Alice Duncan, Full Bloom in Life’s Rose Garden
What you should know about Alice, from her website:
“I’m Alice Duncan, Emma Craig, Rachel Wilson, Anne Robins, and even Jon Sharpe a couple of times. Alice, Emma, Rachel and Anne all write historical novels, both romances and mysteries. Jon wrote westerns. Two of them. When I was young and didn’t know any better, I wanted to write the Great American Novel. After life kicked me around for a few decades, I decided I not only don’t want to write the Great American Novel, I don’t even want to read it. What I like in my reading material is to be taken away from life’s travails for a few hours. That’s what I aim to do in my own novels, and I consider it a most worthwhile goal.”
Just between us, I do well just to keep up with Alice Duncan, never mind all her other disguises. My favorites of her books are those set in 1920s Los Angeles. That time and place wafts across the page like a fine, light perfume.
I just read one of her books that had me laughing from beginning to end. It’s the first in her Mercy Allcutt series, and here’s my review.
LOST AMONG THE ANGELS
By Alice Duncan
From Chapter One:
You know how people always say that writers should write what they know? Well, l didn’t know anything. How can you write novels if you haven’t lived? And I don’t care what anybody says, living on Beacon Hill in Boston during the fall and winter and then in a mansion (called a “cottage”) on Cape Cod during the spring and summer isn’t really living. Oh, maybe if you’re a man it is, because you still get to leave your mansion and go work in the city. But if you’re a woman, all you do on Beacon Hill or Cape Cod is sit in your gilded cage, order your butler around, and look down on the rest of the world. Play tennis occasionally. Gossip. Hire and fire servants. That’s not for me, darn it.
Don’t tell my mother I said darn it, please.
Meet Mercy Allcutt, age 21, escaping her stultifying Boston background for the home of her sister, Chloe, whose husband, Harvey, is a movie studio big shot. With her bred-in-the-bone manners, speech and dress, Mercy is lost among the angels of a gaudy 1920s Los Angeles.
She quickly learns that nobody in Los Angeles uses a last name, and every other person, no matter how shopworn, kills time in menial work while waiting to be discovered and turned into a movie star. Determined to fit in and get “experience” Mercy takes a secretarial job with a PI named Ernie.
An ex-cop, Ernie is straight out of Central Casting. Think a young Spencer Tracy, leaner and meaner but rumpled in appearance and attitude. He pegs Mercy as a slumming rich girl who will last about 15 minutes in a job but what the hey. He hires her and takes her to lunch.
Mercy’s office skills and good manners make her the perfect receptionist, but as an apprentice P.I. – her true goal — she has ten thumbs and two left feet. Her adventures begin with concern for a waif whose mother, a dancer at the notorious Kit Kat Klub, has disappeared. This thrusts the agency into cases involving everything from murder to drug smuggling. Mercy makes the scene and never loses her hat.
Mercy is a pip. I laughed all the way through this book and stayed up until 4:00 in the morning to finish it. I was still laughing when I turned out the light. Not a bad way to end one day and start another.
Alice Duncan’s web site is at http://www.aliceduncan.net/