Review

Death by Hollywood

by Steven Bochco



Steven Bochco, a 10-time Emmy winner for his work on Hill Street
Blues
, L.A. Law and NYPD Blue, has a deserved
reputation for turning out story lines and characters that grab
audiences in multiple ways. As a television producer and writer,
Bochco has never feared moving into uncharted territory. Now in his
first mystery novel, DEATH BY HOLLYWOOD, Bochco has brought to the
printed page many of the same skills he has delivered to television
audiences for countless years.

Bochco acknowledges that DEATH BY HOLLYWOOD had its inception as a
screenplay. In many respects the book reads in that fashion with a
quickly moving plot, limited dialogue and short scenes that on the
printed page become short chapters. This is not to criticize the
book but to advise true mystery novel aficionados that Bochco is
not yet Michael Connelly, Elmore Leonard or George Pelecanos. But
the secret to a good mystery is really very simple: a good plot can
cover a multitude of sins. Bochco has given us a good plot.

Eddie Jelko, a Hollywood agent, is the story's narrator. His
client, Bobby Newman, a screenwriter in a deep writing slump with a
marriage in critical condition, is the agent provocateur of the
novel. We meet Eddie and Bobby at a Hollywood power lunch meeting
where Bobby's consumption of Chardonnay is a sign of trouble. He
has a screenplay that he cannot finish and is incapable of taking
on a simple three-week script rewrite that would help pay some
bills. As Bobby leaves the meeting he sees his wife walking across
the street embracing a man and entering the Peninsula Hotel. As
Jelko observes sardonically, "If you ever needed an excuse to
write, there's one right there."

Back in his Hollywood home, Bobby seeks a little solace in some
more Chardonnay and quiet time on his deck overlooking the
Hollywood Hills. Gazing through his electronic telescope he spies
an event that sets the action for DEATH BY HOLLYWOOD --- a wealthy
socialite murdering her lover. For a brief moment Bobby
contemplates calling 911. His inability to do so leads the reader
down a chain of events with as many twists, turns and curves as
California Pacific Highway 101. It is quite an interesting and
enjoyable ride.

DEATH BY HOLLYWOOD is first of all a mystery. Therefore, no further
divulging of the plot is appropriate. But along the way the reader
is introduced to some classic Hollywood characters, including one
that Bochco is very comfortable in creating, a police detective
with just a touch of larceny in his heart. The reader can almost
envision the actors and actresses who would play the various parts
in some cinematic treatment of the novel.

This is an easy, enjoyable read for a vacation or three-hour
airplane trip. Anyone familiar with Bochco knows that he has a
reputation for pushing the envelope in matters of sex and language.
In that respect, DEATH BY HOLLYWOOD is no different from Bochco's
other efforts. While some might be offended, those who admire
Bochco and his work will know what to expect. Bochco has the
makings of a good mystery writer. He waited until the age of 59 to
give us his first effort. Let us hope there will be another one
soon.

Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on January 21, 2011

Death by Hollywood
by Steven Bochco

  • Publication Date: September 9, 2003
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Random House
  • ISBN-10: 1400061563
  • ISBN-13: 9781400061563