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Let's All Kill Constance: A Novel Hardcover – December 24, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Bradbury, a legend in his own time, seems never to run out of creative inspiration. He follows up last year's acclaimed From the Dust Returned with a mystery novel that's also a loving, tongue-in-cheek tribute to early Hollywood. Set in 1960, the book features an unnamed science fiction writer ("what if... in some future date people use newspapers or books to start fires," he muses aloud). Late one night (stormy, of course), while he's trying to finish a novel, ancient but still-beautiful screen star Constance Rattigan bursts into his house frantically waving a 1900 Los Angeles telephone directory-the "Book of the Dead," as the writer calls it. Someone has left it at her house, with the names of those still alive circled in red and marked with a sinister cross-her name among them. Is she being marked for death? With his sidekick, Elmo Crumley, the writer dashes from one storied Los Angeles spot to the next, looking for the would-be murderer and warning the others on the list. The tour includes Rattigan's house, set on a nerve-wracking bluff and home to tons of ancient newspapers and a spookily decrepit old man who turns out to be Rattigan's brother, Clarence. Many other eccentrics make an appearance in this whirlwind of staccato dialogue, puns and references to old Hollywood and Chandler-era L.A. noir. Bradbury's giddy pleasure is infectious; though he throws in an unexpected conclusion, it's the author's exuberant voice more than the mystery itself that will have readers hooked.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This atmospheric noir novel from sf great Bradbury has a protagonist who could be a stand-in for the writer, a fast-talking damsel in distress, and a host of other odd characters who live in a decrepit Hollywood full of ghosts from the 1920s and 1930s. The screenwriter hero's proverbial dark and stormy night in 1960 is interrupted by Constance Rattigan, a has-been film star who is terrified that someone is out to kill her and those connected with her past, who confides in him and then disappears. The screenwriter and his detective pals fear for Constance's physical and mental safety as, one by one, her trail leads to dead bodies. Though professing to be a mystery, this book is more about mood than plot, raising larger questions of identity while providing loving descriptions of crepuscular Hollywood landmarks and citizens. The staccato writing style even reflects screen dialog, and Bradbury draws on his adolescence in California to add authenticity. Recommended for all public libraries and those in love with long-ago Hollywood and its lost souls.
--Devon Thomas, Hass MS&L, Ann Arbor, MI
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow; 1st edition (December 24, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060515848
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060515843
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,725,583 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

In a career spanning more than seventy years, Ray Bradbury, who died on June 5, 2012, at the age of 91, inspired generations of readers to dream, think, and create. A prolific author of hundreds of short stories and close to fifty books, as well as numerous poems, essays, operas, plays, teleplays, and screenplays, Bradbury was one of the most celebrated writers of our time. His groundbreaking works include Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, The Illustrated Man, Dandelion Wine, and Something Wicked This Way Comes. He wrote the screen play for John Huston's classic film adaptation of Moby Dick, and was nominated for an Academy Award. He adapted sixty-five of his stories for television's The Ray Bradbury Theater, and won an Emmy for his teleplay of The Halloween Tree. He was the recipient of the 2000 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, the 2004 National Medal of Arts, and the 2007 Pulitzer Prize Special Citation, among many honors.

Throughout his life, Bradbury liked to recount the story of meeting a carnival magician, Mr. Electrico, in 1932. At the end of his performance Electrico reached out to the twelve-year-old Bradbury, touched the boy with his sword, and commanded, "Live forever!" Bradbury later said, "I decided that was the greatest idea I had ever heard. I started writing every day. I never stopped."

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Emerick Rogul on March 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Ray Bradbury's murder mystery novel "Let's All Kill Constance" opens with the words "It was a dark and stormy night." Bradbury playfully winks at his readers with this notoriously (albeit intentionally) cliched introduction, letting us in on the joke of the novel: "Let's All Kill Constance" is a murder mystery, yes, but a murder mystery played out as high camp, all poetic hyperbole and exaggeration. When aging film star Constance Rattigan appears at an unnamed writer's beachfront bungalow (the writer is a barely-disguised younger version of Bradbury himself) with two "Books of the Dead", Bradbury finds himself plunged into a mysterious world of Tinseltown ghosts. Someone is trying to scare Constance by dredging up these ghosts from her past; the books she discovered list long-forgotten friends and acqaintances--many dead or close to death--with Constance's name appearing among them. Bradbury and Constance both comprehend the unspoken threat: Constance may be the next to die. It's up to Bradbury to figure out who's behind this macabre plot, and quickly... before Constance's past finally catches up with her--for good.

