Santa Maria Sun / Art
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 29
Tony Piazza explores mystery in the Golden Age of cinemaLocal author uses real events and places to inspire his newest murder mystery
BY JOE PAYNE
The early 1930s are often romanticized as the Golden Age of cinema, specifically in Hollywood. Though the bourgeoning motion picture industry ensured that the Depression didn’t hit so hard in the City of Angels, things weren’t always so golden in Hollywood.
Local author Tony Piazza—with the help of lots of research and a passionate interest in the era—has set his newest murder-mystery novel in that world. Titled A Murder Amongst Angels, the novel is a sequel to Anything Short of Murder, which follows the film noir-style detective Tom Logan.
“From when I was young, I always wanted to write books,” Piazza said. “More recently, I thought that I should write a serialized mystery story in classic Hollywood.”
One fascinating aspect of Piazza’s novel is that the murder his protagonist is trying to solve was inspired by a real case.
“This book is based on a true murder that happened,” Piazza said. “There was this actress named Thelma Todd, and they found her dead in a garage from supposed carbon monoxide poisoning. But because of the mob, there was some suspicion around that.”
While writing his novels, Piazza spent time in Los Angeles at various locations trying to soak up the feel and look of the locations. He even visited the site where Todd’s body was found.
“I always look for things that are very atmospheric and historical to throw in the story,” he said. “I am kind of immersing myself in it for the character. It’s an escape. That’s what a good book is, an escape into another place.”
Piazza’s interest in Hollywood and filmmaking comes from a career that has included stand-in and bit parts in film and television such as Towering Inferno, High Anxiety, Magnum Force, and Streets of San Francisco. He had the chance to meet and talk with many actors, including Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, and Michael Douglas, to name a few. He also has an e-book about his experiences on the set of Bullit with McQueen for sale on the Internet, with all proceeds going to The Boys Republic, a school for troubled youth.
“Because of the fact that I am interested in motion picture history, and history in general, the research isn’t such a task,” he said. “Some people don’t like research; I love it.”
His research is put to good use in his books, whether it’s knowing the exact name of a diner on the Sunset Strip during the 1930s or understanding how the mob worked at the time. And his novels have gained a following.
“After you start writing a character they become like old friends,” Piazza said, “and I get comments now where people refer to my characters as real people, so I must be doing something right.”
With his latest Tom Logan novel released, Piazza is already looking to flesh out the story with a third installment, this time taking the Hollywood gumshoe a little farther south to San Diego.
“I have another book in mind. It is formulating right now,” he said, “ but you spend so much time with the promotion of the new book, it’s hard to find time to write the new one.”
Piazza is also a member of two local mystery novel groups: the NightWriters in San Luis Obispo and the local chapter of Sisters in Crime. Sisters in Crime started as a group for female mystery writers, but it has no problem letting male authors like Piazza join the community.
“I have met a lot of mystery writers,” he said. “There is a lot of great brotherhood and sisterhood, and it’s also kind of like a support group as well.”
Piazza enjoys writing his mystery novels, in which he tries to emulate older styles of pulp literature, especially the old mysteries.
“People like to solve puzzles, and in the classic mystery-novel style, you reveal all the clues and put them out there,” he said, “so it is an active participation by the reader to solve the crime.”
Arts Editor Joe Payne enjoys a good mystery. Contact him at email@example.com.
Murder in Hollywood: This is the first chapter in A Murder Amongst Angels, Tony Piazza’s sequel to Anything Short of Murder, which follows the film noir-style detective Tom Logan.
PDF PROVIDED BY TONY PIAZZA