"The Real Celebrities," by Michael Mallory. Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. July/August 2011.
Okay, now i'm in trouble. Last week I lamented that for a second time in a row the best story I read was by a friend of mine. Now we make it three. In my own defense I don't think I have had any contact with Michael Mallory since we used to appear regularly in Margo Power's Murderous Intent Mystery Magazine back in the nineties.
Back then I seem to recall Michael writing mostly Sherlock Holmes pastiches and nonfiction about Hollywood. Now he has done a mash-up of sorts: fiction about Hollywood. How's this for an opening?
Since Marilyn Monroe hardly ever gave me the time of day, her sidling up to me meant that she wanted something. As a rule, Marilyn remained within her own little world, acting as though the rest of us didn't exist...
Okay, he's got my attention. Is this a historic tale about the real Marilyn? A fantasy story? Perhaps an insane asylum?
None of the above. The characters are impersonators who pose for tips outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre. The narrator dresses as Wolverine and is known as Hugh Jackman.
There are billions of little worlds floating around us and I love the stories that open the doors and let us take a peek inside one. Listen to "Jackman" explaining the service he and his friends provide: "For tourists, those of us on the boulevard are the real celebrities, the ones you can speak to and pose for pictures with. Those other ones, the figures you see on movie and television screens, they're nothing but illusions."
When one of them is murdered our hero feels obliged to try to figure out what happened. The plot won't have anyone puzzled, but you'll enjoy it, and the writing is just the sort of bitter sarcasm you expect from a tale of glitter-land's underclass.
"I'm an asshole' [he] said, by way of greeting.
"You're in the right town for it."