Hammer screen writer Jimmy Sangster died August 19th at age 83. Born in Kinmel Bay, North Wales, in 1927, he began working in the film industry at the age of 16. He was working as a production manager at Hammer Films when he wrote his first film script, X The Unknown (1956), for which he received £200. His other films included The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), Dracula (1958), The Mummy (1959), The Siege of Sidney Street (1960), The Scream of Fear (1963) and Paranoiac (1963).
In the 1970s, Sangster began writing for American television, including episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man, McCloud, Ironside, Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Wonder Woman.
My favorite Sangster books, however, were a trio appearing in the late ‘80s. Snowball, Blackball, and Hardball featured Jimmy Reed, a former Scotland Yard copper now an aspiring screenwriter living in Southern California. The books were fast paced mysteries crossing British sensibilities with traditional hardboiled tropes.
Sex, drugs, and Hollywood provide the sizzle in this exciting mystery marking the debut of the engaging new sleuth James Reed, a former Scotland Yard investigator now living in Southern California who combines the best qualities of cool British understatement and traditional hardboiled action.
Reed, an aspiring writer, has long since grown accustomed to the nonchalant hedonism of the Southern California film world. From the seductive comfort of his Malibu beach house – a generous gift from his ex-wife, screen superstar Katherine Long – Reed half-heartedly struggles to sell his scripts. But his discovery of a body on the beach signals an ominous turn of events that draws his away from his typewriter and his beachcomber lifestyle back into the detective work he was forced to abandon years ago.
Reed is soon enmeshed in an old family obligation fraught with lethal consequences. The problem is Caroline, Katherine’s sexy, spoiled daughter and Reed’s former stepdaughter. Drugs are the issue, and from astonishing information supplied by Katherine’s new husband-to-be, the secretive financier Peter Manheim, Reed discovers that Caroline’s involvement is much deeper than anyone suspected.
Reed’s clever investigation soon uncovers an elaborate cocaine network in the movie industry with sinister Mob connections. Another kinky complication is Caroline’s ambidextrous boyfriend, a sleazy character whose sexual peccadilloes create havoc.
As Reed pursues his assignment through the glittering circles of Beverly Hills and Hollywood and witnesses needless tragedy, he realizes he is a mere pawn in a thoroughly contemptible game. Through an astonishing act of vengeance, Reed brilliantly strikes back against his manipulative enemies.
Evoking the glitzy amorality and ruthlessness of Tinseltown’s fast track, Snowball is a gripping and sophisticated tale of intrigue and murder.
Whew! Even reading the jacket copy dates this book and it’s plot, but the Sangster’s writing is crisp and moves the story along by making Reed an exceptionally likeable character.