of Shooting Star is a by-the-numbers little thriller, but the Hollywood angle -- and Clayburn's unlikely job as a literary agent -- make for a decent backdrop, which Bloch handles well. And he does occasionally show flashes of pure writing talent, as in a set piece about the funeral of one of the characters, describing the man who is only eventually revealed to be the funeral home director (convincingly) as " the top producer in Hollywood":
Talk about art; he knows every trick in the business. His casting is superb, his handling of crowds is perfect, he knows how to wring the last ounce of drama from every situation and every scene.
       And then there's the deceased:
     Brackett's staff must have spent hours on her makeup job: getting just the right touches to the hairdo, concentrating on the precise poignancy of her smile. Of course, they were working with a cooperative subject. Say what you will about Polly Foster, she was a trouper. She'd realize the importance of making the best appearance in her big scene.
       It's the hopelessly out-of-date drug angle that now undermines the book as a whole, especially since it was probably even the weakest part of the book back when it didn't sound so silly. But despite that, Shooting Star has some appeal and is certainly a readable little thriller.

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Shooting Star: Reviews: Robert Bloch: Other books by Robert Bloch under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       American author Robert Bloch (1917-1994) is best known as the author of Psycho.

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© 2008 the complete review

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