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Paperback Details
  • 11/2021
  • 978-1-7358796-4-2
  • 350 pages
  • $17.95
Starring... John Dillinger

Adult; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Publish)

Everyone’s out to get him. When he hits it big on the silver screen, will it make him immortal… or a bigger target? Chicago, 1934. John Dillinger is weary of life as an outlaw. So when the FBI surrounds him at the Biograph Theater, the notorious thief surprises everyone and surrenders. And desperate to prove to the world he’s gone straight, he makes a film from prison encouraging youngsters not to choose crime. John Dillinger in front of a camera proves as deadly as a Thompson submachine gun. Handsome and charismatic, Dillinger lights up the screen, and his little newsreel catapults him to stardom. Pardoned due to the success of the picture, Dillinger finds himself deep in the cutthroat world of Hollywood. And with J. Edgar Hoover furious and actors like Clark Gable jealous, the criminal-turned-movie-star may find Tinseltown deadlier than robbing banks. Can Dillinger survive his newfound fame, or will he die on the cutting room floor? Starring… John Dillinger is a wild and light-hearted alternative history novel. If you like guns, girls and gangsters, all mixed in a potent cocktail of wicked humor and imaginative what-if’s, then you’ll love Walker and Anthony’s speculative story.
Plot/Idea: 9 out of 10
Originality: 9 out of 10
Prose: 9 out of 10
Character/Execution: 9 out of 10
Overall: 9.00 out of 10

Assessment:

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

Reviews
In this sly and witty alternative history adventure, 1930s gangster John Dillinger isn't gunned down fleeing a Chicago movie theater but instead wrangles a new career in Hollywood—which may prove as treacherous as his life of crime. Behind bars, Dillinger convinces the authorities to let him make a movie that will encourage children to remain upright. He does, and it’s a hit, enough so that studio head Jack Warner gets him a pardon so Dillinger can become a star. Dillinger quickly realizes he'll need the same wits to survive in his new life as he did in his old, even as his nemesis, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, continues to watch him.

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.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A-

Formats
Paperback Details
  • 11/2021
  • 978-1-7358796-4-2
  • 350 pages
  • $17.95

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