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No, Stanley can't quite quit his day job as an ambulance chasing private investigator, but he has managed to get a movie produced. Hot young producer/director Sidney Carfellow is filming Stanley's script, neophyte superstar Jason Clairemont is rewriting all of Stanley's best lines, the producer's favorite starlets are running around in their birthday suits, and everything would be movie business as usual, if bodies didn't start dropping on the set.
Talk about film noir - is it murder, or just a bizarre series of accidents? Whichever, Stanley's movie is in trouble. It was tough enough filming in New York City on a shoestring without policemen tripping all over the set.
When the next attack happens right under their very noses, the cops are sure that someone connected to Hands of Havoc, Flesh of Fire is a killer. Bad luck for Stanley. When they started tinkering with his script, he figured it was the death of his career. Now, if he can't figure out who the killer is, it just could really be the "The End," "Fin," "Fine," of his life...
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Following last year's Blackmail, Stanley Hastings's 10th adventure is strictly for fans of the first nine; others will find the actor/PI all too convincing when he complains about just how "dull and painful" movie-making can be. Stanley is elated when producer Sidney Garfellow hires him to write the screenplay of "a karate movie with four hot babes" to be shot in New York City. While scouting out a warehouse for a location, Stanley and crew discover the corpse of a derelict killed by a blow to the head. When the neophyte screenwriter is not listing such dreary details as the number of pages of script shot per day, he gripes about the pampered star who rewrites lines as he goes. A second death, the suspicious fatal fall of a crew member, disrupts production. While the ambitious producer exploits the murder's publicity possibilities, an NYPD sergeant, antagonistic toward Stanley from previous meetings, questions everyone in sight, spurring Stanley's "nagging desire to wipe that smug smile off his face by solving the crime first." That's as charming as Stanley gets in this appearance, in which even the puzzle, based on exploitation and revenge, is a disappointment.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
New York City private eye Stanley Hastings plays against type. He's happily married, dislikes the PI business, and wants to be something else . . . like a screenwriter. That's why he's so excited when his courtroom drama catches the eye of filmmaker Sid Garfellow, who hires Stanley to write the screenplay for a martial-arts action flick. The low-budget production gets off to a rocky start when a homeless man is found beaten to death on the set. The police, led by Stanley's pal/nemesis Sergeant MacAullif of homicide, writes the incident off as random street crime. Then a soundman also dies, and Hastings is forced to combine his old job with his new one. The movie industry has been the subject of numerous mysteries, but it perhaps has never been viewed by as sharp an observer of human frailties as Hastings. The delightfully self-deprecating sleuth brings enormous wit to bear on the mix of self-important blowhards and starry-eyed idealists who populate the film world. An entertaining entry in an underappreciated series. Wes Lukowsky
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