By Terri Schlichenmeyer
It takes some patience, but it’s worth getting to the end of Hollywood Boulevard
The guy over there is wearing an interesting hat.
It’s not really that-kind-of-hat weather but he wears it well, possibly to cover a bald spot. And that lady in the blue shirt really looks overwhelmed. Her kids are probably on her last nerve and that’s gotta be her husband lagging behind her. You’d sure hate to be him about now.
As hobbies go, people-watching is one of the cheapest and most fun around. But in the new novel, Hollywood Boulevard by Janyce Stefan-Cole, a former award-winning actress isn’t just people-watching.
Someone’s also watching her.
She always wondered if Joe would’ve approved of her quitting.
Ardennes Thrush wasn’t sure. Her ex-husband might’ve supported her in her departure from acting. Her agent, Harry, and her former flame, Fits, saw nothing good about the quit because they were always asking “Why?” Andre, her current husband, didn’t seem to care much either way.
Andre didn’t care about anything more than the film he was directing, come to think, and Ardennes sometimes regretted leaving New York to join him in LA. She once said she was done with Los Angeles. Every once in awhile, she’d threaten to go back to the Big Apple but she never followed through.
Instead, she spent her days avoiding the “Why?” question, shopping and watching other residents at the old ’40s-era hotel in which Andre’s cast and crew were staying. There was, for instance, a man across the way who hung laundry outside (how quaint), and a woman who obviously didn’t care who saw her in bed, naked. Oh, and the addled old lady next door was apparently some famous stripper from 50 years ago.
This new hobby still left a lot of time for Ardennes to visit with what few old friends she had left, and to repeat her resolve to leave her career. No, she was not going to act again. No, Andres, considered the greatest director of all-time, was not going to have another chance to work with her.
But someone was watching Ardennes, someone with other ideas.
Someone who thought intermission should be over . . .
Hollywood Boulevard is a rocky road, filled at first with potholes and switchbacks. The speed limit is so slow that I almost wanted to pull off to find another vehicle and the scenery is nothing spectacular, but I stuck with the itinerary.
I was glad I did, because the destination was ultimately worth it.
What’s interesting about this book is that author Janyce Stefan-Cole absolutely never lets her readers know what to expect. This is a mystery, almost noir-ish, but it’s sometimes campy-rompy with lots of “Huh?” moments, including a truly silly penultimate storyline that feels cartoonishly ridiculous until you get to the Holy-cow-I-didn’t-see-that-coming, nearly-brilliant ending that I’m still kind of reeling from.
Yeah. Like that.
Overall, Hollywood Boulevard is slow but peppered with pockets of plot that will make you sit up and notice. It’s going to take patience to read but, based on what I saw here, it’s by an author who bears watching.
Hollywood Boulevard by Janyce Stefan-Cole, Unbridled Books, 352 pages. List price: $25.95.