They say that truth is stranger than fiction and Humphrey Bogart finds out just how true that is in George Baxt's The Humphrey Bogart Murder Case (1995). Bogie is busy preparing for his role as Sam Spade in the 1941 version of The Maltese Falcon when he and his wife Mayo Methot are landed smack in the middle of a murderous treasure hunt of their own. Starting things off, Mayo's mother's home in Portland, Oregon is ransacked, but nothing is taken. The Bogarts' house is next on the list--but this time murder is added to the burglar's crimes when their housekeeper Hannah Darrow is killed.
Meanwhile, a mysterious Italian contessa has arrived in Hollywood with her entourage--which includes her smooth-talking lover mentioned above--and suddenly the antique world and pawn shops alike are abuzz with rumors of a lost Chinese cornucopia said to be stuffed with fabulous jewels. Mayo remembers a story about her ocean-going papa, Captain Methot, bringing home such a cornucopia and she and Bogie wonder if the housewrecking killer thinks they have the prize.
The resemblance to the plot in The Maltese Falcon brings Dashiell Hammett and his acerbic lady Lillian Hellman into the chase, as well as the "Detective to the Stars," Herb Villon and his girlfriend, gossip columnist Hazel Dickson. More murders follow and it looks like everyone, from the washed-up silent film actress Karen Barrett to the greatest screen vamp of the twenties, Theda Bara, to studio mogul Samuel Goldwyn, has had his or her hands on the cornucopia at one time. There are several antique dealers interested in the missing souvenir and even Hollywood's trendiest interior decorator enters the hunt. But who wants the treasure bad enough to kill for it? Bogart slips into his Sam Spade persona and helps Villon track down the murderer....and maybe even the treasure.
As with The Dorothy Parker Murder Case this was a fun historical romp with lots of word play and quips. Parker and various other luminaries make their appearance and shine--no matter how briefly they are on stage. Baxt is adept at making the movie stars involvement in the detective business seem absolutely plausible. Light entertainment with no heavy mental lifting--but a great read for a lazy summer evening. ★★★ and a half stars.
With a date of birth of June 11, 1923, George Baxt fulfills my June category for the Birthday Month Reading Challenge.