Penzler Pick, December 1999: Other mystery writers, including George Baxt and Stuart Kaminsky, have spoofed the golden era of Hollywood in series mysteries, morphing famous screen figures--Tallulah Bankhead, Humphrey Bogart, etc.--as props for their plots. Like the golden age of the classic detective story, the heyday of back-lot moviemaking, with its larger-than-life, iconic stars, offers rich material for pastiches. To wit: Goulart and Groucho, together again! |
Here we have the third adventure for the best-known Marx brother and, like its predecessors (Groucho Marx, Private Eye and Groucho Marx, Master Detective), it's a homicidal hoot. Ron Goulart, a prolific novelist and short-story writer, once before contributed a filmland sleuth to the genre: in the late 1960s and early '70s, he wrote several books featuring John Easy, a Hollywood private eye. Now, however, the detective is wearing oversized spectacles and greasepaint mustache, and the ease with which Goulart re-creates the period, as well as the man, shows he's had practice. The narrator is Frank Denby, writer for Groucho's radio detective show, who makes a more than adequate Watson. As Elementary opens, Denby and his employer/pal have just come upon the corpse of an emigré director on the set of a movie, Conan Doyle's The Valley of Fear. Not only is Felix Denk past his sell-by date, he's been discovered dead in the armchair of 221-B Baker Street, or at least the Mammoth Studios simulation of same. With Groucho on the case things are bound to get funny fairly quickly. Hard-boiled it's not; more like scrambled! So if you're in the mood for Benny Karloff jokes, (he was Boris's cousin), want to catch a glimpse of Captain Spaulding's pith helmet, and think Hollywood historicals are amusing, go for Goulart's Groucho.
Source: Otto Penzler, Amazon.com.
When a body is found in Holmes's 221B Baker Street lodgings on the set at Mammoth Studios during the shooting of The Valley of Fear, Groucho and his sidekick Frank Denby begin investigating.
The victim is the German emigre director of the movie who was found in the great detective's favorite armchair, stabbed in the chest with Holmes's pearl-handled letter opener. There is another murder but it takes more than murder to stifle Groucho's quips or to quiet the laughter this surprising reincarnation inspires.