Murder at Eastern Columbia
Christopher Geoffrey McPherson
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James Murray is a young man with a dream -- he wants to be a writer just like his idol, Dashiell Hammett -- but there's a Depression on, and he's the only one in his family with a job. Even though it's a good job -- clerking in the Junior Boy's department at the swankest new department store in downtown Los Angeles: Eastern Columbia, Broadway at Ninth -- it's not writing.
At the end of one typical day at work, there's a scream. James rushes toward the sound and finds his best friend -- co-worker Elizabeth "Bess" Flowers -- apparently shot and lying dead in the Better Furniture department. He finds a note in her purse telling her to be in front of the Orpheum Theater at 5:30 "or else." He looks at his watch: it's nearly that time now. Was she shot by a person she refused to meet? Or by someone who wanted to make sure she didn't make the meeting?
James decides to keep the date in front of the theater where, with the help of his good friend, screen-star Charles "Buddy" Rogers, he begins a whirlwind ride through the crepuscular depths of downtown Los Angeles, trying to solve Elizabeth's murder.
"Murder at Eastern Columbia" is not like any book you've ever read: Not a single novel, it's two parallel novels, featuring two heroes, working two murders in two different versions of 1930s Los Angeles.
Join James and his alter ego as they each try to solve the murder of the girl with sorrel-colored hair. His hard-boiled alter ego -- neither a private detective nor a police officer: just someone "who wants to help" -- needs to find out who's trying to pin the murder on him, but finds himself in a jam: "Yeh. Strawberry preserves. All the way up to my neck." Two men in two stories work their way through downtown Los Angeles following clews, interviewing people who might know something, going from location to location, with one goal in mind: find out who might have wanted the girl dead.
Along the way they meet a rich cast of characters including the notorious gangster, a gorgeous raven-haired dame, the beautiful young boy whose love is his undoing, a young doctor whose specialty is cancer research, the cleaning lady with a secret addiction, the struggling piano player who just wants to keep his nose clean, the gum-popping pawn-shop clerk and the sultry Chinese apartment manager who tries to hide behind the mysteries of the Orient.
"Murder at Eastern Columbia" is filled with twists, turns and a climactic scene along the dizzying heights of the observation deck atop the brand new Los Angeles City Hall.
Come along for the ride in this James Murray mystery: the story of a young guy, a kid really, who dreams of something better.