Gregg Hurwitz

"The Crime Writer"

(Reviewed by Eleanor Bukowsky JUN 30, 2008)

"This is like one of your books. Except worse."

The Crimer Writer by John Hurwitz

Thirty-eight year old Andrew Danner, who lives in Los Angeles, has written five books featuring fictional hero Derek Chainer, of LAPD's Homicide Special. One of Drew's novels was made into a terrible movie that few bothered to see. The crime writer learns that real life is stranger than fiction when he wakes up in a hospital in excruciating pain. A belligerent cop, who has been keeping a grim vigil at his bedside, shows Drew an eight by ten crime scene photo of Drew's ex-fiancée, Genevieve Bertrand. She died from a knife wound to her abdomen. Danner asks groggily, "Who did that to her?" The detective replies, "You did." The police arrest Danner and accuse him of murdering his former girlfriend in a rage after she broke up with him and started seeing someone else. Drew has no memory of having committed the crime.

Four months later, Andrew Danner is a diminished and humbled man. He has survived emergency surgery to remove a benign brain tumor, and his lawyers have gotten him off using a temporary insanity defense. However, the not-guilty verdict doesn't prevent Drew from being hissed at in public by people who believe that he got away with slaughtering a defenseless woman. Could he have carried out this vile act in the throes of a seizure brought on by his brain tumor? Admittedly, Drew did have motive, means, and opportunity, but he refuses to believe that he is capable of murder. If he is indeed innocent, then the real perp is setting him up. Therefore, Drew decides to do what any self-respecting protagonist would do--solve the crime himself. Unfortunately, his situation worsens considerably when another dead woman turns up; the police believe that Danner has claimed his second victim.

So far, this seems to be a cookie-cutter thriller, but Hurwitz has something else in mind: a diverting parody of the kinds of potboilers that Danner routinely produces. With tongue firmly in cheek, Hurwitz puts his hero through his paces: trying to recreate the night of Genevieve's death in his mind, enlisting the aid of his friends to look into the case, and even endangering his life to find the truth.

Hurwitz populates The Crime Writer with a lively cast of characters. Drew is a recovering alcoholic who perversely buys expensive liquor and then pours it down the sink. He is smart and savvy, but nothing in his experience has prepared him for this grueling ordeal. Hardboiled detectives Bill Kaden and Ed Delveckio have Drew firmly in their sights and they are determined to nail him. Lloyd Wagner, a criminalist (CSI), has served as Drew's consultant in the past, and Drew takes advantage of Lloyd's considerable expertise to process and interpret evidence. The most amusing character is Drew's best friend, Chic Bales, an African-American who is "Philly born and East Coast loyal." Chic is a smart-mouth who teases Drew unmercifully, but he has many resources (some legal, most not) that prove invaluable to the beleaguered Tanner.

What would a crime novel be without the obligatory romantic interest? Caroline Raine is a clinical therapist with deep facial scars who is tough-talking but vulnerable. Although Drew is instantly attracted to Caroline, he may have difficulty puncturing the thick emotional armor that she has erected as a form of self-protection. Finally, there is a fast-talking teenager, Junior Delgado, a fourteen-year-old graffiti artist and eyewitness to the second crime. Delgado is hilarious; he is as quick with a clever quip as he is adept with a spray can or a picklock.

As the plot thickens, Drew does everything that his fictional hero would do, only with considerably less élan. He is threatened, beaten up, cut with a knife, hauled into the station repeatedly by the cops, and humiliated in public. Danner quickly realizes that depicting a character in a crime story is a great deal easier that BEING a character in a crime story. The Crime Writer is an immensely entertaining and original novel with snappy dialogue, an appropriately convoluted and far-out ending, and an appealing first-person narrator whom readers will root for as he sinks deeper and deeper into the quicksand.
  • Amazon readers rating: from 16 reviews

Read a chapter excerpt from The Crime Writer at the author's website

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About the Author:

Gregg HurwitzGregg Hurwitz grew up in the San Francisco Bay area. While completing a BA from Harvard in 1995 and a Master's in Shakespearean tragedy from Trinity College, Oxford in 1996, he wrote his first novel, The Tower, a psychological thriller set in and around San Francisco.

Hurwitz writes for TV and films, and has published many highly thought of articles on Shakespeare and his work.

He lives in Los Angeles, California with his wife (who is Robert Blake's daughter). About Us | Subscribe | Review Team | History | ©1998-2014