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Steel Guitar

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Coronet, London, 1992
(price: 4.99; 260 pages)
(first published in the USA by Delacorte Press, 1991)

dedication: In loving memory of Peter Haber, H Wesley Brinkley, Dennis Schuetz

The blurb on the back:

Dee Willis is a star. A blues singer whose latest album was a double-platinum seller. She's a property, surrounded by a growing coterie of execs, minders, managers and all manner of hangers-on.
But Dee and Carlotta go way back. Back to pre-electric, pre-historic college days, playing and singing together, sharing friends and laughter. Until they shared one friend too many and Dee left town with Carlotta's newly ex-husband Cal.
And now Dee is back - and in trouble. A missing mutual friend, a blackmailing letter and a dead bass player in her bed.
Private eye Carlotta finds herself investigating all their yesterdays together. And finds the old hurts are all there just waiting to be reopened.

'Sensitive gutsy Carlotta is the swordarm of feminism, the girl for the Nineties' - The Observer
'Fans of early Warshawski will find a suitable 90s replacement in the finely-drawn form of ... Carlotta Carlyle' -
Time Out

What is it about detectives and rock music? We already knew from Performance that rock stars attracted dubious criminal types, but it was in the 1970s that detectives really started getting involved in the music industry: Johnny Cash starred in an episode of Columbo, whilst Alice Cooper turned up as himself in an episode of The Snoop Sisters (remember them?) and Inspector Wexford had a go at a pop festival in Some Lie and Some Die. Now Carlotta Carlyle's getting mixed up with a Bonnie Raitt-type blues singer named Dee Willis. Maybe the seedy side of the business attracts investigators. Or maybe detective writers fancy nicking a bit of glamour for themselves.

Whatever, this is a neat little book if you like modern American crime fiction. Even if you don't, you'll recognise decent writing when you read it. Like Platinum Blues there's a copyright dispute going on, and - while it may not have the sheer fun and pace of that novel - there's also a political agenda about the position of women in the rock industry, which makes some sharp points.


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