Author: John Wilder
John Wilder's debut novel, Nobody Dies in Hollywood is set in Los Angeles and Hollywood where a former cop and now turned private investigator, Michael Drayton is hired to track down the killer of one of the victims of a double murder involving an Oscar-winning actor, Jeremy Thomas. The other unfortunate soul is merely referred to in the media as a “friend,” and it is the father of this victim who engages Drayton to find out who brutally killed his son.
Gus Chernak is angered by the fact that his son Ken was not even once referred to using his proper name as the media seemed only to be troubled that a famous movie star was viciously murdered, which illustrated the inequity in the reporting of the crime. In addition, Chernak is unable to find out anything from the police authorities and thus, following the advice of someone he knows, contacts Drayton to find out exactly what happened. The rumor going around was that it was some kind of a sex crime and Chernak was determined to ascertain if this was true or not.
As the plot thickens, readers are given a glimpse of the shenanigans and cruel realities that transpire in the entertainment business where people will walk over dead bodies to get what they want. And where there is a possibility of earning large sums of money, the underworld is not very much behind in trying to jockey themselves into the business.
Primarily, what Wilder attempted, as he mentions on his website, is to put a protagonist front and center reflecting the multi-ethnic nature of contemporary America. In addition, he wanted to illuminate the cultural foundation of parenting and how different approaches bear vastly different fruit. As he states in an interview I conducted with him, his goal was to create a character that was given the background that would give him stage-door entrance into the stories set against the entertainment industry. In other words, he wanted to write about Los Angeles, where he grew up which is a constant magnet for youthful aspirations and holds enduring fascination for people of all ages.
Moreover, Wilder wanted his protagonist to be the face of today’s America, to be a product of mixed races. He wanted him to have one leg on each side of the racial divide that must be overcome. To that end, as he indicated to me in the interview, he gave him DNA flowing equally from Anglo settlers of the West Texas plains and African slaves on the plantations of Haiti. He gave him a set of values rooted in the cowboy culture and open spaces of the nineteenth century, chivalric values that, themselves, stem from the medieval stories of King Arthur. He wanted those character-defining values to confront the chaos and corruption in a sprawling twenty-first century city as he works to maintain his personal integrity and find meaning in life.
For the most part, the
novel is splendidly constructed and you can see where Wilder's
experience as an award-winning writer, producer and director of
nearly 400 hours of prime-time drama on network and cable televisions
comes in quite handy. However, towards the end of the yarn, I felt
that it was beginning to run out of steam and there were even times
when Wilder lapses into confusion with all of the comings and goings
of the various characters. On the other hand, the more satisfying
aspect of the novel are the well-drawn and convincing characters,
particularly Drayton who remains a satisfying enigma that gradually
reveals his secrets and inner life which, as we discover, is a vast
and interesting landscape.