Review

The Prince of Beverly Hills

by Stuart Woods



THE PRINCE OF BEVERLY HILLS takes place outside of Stuart Woods's
respective Stone Barrington/Holly Barker/Will Lee novel cycles, and
as such might be missed or ignored by readers who otherwise follow
Woods's work. This would be unfortunate, as this is one of the more
noteworthy works of an author who, though occasionally inconsistent
and uneven in his work, is also unjustly underrated.

In the years prior to World War II, Hollywood had a love affair
with the crime film. This occurred to some extent as the result of
the work of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. But besides Nick
and Nora, and Philip Marlowe, there were other series (Tom Conway's
Falcon comes immediately to mind) as well as stand-alone
films that are all but forgotten now. THE PRINCE OF BEVERLY HILLS
has the feel of one of those movies, almost from beginning to
end.

It begins in 1939. Rick Barron has been newly busted down from his
position as a Beverly Hills robbery and homicide detective to
street patrolman as the result of incurring the wrath of his
commanding officer's niece. Barron has a canny ability to discern
the right moves at the right time. This, combined with a pragmatic
attitude, holds him in good stead when he witnesses an accident
involving actor Clete Barrow, who is in the middle of filming a
major motion picture for Centurion Studios. Though the world of
motion pictures is far removed from Barron's life, he knows how
such matters work, and when he quietly gets Barrow out of a jam,
his savvy abilities attract the attention of Eddie Harris,
Executive Vice-President at Centurion. Harris almost immediately
hires Barron to be Centurion's new Director of Security. Barron's
job is to keep a lid on matters that might pose potential problems
for Centurion. His most immediate task is to keep Barrow out of
trouble and on the movie set on time.

But Barron has more than Barrow on his plate. Centurion has
attracted the interest of organized crime, which very much wants to
become involved in the highly successful motion picture industry.
The Mob is a suitor that Centurion wants to rebuff, but gently, in
order to avoid labor problems, given the ties of organized crime to
the labor unions. Barron, however, has developed some personal
animosity with Chick Stampano, a dangerous underling of the
notorious Bugsy Siegel. Stampano has a dangerous appetite for
beautiful women, and his attraction to movie actresses ---
particularly those under contract with Centurion --- puts him on a
collision course with Barron, a situation that is aggravated when
Barron himself becomes involved with one of Centurion's
actresses.

Woods keeps the story moving from the first page to the last, as
Barron's good turn at the beginning of the novel continues to pay
off for him. While there is almost a fairy tale element to the
story of Barron's ascendancy, it is not at all far-fetched; more
often than not, this is the way things work. Woods also has a fine
eye for description and a keen ear for dialogue, resulting in a
narrative that flows like a script. One can almost see the film
roll by, page by page.

The only flaw here is the ending, which suffers a bit from the
"okay, time to wrap this up" syndrome that occasionally plagued
authors from Chandler to Heinlein to…well, Woods. Don't let
that stop you though from reading THE PRINCE OF BEVERLY HILLS. The
journey more than makes up for any disappointment you might feel
from the abruptness of the arrival at the destination.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 19, 2011

The Prince of Beverly Hills
by Stuart Woods

  • Publication Date: April 5, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Signet
  • ISBN-10: 0451214625
  • ISBN-13: 9780451214621