Scarlet Starlet by Doug Warren. Ace Books (1959), 129 pp.
Free-lance photographer Bret Karns is covering the premiere of a movie produced by Sam Kelvin, who with the help of Lloyd Baldwin runs a small studio near Chatsworth. The film stars Kelvin’s alcoholic wife, Deborah Stark. Karns asks his girlfriend, Rickie, to handle the after-show party so he can respond to a call from Lisle Lambert, a former flame of his and Kelvin’s. He arrives at her apartment to find her dead. Unfriendly LAPD officers Ryan and Vinelli soon pick him up for the murder. He escapes and with information provided by wacky starlet Holly Hock heads to Kelvin’s studio to begin his search for the true killer.
Readers may get the impression that the author is making up the story as he’s writing it. Improbable events keep occurring. Karns is locked up overnight at the studio. He discovers documents incriminating a mobster, who then tries to blackmail him using a sexy French actress. He shames his girlfriend because she wants to have sex with him. He’s locked up at the studio again. The murder, meanwhile, fades from view and returns only when all the characters gather at the end of the book. The author seems to know quite a bit about photography, a little about Hollywood and (with the exception of a steady focus on the protagonist) almost nothing about writing a novel. Readers can safely skip the book. The cover illustration, incidentally, has nothing to do with anything that happens in the story.