Keep It Real
Review: Bill Bryan's debut crime novel, Keep It Real, is a satirical and frequently funny blending of the behind-the-scenes production of a reality television show and a murder investigation.
Told in the first person present tense (which rarely works for mysteries, but seems appropriate here), Ted Collins is an investigative reporter who reluctantly admits that yes, he's won a "Pulie" (Pulitzer Prize), but that his currently employer doesn't hold it against him. Ted is a producer for the hit reality television series The Mogul starring billionaire Roger Dominus who is looking for an apprentice to work in his organization, and created by the king of reality TV himself, Trevor Bane. During a visit to his ex-wife to pick up their daughter, he overhears a conversation between the rapper Raymond Bonaparte ("Boney") and a model who is later found murdered. Suspecting Boney of the crime, Ted arranges for him to appear on The Mogul so that he can conduct his investigation without raising too much suspicion.
Subtle is not a word in author Bill Bryan's vocabulary. Roger Dominus is a thinly disguised version of Donald Trump; the Dominus casinos are in Las Vegas rather than Atlantic City and Dominus Tower is in Los Angeles rather than New York City, but the Dominus helicopter is the same. Trevor Bane is an even more transparent fictionalization of Mark Burnett. Bryan captures the public perception of the idiosyncrasies and excesses of these two men perfectly in his characters: there isn't anything Roger won't do to promote his identity and there isn't any product or service that Trevor isn't ready and able to make a buck off of. Anyone who watches reality television will be laughing at the outrageous manner in which it is portrayed here.
The murder mystery plays a supporting role here but does provide a unifying theme to the story. The resolution to the model's murder is beyond cynical, but in a perverse way is completely believable.
For a book that not only tests the boundaries of good taste but crosses over them regularly and repeatedly, Bryan is, ironically, a little too politically correct at times and tends to be a bit preachy especially when it comes to race relations. These minor objections aside, Keep It Real is a very funny look at the world of reality television with a bonus for mystery readers of having a murder to solve.
Acknowledgment: Authors on the Web provided a copy of Keep It Real for this review.
Review Copyright © 2007 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Keep It Real: Hollywood, California
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Keep It Real by Bill Bryan
Publisher: Bleak House Books
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: May 2007
List Price: $13.95