- Mass Market Paperback
- Publisher: Bantam Books (Mm); Reissue edition (Aug. 1990)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0553185209
- ISBN-13: 978-0553185201
- Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 10.4 x 1 cm
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,111,820 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Man Who Died Laughing Mass Market Paperback – Aug 1990
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
OK, everybody sing:
o/~ Knight and Day, You are The One ... o/~
Like Martin & Lewis, Knight & Day had The Big BreakUp. The Why of it is at the center of the mystery. Hoagy's sidekick is his Basset Hound, Lulu. This reviewer's Basset, LucyIndaSky, wishes Lulu would have had a bigger role. This reviewer wishes this book would have moved along better. (o/~ "Get along. Little Doggies!" o/~)
No one dies until page 123 out of 184. This would not work for dear Jessica Fletcher, who manages to have a dead body by the 1st commercial in every Murder, She Wrote, and it doesn't work well here either.
The book meanders from Coast to Coast - New York to LA and back and forth. It is an exercise in Celebrity Name Dropping, including the real Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. Dino even comes to the funeral, when Handler finally gets around to giving us a funeral to go to.
Reviewed by TundraVision, Amazon Reviewer
Day has a lot in common with the Hoag: no one is interested in him anymore, no one offers him any roles, and Day almost lost contact with his family, and the only thing that's left of his past is money. Hoag has to write the biography of the comic and uncover his main secret: why Sonny had once quarreled with his colleague and friend Knight in the late fifties, so much so that Day and Knight have since could not stand each other.
Not every day you have a chance to read books with a ghostwriter as the main character, and Hoagy (as he asks to be called) is a nice addition to the collection of cops, private investigators and other characters with detective abilities and needs. But the murder will happen closer to the finale, and before that we have a chance to enjoy clever dialogues (take into account that part of the book consists of transcribed interviews by Hoagy with Day, and those who knew him) and the fictional life of the former movie star. Handler with great success recreates the life path of a fictional movie comic star, and one can hardly believe that Sonny Day is not a real historical figure, but figment of the imagination of Handler. But when the murder happenes, mystery lovers will not be disappointed.
The Man Who Died Laughing is Handler's debut novel and the first book about Stewart Hoag. More please.
Handler's Stewart Hoag is a fallen literary "star" turned reluctant ghost writer, and ,eventually, amateur detective. In this debut of the series set in the 1980s, Hoagy and his neurotic basset hound, Lulu, leave their New York City home base to begin his first ghost assignment in sunny Los Angeles. And, of course, become embroiled in a mystery. (No spoilers here :-)) Through out the series, Handler introduces characters clearly patterned after past entertainment icons. From the Martin and Lewis types of this story to Bela Lugosi to Jack Kerovac, each of the novels interweaves factual details of their era into the fiction.
The extremely likeable, intelligent and slightly sardonic hero combined with 1980's setting in all of its flamboyance and excess, reminds me strongly of great classic detective novels like the Thin Man with a touch of Lillian Jackson Braun thrown in. This becomes even more noticeable in later books.
Handler went on to create another popular series featuring Berger and Mitry but it is the Hoagy and Lulu series that holds a special place on my list.
Stewart Hoag (call him "Hoagy" for the cheese steak) is a one-hit wonder in the world of publishing. He just can't seem to get a second novel written, but he's going to have to do something if he wants to pay the bills and provide his basset hound, Lulu, with the food she craves.
A way to pay those bills sweeps in one day in the form of Sonny Day, one half of a comedy team that was the greatest thing since sliced bread in the late 1940s through the 1950s. Sonny's career needs a shot in the arm, so he convinces Hoagy to ghostwrite his autobiography. In it, Sonny promises to reveal what made him split with his partner, straight man Gabe Knight. This division rocked Hollywood and would guarantee phenomenal book sales once the book is published.
Against his better judgment, Hoagy finds himself (and Lulu) swept up in the whirlwind of Sonny's personality and ensconced in his guest house in the California sunshine. Work is going well until odd things begin to happen. It's crystal clear to Hoagy that someone is willing to kill in order to stop the book. Hoagy doesn't want anyone to die, but he's so close to finding out Sonny's secret that he really doesn't want to stop now.
This first book in the series doesn't really read like a mystery, but I didn't particularly care. Yes, I caught the thing that Sonny let slip one day that Hoagy couldn't remember, so I wasn't surprised at the reveal. Yes, I caught Lulu's reaction at a crucial moment, which further lessened the shock value. It's almost as if Handler hadn't started out with the intention of writing a mystery. I still don't care. I enjoyed this book because Handler knows how to write characters, and he knows how to tell a story. Hoagy immediately had me on his side, and all Lulu had to do was bat her big brown eyes and she had me wrapped around her paw.
The other thing that really won me over was the way that Handler gives the reader a sense of how to ghostwrite a book. Most of The Man Who Died Laughing is parceled out through the recordings Hoagy has for each person's interviews. We learn about Hoagy-- and we learn about the subject of the interview-- through their conversation. The interviews concentrate on Sonny in the beginning, and I got a feel for Hollywood during World War II through the 1950s-- what it was like to star in hit movies and a variety show on television. I really came to care about Sonny Day-- until Hoagy began interviewing other people, and I was set back on my heels. I'd been seeing everything through Sonny's eyes, and it was enlightening to see the same things through the eyes of the other people in his life. Very, very effective, Mr. Handler! (Just reel me in and put me in a net.)