HOLLYWOOD COWBOY DETECTIVES NOVEL
Featuring Hoot Gibson & Ken Maynard
Featuring Hoot Gibson & Ken Maynard
MYSTERY AT MOVIE RANCH
By DARRYLE PURCELL
Copyright 2014 Darryle Purcell
CHAPTER 1. GET MAYNARD TO THE MOUNTAIN
The new, burgundy 1934 Cadillac sedan pulled up to the curb in front of Rinty's Hollywood Bar two blocks south of Mascot Pictures. The driver got out, opened the back door and a large man dressed in black stepped out, smiled and fell on his face.
"Your star has arrived," driver Nick Danby said.
Veteran of the Great War, trick-riding and -roping cowboy star, idol of western fans and symbol of the all American good guy, Ken Maynard belched and tried to find his feet.
"Thanks, Nick. Let's get him to the studio house before he takes up residence on the sidewalk. The toilet is not very private here."
Mascot keeps a bungalow for out-of-town investors to stay or producers who need a place to entertain a friend or two away from home. A lot of special casting interviews take place in the studio house. Also, it becomes valuable when Mascot needs to keep a wayward star away from the press or, in this case, to sober one up.
Nick and I threw the big guy back in the sedan and we headed through the gate and, quickly, to the bungalow. We deposited Maynard in the back bedroom and locked the door, which was designed for such an occasion.
"He's all yours, Curly," Nick said as he left. "See ya in the funny papers."
That's me – Sean Woods. Everyone calls me Curly because, well, they're assholes. Sure, when I was young reporter on the Los Angeles Examiner I had a healthy head of wavy hair. But my locks are now thin enough to give many a chuckle when I'm introduced as Curly.
Maynard was my first assignment for Mascot. I had just started as the in-house press dude. That means I use my journalism experience to keep real bad news from hitting the streets and to fluff up the soc-pages with phony news concerning the studio's B-film Barrymores.
Maynard was working on "Mystery Mountain," an action-packed serial that was designed to bring the kids back into theaters 12 weeks in a row. My immediate job was to get Maynard to the "Mountain" on time and sober for filming.
I was warned that the cowboy would be a handful. Maynard had a reputation of being rambunctious at times as well as having a close relationship with the recently legalized sauce. No big deal. Since Happy Days are Here Again, many of us imbibe a bit, especially since we no longer have to worry about going blind from some unethical bootlegger's poisonous wood alcohol. As a former newspaperman, I wasn't about to judge someone for taking a drink or two now and then.
On that subject, with Maynard tucked away for the night, I went to the icebox and grabbed a cold beer. It was not quite midnight and I needed something to calm my demons so I could catch a couple of hours of sleep. We needed to be up at 6 a.m. and at the movie ranch in the Valley by 7:30.
Being a studio flack wasn't always my dream. It still isn't.
I spent a lot of years as a newspaper crime reporter in L.A. But then I made a big mistake. I wrote an accurate, balanced series of articles on a candidate for Congress who had too much discretionary money for fairness. It's amazing how pressure from slimy activists, threats of cancellation from weak advertisers, and rumors of litigation will bend the ethics of fearless watchdog publications.
The candidate was a well-heeled trial attorney with a serpentine smile who believed every child molester, thief, woman beater and drug peddler deserved a strong defense, as long as they could handle his fees.
The city editor gave me a choice of backing off, writing laudatory fluff features on the swine and planting my lips firmly on his ass or finding a new career.
If I had to write phony fluff news, I might as well get paid well for it. I told the editor where he could deposit his assignments in the future and called Nick who had mentioned his boss was looking for an in-house PR writer. I figured it was a better opportunity than staying on at the Examiner as an out-house PR writer.
I interviewed with one of Mascot's lesser moguls, Max Gorn. He had been a midlevel bootlegger with a reputation for handling the good stuff during the recent unpleasant years. He was rough around the edges, dressed like a racetrack tout and had the soul of a meat grinder. I spoke his language; we got along fine.
"We've got some expensive properties," Gorn said as he used a gun-shaped lighter to ignite a cigarette. "I'm talking stars, directors, stuntmen and dames. Some of them are actually talented. Others just have the look. Whatever they have, people pay to see their work."
Gorn was in his mid-fifties with hard-gray eyes and an enviable crop of salt-and-pepper hair. He obviously hadn't taken care of himself when he was young as his skin was rough and pitted. The bags under his eyes were a shade darker than his face. He had a scar running across his forehead above his right eye. Gorn had the essence of Hollywood success: the smell of a combination of cigarettes, booze and possibly a starlet or two.
"Some of these properties have unique interests," he said. "Your job will be to make sure their unique interests don't make it into the press. You will also write some wonderful, heart-warming, sincere articles about their good works, families and lovable personalities whether they have them or not."