Saxon returns to his hometown, Chicago, where one of his oldest pals, cop Gavin Cassidy, has died of a lethal combination of drugs and alcohol in a cheap hotel. Saxon arrives for the funeral to find his old crowd—and the old town—much changed. He also encounters rumors that Gavin’s death might not have been accidental. Had Gavin Cassidy, a career cop, finally “seen the elephant” (police parlance for becoming involved in a life-threatening situation), and been unable to extricate himself before it was too late? Saxon’s unofficial investigation into his friend’s death is hindered by the still strong Chicago police machine bosses—and by his long estranged, ex-con father.
When an acquaintance of Saxon’s, bit actor and part-time male prostitute Robbie Bingham, dies in a mysterious car explosion and the police don’t seem to care, Saxon goes into action. His investigation leads into the netherworld of dimly lit gay bars of West Hollywood and the boardrooms of a television network, and climaxes with a sudden, fiery death.
Along the way, Saxon manages to run afoul of a vindictive pimp, a pompous game show host, a cadre of venal and frightened TV executives, an ice-cold Beverly Hills homicide detective, and a movie sex goddess fighting the encroachment of the years with straight bourbon and a lover twenty years her junior. He also encounters Marvel—one of the “lost children” of Hollywood, who survives on the streets and who makes sure Saxon will never look at things quite the same way again.
Saxon is hired to find the missing wife of an aging Borscht Belt comedian. Nappy Kane is a dinosaur, telling stale jokes about women drivers. His career is on the rocks, his bank balance is dwindling—even his agent is turning his back on him. But what broke the old comic’s heart was when his wife of less than a year disappeared—along with her clothes, her jewelry, and her new car. Saxon, hired to find her, learns that Doll Kane was a mail-order bride, chosen from a selection offered to him by a rather mysterious “agency.” Following a lead provided by a Chinese-American cabaret singer, Saxon tracks down the mail-order agency in a small town in northern California. Accompanied by his adopted son, Marvel, he finds the agency, run from a massage parlor, not only suspicious but dangerous. When he uncovers a murder, Saxon has to protect himself—and Marvel. But he’s surprised to discover that though Marvel is still a teenager, when the chips are down, he’s a good man to have around.
This was a warm Sunday afternoon; Sheldon Scott, Investigations—my downtown L.A. office—was closed, and I was invited to a party. A Hawaiian party at that: luau, roast pig, the works. From behind the house somewhere I heard a happy squeal. A happy feminine squeal. Sounded like a good wild party. There was a lot of hellish yelling and whooping. At the top of six cement steps I found a buzzer on the right of the massive door, poked it as chimes went off to the tune of How Dry I Am.