Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ray Bradbury: A Graveyard for Lunatics

Ray Bradbury's A Graveyard for Lunatics
Mystery Category: talented amateur

Yes, in case you are wondering, this is the Ray Bradbury of Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles and Dandelion Wine and The Illustrated Man and numerous short stories that might be SF or fantasy or something else. Bradbury has seemingly never been too concerned about genre fences; he just writes.

This is a mystery; actually, it is the second work in a trilogy. The first is Death is a Risky Business, and the third, and last so far, is Let's All Kill Constance.

The setting is Hollywood. The nameless narrator has just gotten his dream job: he has been hired as a screenwriter (primarily for SF films) at Maximus Films. It's probably a coincidence that Bradbury himself has spent considerable time in Hollywood as a screenwriter.

The narrator gets a message to go to Green Glades, a cemetery that backs on the Maximus lot, at Midnight, of course, and when else but on Halloween Eve, the narrator's favorite night of the year. Curious, he goes and discovers an effigy of the former head of Maximus Films, a man who has been dead for over a decade now. Life suddenly becomes frantic and dangerous as several of his friends and acquaintances die or disappear. He goes for aid to Elmo Crumley, the police officer he encountered in the first mystery, who immediately calls in sick, for the narrator's problems are far more interesting than anything he encounters on the job. Along the way to the solution, they meet a number of thinly disguised caricatures of 'real' people.

The fun is trying to guess whom they are supposed to be. A director named Fritz Wong? Or Roy Holdstrom, a special effects genius who creates dinosaurs and other critters out of clay and painstakingly moves them and films each move to give the illusion of movement. Or JC, an actor who has played Christ so many times that he now believes that he either is Christ or a modern reincarnation of him.

The Plot? Well, let's just think a bit about The Phantom of the Opera and move it to the US. Could there be a better substitute for an opera house than a film studio and sound stages and recreations of the major cities of the world and of small dusty Western towns and, oh yes, of Green Town, Illinois?

Overall Rating: Great fun, along with a few jabs at Hollywood and its denizens, and a dose of Bradbury's own special brand of nostalgia.

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