Blondie Street Publishing

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By Keith Edward Vaughn

IR Rating:
A smart, sharp, entertaining, and exhilarating debut that tells a darkly humorous noir story exploring the seedy underbelly behind the glitz and glamour of modern-day Los Angeles, THE LONELIEST PLACES by Keith Edward Vaughn is an impressive novel, even more so because it is the author's first.
IR Approved
As a favor to his drug dealer, a failed screenwriter—now failing as a private investigator—searches for a missing man.

Ellis Dunaway is a failed screenwriter who took over his father’s private investigation agency only to watch it slowly fall apart. He has no friends, no money, and no prospects. Instead, Ellis has a crippling drug addiction, a single client, and his late father’s old Porsche. When his drug dealer asks Ellis to check on his missing associate, he reluctantly agrees. It turns out that the case is far darker, stranger, and more dangerous than expected. But by then, Ellis’s life may already be in danger.

There’s a lengthy history of authors and screenwriters skewering the greed and cruelty of Hollywood: an entire industry devoted to fame and fortune that brutally exploits and discards people. In THE LONELIEST PLACES, author Keith Edward Vaughn proudly continues this tradition, exposing the rotten heart of the American Dream. Throughout his novel, you can sense the influence of old noir masters (Raymond Chandler comes to mind) and classic movies, such as The Long Goodbye (based on one of Chandler’s novels). Vaughn’s flawed protagonist is both a part of this world and outside it. Ellis deals with everyone from wealthy aging widows and powerful producers to drug dealers and destitute drunks. There’s a palpable sense of sweaty desperation as people jockey to increase and maintain whatever prestige and power they can get.

The book might sound like a dour read, but Vaughn writes his novel with verve and wit. As his protagonist drunkenly stumbles from one witness to the next, the author uses their crassness and shallowness to great comedic effect. After a TV producer explains to Ellis how everyone on his set is one big family, there is this hilarious exchange:

“This is David⁠—”
“It’s Dan,” said the man.
“Of course. He’s our on-set dresser,” Kent said to Ellis. To Dan, he said, “Don’t sweat it. We’ll fix it in post. Say, how did your son do on his math test?”
“I have a daughter. She’s two.”

This novel pulses with energy and never grows dull and immerses the reader into its world with vivid sights, sounds, and smells. There are cheesy TV shows, annoying ads, endless rock classics on the radio, and an apocalyptic wildfire raging outside the city. If you read a single book this year, it should be this one. And readers should keep their eyes peeled for whatever Vaughan publishes next.

A smart, sharp, entertaining, and exhilarating debut that tells a darkly humorous noir story about the seedy underbelly of glamorous modern-day Los Angeles, THE LONELIEST PLACES by Keith Edward Vaughn is an impressive novel—even more so because it is the author’s first.

~Danijel Štriga for IndieReader

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