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Frames (The Valentino Series #1) Hardcover – April 29, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Having appeared in 10 short stories in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, self-described film detective Valentino, who works as a film archivist at U.C.L.A., makes his novel-length debut in the engaging first of a new series from Shamus-winner Estleman. Valentino stumbles on the find of a lifetime when he inspects the Oracle, a decaying 1920s movie theater he's considering purchasing. An abandoned storage room contains reels of film that may be the only surviving prints of Erich von Stroheim's legendary epic, Greed. The further discovery of a skeleton of unknown vintage in the old building complicates matters. Aided by academic colleagues, Valentino tries to eat his cake and have it, too, by cooperating with the police inquiry into what might be a case of foul play without revealing the existence of the film reels, which he fears might be damaged if seized as evidence. While the lighthearted tone is far removed from the gritty realism of the author's Amos Walker series (American Detective, etc.), the versatile Estleman has crafted yet another intelligent page-turner. (May)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* Genre veteran Estleman debuts a new and wonderfully entertaining series starring a UCLA film archivist. Departing dramatically from the classic hard-boiled style of his Amos Walker novels, Estleman has concocted a jaunty, thoroughly endearing screwball comedy-mystery in which the aptly named archivist Valentino teams with a venerable film historian and a hip, slightly loopy grad student to solve a murder, rehab a movie palace, and restore a long-lost, uncut print of the Erich von Stroheim classic Greed. It all starts when Valentino buys the crumbling theater and finds the abandoned reels of von Stroheim’s film in a walled-off storage room. Unfortunately, there is also a skeleton in the closet, the remains of a long-ago murder, and the police demand that Valentino surrender the film canisters within 72 hours or face prosecution. That leaves him three days to solve the crime or risk having the police mishandle and potentially ruin the fragile film. As Valentino and his buddies careen about Los Angeles, visiting a home for retired movie workers and researching the provenance of the movie palace, Estleman smoothly seeds the text with all manner of fascinating details relating to the history of silent films and the techniques of modern film restoration. There’s even time for a nifty romance between Valentino and an LAPD forensics investigator. Great cast, great subject, flawless delivery from a real pro. --Bill Ott

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books; First Edition edition (April 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765315750
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765315755
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,317,863 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Loren D. Estleman graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 1974 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature and Journalism. In 2002, his alma mater presented him with an honorary doctorate in letters. He left the job market in 1980 to write full time, after a few years spent "pounding out beat-the-train journalism" during his day job as a reporter before going home and writing fiction at night.

His first novel was published in 1976, and has been followed by more than 70 books and hundreds of short stories and articles. His series include novels about Detroit detective Amos Walker, professional killer Peter Macklin, L.A. film detective and amateur sleuth Valentino, and the Detroit crime series. On the western side is the U.S. Deputy Marshal Page Murdock series. Additionally, he's written dozens of stand-alone novels.

His books have been translated into 27 languages and have won multiple Shamus, Spur, Western Heritage, and Stirrup awards. He has been nominated for the National Book Award and the Edgar Allan Poe Award. In 2012, the Western Writers of America honored him with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

He lives in Michigan and is married to writer Deborah Morgan. Find out more about Estleman and his books on his website:

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Harry R. Jordan on November 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've been a long-time fan of Loren Estleman. His Amos Walker series has been the standard bearer of the hard-boiled PI school for over 20 years. His Peter Macklin books "stretch the boundaries" of the cliched murder-for-hire genre. Hell, I rarely read westerns, but I find Estlemans' works right up there with Zane Grey.
However, a series on the adventures of a UC film professor is not exactly the bullets and broads-type of story that he does so well. Eminently readable, of course, but not really a thrilling action novel.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Keith Nichols on January 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This little novel is adequate but in no way great. A film/Hollywood buff is likely to find it acceptable. The mystery it sets forth is not particularly interesting and is primarily an excuse for the author to deploy what he's learned about old movies and film preservation. This could have been more entertaining had the book''s extensive repartee been more clever and the characters delivering it more three-dimensional.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on May 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Calling himself the "Film Detective" Valentino earns a living as film archivist at UCLA. He considers buying the Oracle, a dilapidated theatre that back in the 1920s was a showcase. However, as he inspects the crumbling edifice, he finds several reels of Erich von Stroheim's classic epic, Greed; though long lost to the ravages of time, stupidity, and avarice.

