Friday, June 2, 2017

The Man Who Died Laughing by David Handler

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This is an entertaining mystery series featuring ghostwriter Stewart (Hoagy) Hoag and his faithful Bassett Hound Lulu.  Hoagy has a fondness for single malt whiskey. Lulu has a fondness for seafood. Author David Handler has created the dapper Hoagy, a writer who had one bestselling novel and then crashed and burned. Along with the crash came divorce from his wife. He got custody of Lulu. Now, he has taken to ghostwriting the memoirs of the rich and famous. And, solving mysteries.

In the first tale, The Man Who Died Laughing, Hoagy's subject is Sonny Day, one time partner in the comedy duo of Knight and Day. Sonny and Gabe Knight had a splendid movie and stage career going for years until they had a big public brawl at a famous Hollywood restaurant. No one has ever said what the cause of the fight was. That was some years ago and now Sonny wants to set the record straight. If he only lives long enough.
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In the second, The Man Who Lived by Night, Hoagy is in London to work with T.S. Scarr, rock star extraordinaire now a whacked out recluse living on his country estate. Lulu is with him of course and both are happy to be reunited for a time with Hoagy's ex-wife Merilee Nash the famous actress. But, someone in Scarr's life is keeping secrets about the death long ago of one of the band members and Hoagy's interviews are stirring up some not-so-happy memories.

I read the first book and moved right on to the second. The setup of both books is similar. The reader is given access to the transcripts of the taped interviews that Hoagy conducts with the characters. This is a different way of getting to know the personalities of the main people in the story and to hearing the backstory in their own words. These interviews are interspersed with chapters furthering the story and the action.

The time period for both is the 1980s with references in the first to Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lewis, and others of that Hollywood scene. In the second mystery, there is talk of the Beatles, the Stones, and the Mersey Beat. All these 'real' details drew me even further in the stories.

There are eight mysteries in the series with another one due out in August — The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes

I am quite taken with Hoagy's wit and sleuthing skills - both in trying to get to know his subjects and in trying to solve the murders. I also like the time period and the references to real celebrities.  

I look forward to more 'ghostwriting' with Hoagy and Lulu.


  1. Fun! This is a series I had not heard of. I can't keep up with all the new books I'm learning about through you!

    1. Hi, Kathy. These were first published in the late 80s and I am glad I found them! Mr. Handler also has another mystery series out - Berger and Mitry - that I am wanting to explore. He wrote the first eight in the Hoagy and Lulu series and then waited 20 years before coming out with the one to be published in August. I am already on the third one and loving every minute.