Love Has Nothing To Do With It: The Hollywood Murder Mysteries By Peter S. Fischer

Love is often considered subjective. There are many different definitions of the word. You can have a strong affection or personal tie to another individual adult or child. You can be physically attracted to a person and want to spend time with him/her. You can develop an affection based on mutual admiration or common interests. Sometimes just because of a prior or previous relationship with a person you develop a brotherly concern or fatherly concern for this person over a long period of time so if they ever get into trouble or need your help they know you will be there and find a way to smooth out the ruffles. Love is a strong word and yet a strange one but when you meet the character in this story you might create your own definitions and wonder just why one publicist for Warner Brothers had this close personal attachment to his ex-wife who not only cheated on him but was an alcoholic and yet when in trouble and accused of murder he risks it all to prove her innocence.



Joe Bernardi is a smart guy with a sarcastic sense of humor and a straightforward way of getting the job done. The time period for this novel is 1949 and the place is Hollywood. You meet Joe and hear his voice from page one as he introduces the reader to some of my mom’s favorite movie stars and you get an up close and personal interview with James Cagney, Edmond O’Brien, Joel McCrea and many others. The author even gives the reader the scoop on the gossip about Gary Grant, Betty Davis and Elizabeth Taylor. Joe is a great character with a strong work ethic whose role at Warner Brothers is to arrange things for the actors being filmed when needed. Meeting and introducing the reader to Cagney you understand his need to be treated like anyone else, the flash and flare of the camera he would not allow and certain things that he wanted in place Joe did. But, our story takes off in many different directions as we meet Tyler Banks who gets under Joe’s skin whenever they meet. Tyler and Joe’s ex-wife had a relationship that went sour. Lydia a smart and vibrant woman was naïve believing Tyler when he professed his love for her and promised he would divorce his wife so they could be together. When the harsh reality finally set in she was distraught and like some women she resorted to slacking off on her job, getting drunk and losing more than just her dignity. When the police greets Joe one morning in his office he wonders why they sought him out until he learns that just after his close encounter with Tyler the man was found in his office by non other than Lydia who runs out when she sees him lying on the floor. But, Joe is involved with a reporter named Bunny and his past relationship with Lydia worries Bunny as he runs in so many directions trying to help Lydia. When he finds out her location and realizes where she is he listens to her story which confirms that she was the last person to see Tyler alive except of course for the killer. Listening to Lydia’s story you hear the words coming from a woman who seems desperate to be needed, falls back on liquor when thinks get tough and who fell into a bottomless pit or trap when she agreed to be part of Tyler’s life. Asking her to deliver a special manila envelop to his office after treating her like a low life hooker, Lydia answers his beckon call only to be charged with his murder. Arriving the office, delivering the envelop and leaving she turns around to return only to hear a shot and then runs as far as she can, gets into a cab and finds her way to a motel and then to Father Brian. Just who killed Tyler still remains to be revealed as the layers of intrigue begin to wear away and the face of the killer is revealed on the screen for all to see. Why would she marry a man like Banks and why would she run back? Using Lydia for his own purposes when they suited him calling her out of the blue to bring the envelope should have sent off some red flags. Tyler was an agent who represented unknowns and very crude man. As Mick Clausen the bail bondsman comes to get Lydia out plans are made for how to proceed and who would handle her case.

Reading this great novel you begin hear the voices of the characters and it’s almost like watching an old time movie reel with different coming attractions in black and white showing the events that screenwriters and movie producers want viewers to see to get them to come and see the film. The language and the voice reminded me of a character my dad loved Mickey Spillane. Listening to Joe speak and hearing his inner thoughts and working with Cagney not only brings his amazing actor back to life but the entire era.

Enter Jack Pepper and Amanda Banks the not so grieving widow. What their link is to each other is quite simple as you can guess what he wants was the business and if Amanda came with the package so be it. Did they bump off Tyler? As Joe and Mick discuss the case an attorney is brought in and the charges against her are quite substantial. Why would Amanda want to meet with Joe and what part does her father play in this plot as we meet Sean Flaherty a wealthy man who seems to be calling more than his own shots and who benefits along with Amanda in the insurance money from Tyler’s death. Bringing in Tom Hickey one of Tyler’s clients does not endear him to this man when placing him right up there on the suspect list. Just who wanted Tyler out of the way? Getting to know him briefly at the start of the novel would not make him your favorite person in the world.

More pieces are added to this maze of events as Bunny disappears and does not want to be found and pressure is put on regarding Sean Flaherty  Amanda’s father by Jack Warner and the police are read to go full speed ahead with the trial. Added in we learn more about Jimmy Cagney a cartoon and how he wants to auction the cartoon off at the kid’s game in order to the a travel fund. Allowing the reader to get to know this great legend and adding in two great gossip columnists Hedda Hopper and Louella Parsons. Just imagine reading your name in their columns wouldn’t that be great?

A baseball game that proves interesting and a police office that threatens him. Carla Bracco what does she know about the murder that causes her father Anthony to threaten Joe? Why does everyone coming after him as he assess his life for the reader beginning with Tyler being shot, Lydia facing murder charges, Amanda Banks and Jake Pepper plus Stan Schick the bodyguard who does not hesitate to throw punch. Added in we learn about Amanda’s mother and the abuse she took at the hand of her husband and the same abuse and strong- arming that Amanda took and still takes from her father. Alzheimer’s is sad as we meet her mother who is in a facility and realize she lives in a world of her own.

 The players are gathered as if they are the actors on the screen and the final curtain is about to be lifted on the killer and motive for murder is in the envelope. If you would please open the envelope as if this were the Academy Awards you will find the names of all of the suspects as if they were nominated for an Oscar: Amanda Banks, Stan Schick, Jake Pepper, Sean Flaherty, Anthony Bracco, and Tom Hickey: the killer is………… that cannot be revealed as the enveloped  with the killer’s has been permanently sealed and cannot be opened.  To find out you will have to read the book and learn the hidden truth that has been kept secret for quite sometime.   The author brings right into your bedroom, living room, study or wherever you are reading this book the Golden Age of Hollywood and the actors that filled the wide screen and made viewers run to the movies. The films back then were definitely great and the actors superb. So, take the journey back to 1949 and meet Joe Bernardi and find out what happens when one publicist takes matters into his own hands the end result will surprise you. With the help of a great detective, a bail bondsman and so really great friends working against the clock to free his ex-wife. This reader and reviewer is ready for 1950 and Joe’s next mystery. Remember Cagney in White Heat and remember that this great author wrote one of my favorite series Murder She Wrote. Now the Hollywood Murder Mysteries just might make a great Hallmark series.

Fran Lewis: reviewer

Let’s give this book: The envelope please: FIVE GOLDEN OSCARS