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Spiderweb / Shooting Star by Robert Bloch

Spiderweb / Shooting Star

by Robert Bloch

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Bloch is, of course, best known as the author of “Psycho.” This double volume contains two of his earlier works from the mid-1950’s, “Shooting Star” (1958) and “Spiderweb” (1954). They are each short novels of the length typical of the 1950’s. They are both great reading.

“Shooting Star” appears first in Hard Case Crime’s two-fer volume, although it was originally the second of the two novels published. It is an easy-to-read classic detective novel taking place in Hollywood and the film industry with which Bloch would eventually become much more closely associated with as a screenwriter. It features a one-eyed amateur detective, Mark Clayburn, whose real day-to-day job consisted of being a washed-up literary agent. He’s not your usual detective and perhaps that’s what makes this novel so good and so much fun to read. Nothing much to see in his office, he explains, “No beautiful bra-breaking blonde secretary, no top-shelf rye in the bottom drawer.”

Six months earlier, a well-known cowboy actor was murdered and the killing was never solved. The narrator is asked to figure it out, including interviewing famous Hollywood stars who were in and around the trailer at the time of the murder. Of course, in pulp fiction, nothing is ever that simple and Clayburn is warned time and time again to mind his own business and stop investigating. He is beaten up quite a few times and tied up and so forth.

There is a great sense of humor evident in this novel. For instance, when Clayburn meets a Hollywood celebrity in a restaurant, she turns to him and asks, “Are you the one-eyed bastard who wants to pump me about Dick Ryan’s death?” The comedic banter by the narrator gives this novel somewhat of a light atmosphere despite the subject matter of murder.

It is also evident that this novel was written in a different era by its focus on the problems of the dreaded scourge of marijuana.

All in all, it is a pleasure to read. It is quite fun and it is involved in the Hollywood world without being too enamored of it.

"Spiderweb" is as far from your prototypical hardboiled novel as it could be. It features a washed-up has-been of a wannabe actor at the end of his rope and the wildest confidence scheme imaginable. It involves hypnosis, suggestion, sleight of hand, self-help gurus, murder, booze, and blackmail.
There are suggestions throughout the story that perhaps the narrator isn't as innocent as he appears to be. After all, he talks as if he had more than one personality and what it would be like to murder. Is he an innocent dupe or one of Bloch's psychopaths? There's a killer inside me, he says, echoing the title of another writer's most famous novel about a psychopath.

There are lines in this story about people appearing like cannibals or troglodytes. Some of the scenes are of a horrific circus midway and other nightmares. There is a richness in Bloch's prose. It is not a simple story about a con game, but something a bit more compelling and strange.

Both stories are easy to dig into and quite compelling. Hard case did a great thing in unearthing these things. ( )
  DaveWilde | Sep 22, 2017 |
This double novel features two taut stories by Robert Bloch dealing with the dark side of Hollywood. Both feature interesting first-person protagonists and Spiderweb is especially notable for its psychological study of confidence games. Better than average for the Hard Case Crime line. ( )
  Wova4 | Feb 23, 2009 |
I wouldn't exactly call this "two complete novels"--more like "two complete novellas." This way, though, we get two covers. The weakest of the HCC offerings I've read so far. Spiderweb was the better of the two, in that it was kind of freaky, and really brought out the author's inner misanthrope. Shooting Star was more amusing, and also had a real Reefer Madness vibe to it. The author referred to "reefers" as, among other things, "muggles," which any Harry Potter reader would find funny. I'm sure Ms. Rowling had no idea, but it puts a new spin on what makes a person magic...(Make that any Harry Potter reader with a sense of humor.)

I should probably mention that the author, Robert Bloch, is the guy who wrote Psycho, which is easy to see from the Spiderweb side of things. ( )
1 vote hairball | Jul 25, 2008 |
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My private eye was a little bloodshot this morning. [Shooting Star]
The door was of blonde wood, highly waxed. [Spiderweb]
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This is an tete-bech work containing two novellas. It should not be combined with the individual works.
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Contains two complete novels in one volume that finds a one-eyed detective and a blackmailer trapped in a web of murder and deception when they enter the dark underbelly of Hollywood.

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