Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Murder Your Darlings: Review

Murder Your Darlings by J. J. Murphy is a more modern look back at Dorothy Parker and her cronies from the Algonquin Round Table in the 1920's.  Just last week I read The Dorothy Parker Murder Case written by George Baxt in 1984 and it's interesting to see how the two historical mysteries stack up.  Each book makes the most of the incredibly witty and complex group who made up the self-anointed "Vicious Circle" as well as other famous luminaries of the time.  Murphy uses historical events with a fair dose of poetic license--as he says, "I do believe that Dorothy Parker and the other members of the Algonquin Round Table would have encouraged the embellishment of fact to tell a good story."

This embellishment includes bringing a very young and as-yet-unknown William Faulkner into the circle and under the protective wing of Dorothy Parker.  Faulkner has come to New York in the hopes of finding his voice as a writer and finding a way to sell his own books.  He gets to the Algonquin before any of the Round Table members arrive for lunch and loiters about "suspiciously."  So, is it any wonder that when a dead man is found stabbed to the heart with a fountain pen and lying under the famous table that Detective O'Rannigan immediately fastens on the "suspicious" Southerner?

But Dorothy has been introduced to Faulkner while they are waiting for the police to sort things out in the restaurant and he appeals to whatever motherly instinct she might have.  "You just wanted to protect him." And she, with the help of Robert Benchley and other members of the Circle, sets out to do just that.  They will have to defy a legendary mob boss and liquor-supplier to all the speakeasies (and policemen's balls) in town, elude a vicious contract killer, and finish with a mad-dash through the inner-workings of newspaper printing room before running the villain to earth.

This book was a little more action-packed and descriptive in comparison to the Baxt novel.  Baxt focused more on the wit and humor and gave the mystery and description of 1920s New York a very light touch.  Murphy has obviously done his research and you get the feel of Tony Soma's speakeasy as well as the newspaper business of the times.  The characters are also just a tad less cliche-ish.  But overall, I enjoyed each book equally--for different reasons.  I like the light and breezy feel of Baxt.  And I like the more authentic feel of Murphy.  Three solid stars for an enjoyable read.

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