cover image Blues in the Dark

Blues in the Dark

Raymond Benson. Arcade, $24.99 (312p) ISBN 978-1-948924-91-7

At the start of this tepid thriller from Benson (In the Hush of the Night), independent movie producer Karissa Glover, who is mixed-race, rents a house in L.A.’s West Adams Heights (a neighborhood favored by black celebrities such as Hattie McDaniel decades ago) that once belonged to white actress Blair Kendrick, who was killed in a supposedly mob-related hit in 1949. The place inspires Karissa to make a film about Blair’s life, focusing on her romance with black jazz musician Hank Marley and the unwanted attention paid to her by the head of Ultimate Pictures. Karissa’s film depicts the studio’s heavies trying to break up Blair and Hank’s relationship. Mean-while, modern execs use similar tactics to try to stop Karissa from making her film. Benson deserves credit for portraying the painful consequences of racism both then and now, but he does so by repeatedly using information dumps that feel intrusive rather than organic. Predictable twists and stereotypical villains, including Italian mobsters and a Jewish movie exec, don’t help. The whole comes across like a B movie. [em](Oct.) [/em]