Plot: Public Enemy Number One John Dillinger becomes Hollywood Heartthrob Number One in this smart, witty page-turner. But will J. Edgar Hoover allow fame and fortune to come to his foe?
Prose/Style: Smooth as good whiskey, packed with the curves of Jack Warner's favorite starlet, the plot races along at a dizzying pace to a conclusion that will satisfy everyone (except perhaps J. Edgar Hoover) The authors effortlessly capture the style and lingo of Hollywood's Golden Age and the effect is sheer entertainment.
Originality: Whatever it was that inspired authors Bill Walker and Brian Anthony with the idea, "What if 1935 Hollywood had made a movie star of John Dillinger?", readers of 2021 are lucky that they took the idea and ran with it. A pure escapist delight and a Valentine to Hollywood.
Character Development/Execution: Walker and Anthony have studied both their noir and their screwball comedy to good effect, and the result is an intoxicating cocktail composed of equal parts hard-boiled and froth shaken, not stirred. The seamless POV shifts make for well-developed characters who engage the reader's interest and sympathies early and never let go.
Date Submitted: July 21, 2021
Walker and Anthony turn a lively eye on Hollywood, seen fresh through Dillinger. We meet a pugnacious James Cagney, a seductive Bette Davis and tough director John Ford. Both authors have a film background, and their sharp yet loving portrayals of these characters and the Hollywood milieu they inhabit give the book its richness. A scene showing legendary acting teacher Maria Ouspenskaya forcing Dillinger to endure humiliating acting exercises serves as an amusing send-up of Hollywood at its nuttiest. Readers should already be familiar with old-time Hollywood legends to get the most out of this, but everyone can enjoy the well-limned principal characters and swift-moving plot.
The greatest joys come from watching Dillinger, here portrayed as intelligent and introspective. His friendship develops with Cagney, who amazes Dillinger by explaining the differences between screen violence and real violence—which gets him to thinking about his own past and future. We see his sensitive side in his warm and surprisingly modern relationship with his long-term girlfriend Billie, a refreshing change from the usual gangster-moll trope. But he never loses his street smarts, and partners with legendary G-Man Melvin Purvis to get ahead in his career. Dillinger brings together the various strands of his life to a surprising and satisfying conclusion worthy of his character—and of golden-age Hollywood.
Takeaway: Fans of old-time Hollywood and 30's crime fiction may tear through this amusing caper in a single sitting.
Great for fans of: Renee Patrick’s Lillian Frost and Edith Head series, Stuart Woods’s The Prince of Beverly Hills.
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: A-