Play Him Again
About the Book:
It’s the Roaring Twenties but silence remains golden for Hollywood. Sound is scorned by movie moguls. It’s too expensive. Only two studios have sound equipment. Only one picture has contained limited spoken dialogue.
Matt Hudson, a rumrunner and the preferred bootlegger of the movie industry, wants to produce a talking picture. Hud’s gut tells him a talkie would rake in the dough at the box office but neither sound studio will lease him their facilities.
Hud’s oldest friend, con man Danny Kincaid, uses the talkie gold mine angle to con a transplanted Chicago gangster into buying a bogus sound device. But when the gangster gets wise, Danny ends up dead.
Now Hud has a score to settle and nothing can stop him from finding Danny’s killer. After Hud unravels a web of deception, blackmail, and murder that leads to a studio controlled by the gangster, he sets up another con to play the gangster again. A con that will either avenge Danny or get Hud killed.
Play Him Again (A Matt Hudson Novel) was a nice change of pace for me. I enjoy a good thriller, but I had never read a historical thriller before. The book is set in the roaring twenties, and the dialogue in it contains much of the flapper/gangster slang of the time, without making the book a caricature. Phrases like “hope is for spinsters and stock speculators”, “two-bit whore” and “not that you don’t look like a sweet patootie, or however a Sheik refers to his Sheba this week” along with the rich description of clothes, food, furnishings, etc. really help to pull the reader back to that bygone era.
The book is well-researched and gives histories and explanations of rumrunning, con games and talking pictures without feeling like a textbook. There are a few minor sexy scenes, but nothing particularly graphic. I enjoyed the blend of description and story-telling that runs throughout the book.
Play Him Again is an exciting adventurous read that will keep you on the edge of your seat.
I give Play Him Again four liquor hams (it’s in the book).
Interview with the Author:
TM: What sparked the idea for Play Him Again?
JS: It wasn’t one spark, but a series of them. The first came while researching a book I wrote about Babe Ruth. Ruth was a notorious drinker, and his baseball career (1914-1935) encompassed the Prohibition Era (1920-1933). I came across some anecdotes about Ruth buying liquor from bootleggers and thought a bootlegger would make an interesting protagonist for a story set in the Roaring Twenties. Researching bootleggers introduced me to one of the most dashing and adventurous figures of Prohibition – rumrunners. Rumrunners smuggled liquor from foreign distilleries into the United States along the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts facing violence from hijackers, capture by the Coast Guard, and the danger of unpredictable seas.
So I had a rumrunner/bootlegger protagonist but what to do with him? Another spark provided the answer. I’ve always been a movie lover, and a fascinating aspect of the movie industry during that time was Hollywood’s transition from silent to talking pictures. Sound didn’t burst over Hollywood like a tropical thunderstorm, it loomed over the industry like a dark cloud. Silence was golden. The movie moguls didn’t want to jeopardize their ever growing profits. They hoped sound was just another passing fad, like flag pole sitting or dance marathons, that would fade away.
I named my rumrunner Matt Hudson and made him the preferred bootlegger of the film industry. Hud wants to produce a talking picture, but in early 1928, when the story takes place, only two studios were capable of recording sound, and neither studio will lease Hud their facilities. Will Hud realize his goal, and if so, how? The answers involve the murder of Hud’s oldest friend – con man Danny Kincaid, the gangster that Danny conned, and the small motion picture studio the gangster controlled.
The story evolved in steps, and each step was preceded by a spark which led to an idea of what would happen next and why.
TM: What draws you to the mystery genre?
JS: I’ve always read predominantly in the mystery/thriller genre. At some point I lost interest in reading thrillers. The plots became too broad and the heroes numerous escapes against overwhelming odds too farfetched to hold my interest. My suspension of belief is much higher for a movie than it is for a book, so I take my thrillers on the big screen these days. I like books with logical plots, populated with believable characters who are exceptional or interesting in some way, and who speak and act in a realistic manner given the circumstances of that particular story. Of course, what is or isn’t logical, believable, or interesting is subjective for each reader.
I enjoy reading whodunits and puzzler mysteries but I’m not bright enough to think of one.
Play Him Again is not a mystery, or at least not a mystery in the classic sense. The reader learns who killed Danny in the Prologue. It’s Hud who doesn’t know. The story is how Hud uncovers Danny’s killer and what he’s going to do about it. I would classify Play Him Again as crime fiction.
TM: Of all the jobs you’ve had, other than writing, which have you enjoyed the most?
JS: One summer in high school I worked as an usher in a one screen neighborhood movie theater in Ohio. After the last show of the evening started, the ticket girl and the candy girls went home and I was there alone. The candy girls locked the candy case key in a drawer behind the counter which also contained the keys for the soda vending machine. Some enterprising previous usher had discovered that almost any General Motors door key would open the drawer to get the candy case and vending machine keys. On occasion, a group of friends would drop by and walk across the stage during the movie. If they’d been drinking, one of them might stop and moo at the audience. It was juvenile and idiotic, but hilarious at the time. That was a fun job. It paid $14.50 a week and all the candy you could eat. It was also very spooky. The light switches were inside the theater, and after turning them all off, I had to walk through the theater and the lobby in the pitch dark.
TM: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
JS: I think of myself as an aspiring writer, so I’m more inclined to seek advice than to offer it, but I’d be happy to share some things I’ve learned. Write the type of book you’d like to read. Don’t choose a genre because it’s trendy. Don’t try and guess what readers want. Write about something you’re knowledgeable about or would enjoy researching. Read your dialogue aloud to hear how it sounds. Don’t cut corners. If something feels the least bit off to you, take the time to fix it to your liking.
Play Him Again is self-published. I spent a year querying agents trying to get traditionally published. There was nothing positive about that experience. The feedback I got was minimal and not helpful. It was a wasted year. I could have spent that time marketing my book and building my reviews. The stigma of self-publishing is gone. Readers realize that indie authors can write good books and that’s really all readers want – a good book to read. They don’t care who published it. Write the best book you can. Edit it until you’re sick of it, then edit it again. Publish it on Amazon.
Forget about Amanda Hocking, John Locke, and J A Konrath. They are the superstars of indie authors. The rest of us have to build our audience on our own. It takes time and work and it’s not fun. Don’t ever give up your dream.
TM: What’s next for Hud?
JS: There will be more murders for Hud to solve, and his methods will most likely require him to commit a few crimes along the way. The movie business will be part of the stories.
I was given a complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of review. All opinions are 100% my own.