While I Disappear (Prime Crime Mysteries)

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9780425199596: While I Disappear (Prime Crime Mysteries)
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Former actor John Ray Horn tracks down his former leading lady, faded beauty Rose Galen, only to find her strangled to death, and embarks on a dangerous investigation into her murder that takes him into the dark underbelly of Hollywood's silent-film era. Reprint.

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From the Author:

JOHN RAY HORN'S LOS ANGELES

John Ray Horn, the character I've developed over the course of three novels, is an ex-cowboy actor who must deal with matters of life and death against the backdrop of Los Angeles in the 1940s. Several things drew me to him and his locale:

As a youngster growing up in Arkansas, I went to the Saturday afternoon matinees and was thrilled by the simple, unsophisticated heroism of the cowboy movies. Today I'm intrigued by the idea of a man who once portrayed a hero on the screen but who is now an outcast and is forced to compare himself every day with his old image.

Although I've chosen to live in the City of Angels, I'm sometimes overwhelmed by its size and pace. I look back with affection at the Los Angeles I never knew -- the young city with few tall buildings, its wide-open spaces occupied only by citrus and nut groves and bean fields, a city only dimly aware of its coming greatness.

Part of this nostalgia, of course, is fed by Hollywood itself. Many old black-and-white B-movies -- made by studios that couldn't afford expensive sets -- contain scenes shot on the streets of the real Los Angeles. Look at that city, with its great open stretches, streets running alongside endless rows of fruit trees, and you'll know that L.A. will never again look so young and raw or have so much room to breathe.

Then there's the artificial L.A., also served up by the movies. Anyone who's watched Howard Hawks' The Big Sleep, with that scene of the cottage up in Laurel Canyon and a torrential rain drenching Bogart, his car, and his trench coat, might be forgiven for thinking that it rains a lot in L.A. I thought so -- until I moved here. But this interplay between myth and reality is part of what's compelling about this town. And somewhere near that intersection, I've tried to create my own L.A., with sunshine and shadow, lemon groves and road houses, hustlers and decent people, attempts at human contact amid loneliness.

Most of my characters are fictitious. But in "While I Disappear" (published in the U.K. as "The Silver Face"), the character of Rose is based partly on Louise Brooks, the iconic silent screen actress whose career flamed out early after a few landmark films and whose later years were spent largely in obscurity. As in this novel, her final film role, in the 1930s, was in a forgettable B-movie western. Rose played opposite John Ray Horn. Louise Brooks' co-star was the very young John Wayne.

About the Author:

Edward Wright has been an editor at the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times.

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