Posted 20 hours ago

The Devil's Playground

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CRAIG RUSSELL is an award-winning Scottish author whose books have been translated into twenty-five languages.

With the looming threat of the ‘talkies’, every studio needed to make their mark, to salvage what was left of the careers of the silent movie greats, and to gain a foothold in a rapidly changing movie landscape. Diversions into the bayous of Louisiana and the Nebraska prairie seemed just that, and let's to get back to Mary. Craig Russell shows us a vibrant late-'20s Los Angeles, assured in details and confident in ambiance.

It is impassive, cool; its architecture is high- cheeked and strong-jawed beneath a glitter of blue-green eyes.

She steps through the portico and doorway, into an entrance hall that is wide and white, the ceiling ribbed with Spanish arches. The dialogue is excellent and the main character, Mary O’Rourke, is a smart mouth movie studio fixer turned investigator. When someone tells you that Miss Carlton has died of heart failure—I’ll arrange for the news to be broken on-set tomorrow— make sure you look shocked.

Russell tosses in what may be red herrings, but nothing is what it seems to be amid the artifice of Hollywood.

Rourke leaves them to it while she steps into the other bedroom and talks the Brit through the fiction. Yes, this is a movie with a dark, horror themed edge, so perhaps it’s not entirely unexpected, but in a novel that, superficially at least, speaks more to Curtis Hanson’s LA Confidential or Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard, than it does William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, there is something in it that has the capacity to make the skin crawl, and certainly kept me on edge. Screen trickery that defied logic, stunts and effects so radical that they could only be done once but which helped establish the movie’s infamy.Behind the lights, the cameras and the painted facade of the movie lots, beyond the glamour and glitz of the star’s homes, and the indulgence and excess of a prohibition era speakeasy, there is a troubling and almost gothic edge that defies the essence of the world that Craig Russell has otherwise painted. She was the star of the 'cursed' The Devil's Playground, billed as the most spectacular horror movie of all time, but one which keeps getting hit by tragic mishap after mishap. I did find some of her conversations with her boss to be a little repetitive hanging the pace a bit. Forty years earlier, studio fixer Mary Rourke, known as the most connected person in Hollywood, is trying to solve the murder of Norma Carlton, the star of “The Devil’s Playground.

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