Michael P. Naughton
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Buy *Deathryde: Rebel Without a Corpse* by Michael P. Naughtononline

Deathryde: Rebel Without a Corpse
Michael P. Naughton
Gilded Hearse Press
183 pages
May 2008
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Micahel Naughton is a screenwriter, and that is plain to see in his first book, Deathryde. The events are set in Hollywood, and the book is full of references to movies, even scenes where a certain movie plays a part. The scenes are short and switch quickly from one quirky character to the next, some of whom are not what they seem at first glance. One group of characters is planning a big heist: liberating 25 million dollars worth of cash and diamonds from their hiding place since 1975.

Bishop and King run an undertaker's office, but they are actually a couple of swindlers hoping to get their next big caper so that they can retire from the undertaking business. King has also a phobia about freeways and tries his best to stay off them. Coffin Joe is a slow-seeming man who drives tourists to visit the graves of dead movie celebrities, and he is the driver for the big heist that's being planned.

The Smothers brothers, Joe and Vic, are the other workhorses for the gig. They aslo run an undertaker's business, but they aren't doing even as well as Bishop and King: they have been investigated by the authorities and are currently in the Funeral Rule Offenders Program. Regardless, they are more interested in getting a big pay-off from the heist than trying to play fair with the authorities. The brains of the operation is the son of the man who hid the loot: James DeRossa, also known as James Dean and (he thinks) the coolest man alive.

On the other side of the legal fence is detective Hank Hellion Gladwin (alias the G-man), who is convinced that something big is going on with the local undertakers. He's also concerned about the condition of his heart, which seems to be failing according to all the diagnoses he can dig up on the Internet. His Korean partner, agent David Kim, doesn't fully trust his obsessive partner and dreams of being a hero just like Yun-Fat Chow. They get a little help from detective Mike Maple, one of the officers who investigated the original heist and still hasn't given up on it. He carries with him the ashes of his old partner, Stan Glen.

There's also a trio of real old-time gangsters - the Krenshaw crew - who also want to get their hands on the loot. Unfortunately for King and Bishop, this crew has chosen the duo as their way in.

Deathryde is funny and fast-paced and hits some surprising twists - it has a similar feeling as the movie Be Cool. However, despite their quirks, the characters remain very shallow, with the point-of-view sometimes changing very abruptly and cinematically inside a scene from one character to another.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Mervi Hämäläinen, 2008

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