Books — Digging James Dean

Digging James Dean

By Michelle Saturley

Book offers good premise but poor execution

 

Digging James Dean by Robert Eversz, Simon & Schuster 2005, 288 pages

Have you ever watched someone kill a fly by slowly, carefully tearing off its wings?

That’s only slightly less enjoyable than reading Digging James Dean.

The problem with this mystery novel certainly doesn’t come from its concept — a tabloid photographer with a sketchy past stumbles upon an underground Hollywood cult responsible for the careers of every major star in film today — but instead, from execution. What could have been a juicy, dishy whodunit instead gets mired down in ill-formed characters and a half-baked cliché of a back-story, so by the book’s end, the reader is left with a bad case of “who cares?”

The book’s heroine, Nina Zero, is a lone wolf. We learn about her chain-smoking editor at the Scandal Times, her abusive father and estranged sister, but they are not fleshed out enough as characters, and Zero doesn’t interact with them long enough for us to feel any connection to them, and consequently to her.

The deepest relationship our plucky photographer has with anyone is with her dog, a toothless, nameless  Rottweiler. This is a funny gimmick at first but it gets old quickly. She also forms a bond with a teenage runaway midway through the book, but the girl is arrested just as things get interesting, and we never hear from her again. Zero meets the niece she never knew about (the reader can figure out who she is way before Zero herself does, unfortunately), but the girl is barely a blip on the radar by the book’s anticlimactic ending.

Author Robert Eversz does an impressive job placing us in modern-day Los Angeles. He gives us the details and lingo we need to feel like part of the Hollywood machine. But his characters are half-drawn caricatures.

Like many of the stars whose names are tossed into the mix, Digging James Dean is more style than substance.

- Michelle Saturley

 
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