However, his discovery takes a setback when Valentino also uncovers a skeleton. He would prefer to ignore the old bones and run off with the film, but his conscience will not allow Valentino to do so. He calls the cops informing them of the human remains, but remains silent re the reels out of fear the evidence takers will damage the valuable work, which would put his conscience in suicide mode.

This is an entertaining Hollywood mystery as the lead character hides evidence from the police rationalizing why he did it. The cold case investigation is fun to follow as the Film Detective tracks cinematic clues one frame at a time; while also rationalizing again why he is making inquiries. Apparently Valentino has appeared in short stories, but in his novel debut he seems complete and able to hold together an enjoyable somewhat movie fun fluffy whodunit.

Harriet Klausner
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A. Ross HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on April 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I read a fair amount of crime fiction, but had never read anything by prolific multiple award-winner Estleman until now. The film preservation milieu of this first in a projected series caught my attention, so I decided to give it a whirl. The story revolves around a UCLA film archivist named Valentino, who, in the course of buying a crumbling historic theater in LA, makes the discovery of a career. Many film buffs know the story of Erich von Stroheim's film Greed (based on Frank Norris' novel McTeague), which the studio chopped from ten hours down to a confused two hour release, tossing the remaining footage in the process. That missing footage is a Holy Grail for film archivists, and naturally Valentino discovers it in the old theater he buys.

However, he also finds a skeleton, and once the police are alerted, it's a race to solve a 50-year-old murder before the police decide to confiscate the priceless (and highly unstable) canisters of Greed as potential evidence. Fortunately, he's got help in the form of his 60-something UCLA mentor, who's a walking encyclopedia of film history and a flouter of convention and law to boot. There's also Fanta, a smart and sexy co-ed who's interning with the film preservation office. Finally, there's the sexy (4 of the 5 primary female characters are described as highly attractive) LAPD crime scene investigator Valentino meets and falls for.

The story is best described as of a fun romp, somewhat reminiscent in tone of a Scooby Doo episode.
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By F. J. Harvey on January 15, 2011
Format: Paperback
The novelist is a noted movie buff and it was virtually inevitable that somewhere in his prolific output he would find room for a series that reflects that passion."Frames" marks the start of just such a series and his enthusiasm for the subject informs the whole book.

The protagonist is "Valentino",whose business card proclaims him to be a "film detective",a somewhat grandiose term for a researcher at UCLA whose job is tracking down previously missing or neglected film stock ,often of a mundane nature.However,one day he seemingly strikes the mother lode ; he purchases a rundown cinema and finds a large number of film cans in the basement.They appear to be a full print -some 8 hours in total -of "Greed ",Erich von Stroheim's silent movie magnum opus ,subject to severe editing by the studio and only available in truncated form .Inconveniently ,however ,the cans have company -a dead body ,which may or may not have died as the result of murder.The police regard the film as possible evidence ,and it may not survive the less than ideal storage conditions in a police laboratory.He resolves to solve the mystery of the dead body himself ,aided by his boss ,the noted film scholar Professor Broadhead ,and a feisty young female graduate student ,Fanta.He also finds time to begin a relationship with an attractive forensic assistant ,Harriet Johansen.If that did not give him enough to think about ,he is also visited by Von Stroheim's ghost ,pleading that he save his masterpiece.

The book is more in line with the soft boiled or cosy school of crime writing that are the authors' private eye yarns ,featuring Amos Walker ;there is no violence or sexual content for instance .
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