John's Reviews > We'll Always Have Murder: A Humphrey Bogart Mystery

We'll Always Have Murder by Bill Crider
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it was amazing
Read 2 times. Last read December 9, 2017.

Terry Scott is a private eye working in Hollywood for Warner Bros., under the direct instruction of Jack Warner himself; his job is to smooth things over, by fair means or occasionally foul, whenever one of the Warners stars gets into difficulties. The star this time is Humphrey Bogart and the difficulty is that someone is trying to blackmail him. The someone is Frank Burleson, who's Terry's equivalent at the Poverty Row studio Superior; Superior's modus operandi is to make movies in imitation of the major studios' smash hits, but just different enough to avoid copyright suits. Burleson has something on Bogie's divorced first wife, the alcoholic Mayo Methot, of whom the actor is still dutifully protective even though he's by now happily married to Betty Bacall.

Bogie gave Burleson forthright instructions as to what he could do with himself, physiology permitting, but Warner is still keen to make sure a minor incident doesn't become a major embarrassment.

Trouble is, the next thing that happens is that Terry and Bogie find Burleson murdered, with Bogie's gun lying beside the corpse . . .

Crider, whose work I've managed never to read before (a piece of idiocy on my part, I now find), has himself an absolute ball with this situation. Bogie of course insists on tagging along with Terry in the investigation on the (genuine) pretext that he can open doors that'd be slammed in Terry's face; in practice, the actor quite often takes the lead in the detection as they encounter genuine Hollywood characters, like Peter Lorre and of course Warner and Mayo (Bacall is out of town), and fictional ones. In the instance of the fictional characters I initially looked for roman a clef overtones but soon realized I'd enjoy myself more if I ignored this.

And enjoying myself was precisely what I was doing. A lot. Crider seems to have caught Bogie's mannerisms and "voice" just right -- or, at the very least, he's created him on the page so plausibly that I for one am perfectly prepared to believe this is the real Bogie. But the author has cleverly gone further than this: sometimes the character before us is the actor Humphrey Bogart, moving around and interacting within his professional environment, Hollywood, but other times, quite openly and deliberately, the actor slips into the persona of someone he might play in one of his own movies. The resulting transitions of behavior are tremendous fun to follow . . . although one suspects Terry doesn't find them so much of an entertainment as we do.

I laughed aloud fairly often, but We'll Always Have Murder is more than just a humorous novel. In the same way that the best of Terry Pratchett's novels are good solid fantasies behind all the laughter, We'll Always Have Murder also offers us a good solid mystery, one that our two mismatched detectives solve using clues that were fairly presented to us.

As I say, before I read this novel I was a Crider virgin, so to speak. I'm now kicking myself for this decades-long oversight. There are many more novels by this prolific author to be explored, and believe you me I'll be laying my febrile hands on them as soon as I can.
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Reading Progress

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December 9, 2017 – Finished Reading
December 13, 2017 – Shelved

Comments Showing 1-9 of 9 (9 new)

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message 1: by Tracyk (new)

Tracyk Glad you liked this book, now I am determined to read it. The only reason I have not read it before is that my copy has the tiniest print I have ever seen and I have not found another edition. In an interview, Bill Crider described this as "one of my better books."


John Tracyk wrote: "Glad you liked this book, now I am determined to read it. The only reason I have not read it before is that my copy has the tiniest print I have ever seen and I have not found another edition. In a..."

For some reason, it's available to read as an ebook from the Internet Archive, presumably with Crider's permission: https://archive.org/details/wellalway... I see there's a waitlist. The obvious advantage of the ebook is that you can increase the typesize at will! (My own eyesight is these days lousy, so I much approve of ebooks in such instances, oh yes!)


message 3: by Tracyk (new)

Tracyk thanks for that info, John. I will try first to read my copy, if it is impossible, I will look into the Internet archive.


message 4: by Shelli (new)

Shelli Wait. There is a murder mystery series starring Humphrey Bogart??


John Shelli wrote: "Wait. There is a murder mystery series starring Humphrey Bogart??"

No. This was intended as the first volume of one, but then the publisher folded and (I gather) Crider couldn't get the rights in this title back. It's always hard to sell "orphaned" series to publishers, but I'm surprised that in this instance no one picked the series up, even if they would have had to start it with #2.


message 6: by Shelli (last edited Dec 15, 2017 12:02PM) (new)

Shelli Okay, but my rephrased (and now rhetorical) question still comes from a place of incredulity and wonder: There is even one murder mystery starring Humphrey Bogart? Granted, this is not my usual genre, but I never imagined this kind of thing was… well, a thing. I mean, sure, I've seen The Spice Girls, Michael Jordan, and all manner of random and sundry celebrities turn up in superhero comics to help save the day in utterly contrived ways (read: strategically-timed crossover marketing promotions!), and Mark Twain certainly does seem to appear in every time travel story ever written, but this just seems totally next-level. I am both fascinated and flummoxed. Does this sort of thing happen a lot, or did Bogie just really sell his performance in "The Maltese Falcon"?


John Shelli wrote: "Okay, but my rephrased (and now rhetorical) question still comes from a place of incredulity and wonder: There is even one murder mystery starring Humphrey Bogart? Granted, this is not my usual gen..."

Ah! No, this wasn't a franchise. Crider just used Bogie as a fictionalized historical character the same way that, for example, Laura Joh Rowland has used Charlotte Bronte in a series of detective novels.


message 8: by Shelli (new)

Shelli Charlotte Brontë in detective novels? This is what I meant by "Does this sort of thing happen a lot?" – not that it was just one franchise, but that this was the sort of thing detective novelists regularly do, which, they apparently do! I'm afraid I've never read detective novels aside from a few Spenser For Hires a million years ago, and a couple of the "Richard Castle" Nikki Heat books, because when your hubby buys you a book he's just sure you'd love, you politely read it. I don't remember any of the plots.

I probably would have remembered Humphrey Bogart or Charlotte Brontë though.


John Shelli wrote: "the sort of thing detective novelists regularly do, which, they apparently do!."

Quite a lot, in fact. The Bronte example was just the first that sprang to my mind since I read the first of that series a few weeks ago.


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