Dwight Kemper – Who Framed Boris Karloff? You find out in this sweet number when Boris, Bela Lugosi, and Basil Rathbone all pitch in to solve the murder for which Karloff has been framed. It’s fun to see the screen’s major villains of the golden age playing the good guys and acting human (sometimes a little egotistical, sometimes a little chicken). There’s also plenty of Hollywood backlot action and scandal. The mystery works, there’s just the right touch of humor, and the characters have a lot of charm. While looking for his web site, I discovered information on a few more books by this interesting author. Click here to check out the other books and his acting career. The second of Kemper’s novels that I’ve read is The Vampire’s Tomb, in which the names (of some) have been changed to protect, not the innocent, but the author and the publisher from a law suit (“A Word from the Author”). This novel is racier and funkier than Who Framed Boris Karloff. It’s a lot of fun, but the tone is much darker and off-color. The mystery swirls around the death of a famous Hollywood actor, Armand Tesla (if you know who played this role in Return of the Vampire, you’ll know who he really is––especially since most of the other characters retain their real names). Intertwined with Armand’s mysterious death are the exploits of exploitation filmmaker Ed Wood and his cast of characters, horror maven Forrest Ackerman and his sidekick sf writer Ray Bradbury, Mae West (honest!), and a conspiracy involving mind-control and a game of musical coffins. Fox Mulder would love this one! Some plot twists you might unravel, but not all of them, or at least not right away. Kemper does manage to pull it all together to keep you reading. I’m just left wondering how fictionalized and how real some of the characterizations of “actual” people are.
Cover painting © 2007 Frank Deitz, Midnight Marquee Press