With his (often unwilling) sidekick, Elmo Crumley, in toe, Bradbury searches everywhere for clues to the mystery and Rattigan's past. Along the way, he crosses paths with a host of strange characters: a decrepit man who lives amid reams of ancient newsprints; an immense fortune teller, Queen Califia, who holds many secrets of her own; a fearful priest who presides over St. Vibiana's Cathedral; and an ancient film projectionist who surrounds himself with scenes from Hollywood's golden years.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on January 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
There's a new Bradbury book out.
Oh...I'm sorry. Are you still here? You need to know more than that? Well, I'm not really qualified to say more than that. Or, if I am qualified, let's say I'm not worthy. When I opened the manila envelope and LET'S ALL KILL CONSTANCE fell out, with the word "BRADBURY" across the top in big capital letters --- not "Ray Bradbury," just "BRADBURY" --- it struck me that this giant, this scribe, this national treasure has been writing classic stories for over 60 years now. People have been born, come of age, had children and passed of old age in that time and he is still writing ---and writing well. But you knew that already. Well, if you haven't read LET'S ALL KILL CONSTANCE, you might not be aware of the last point. So let me delay you for just another minute.
LET'S ALL KILL CONSTANCE continues in the tradition of Bradbury's previous mystery novels, DEATH IS A LONELY BUSINESS and A GRAVEYARD FOR LUNATICS. The setting is once again Venice, California in the early 1950s and the narrator is a young, unnamed screenwriter who is, in fact, Bradbury. Bradbury actually has the chutzpah to begin LET'S ALL KILL CONSTANCE with the phrase "It was a dark and stormy night..." and actually has the talent to successfully bring it off --- in spades. On this particular dark and stormy night the narrator hears a tapping at his door and discovers Constance Rattigan, an aged, once-beautiful film star, bearing two worn telephone books that contain the names of Hollywood personalities, most of whom have passed over to the other side of the curtain. There are a few who are living but are also marked for death --- and one of them is Constance. The screenwriter enlists the aid of private detective Elmo Crumley ...
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Eco-Emancipator on January 25, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
After reading (or rereading) several other Bradbury stories, I was looking forward to this one to see how his style has changed. I must say I am disappointed. I couldn't bring myself to care about any of the characters; they were all too busy with their "witty" repartee to be sympathetic (or even interesting). The main character, obviously based on Bradbury himself, would cry at the deaths of other characters, but I felt nothing because Bradbury didn't paint them realistically or sympathetically. To top it off, the main character was really just a jerk, but I got the impression that the reader is supposed to like him. Characters with major character flaws can be interesting. This one was not; he was just a jerk, and for no apparent reason. The only part I liked was the description of how LA used to be, since I grew up in southern California.

I am surprised by the number of reviewers who described this as "typical Bradbury." Not in my experience. If this were typical of his other work, I couldn't recommend any of it. Luckily that's not the case. You would be better served by rereading some classic Bradbury than by spending any time on this.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bohdan Kot on January 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Ray Bradbury, celebrated author of modern classics such as "Fahrenheit 451" and "The Martian Chronicles," brings us "Let's All Kill Constance," a mystery running in 1960 set amidst the backdrop of a bygone Hollywood when Eric Von Stroheim held sway.

An unnamed writer, the narrator of the novel, begins the suspense with the cliché, "It was a dark and stormy night." Constance Rattigan, an aging former starlet, hastily gives the unnamed writer two books - a 1900 Los Angeles phone book and her old address book - both containing red-circled entries with crosses that suggest who will die next; Rattigan is one of the names circled.

Some of the names circled begin to die suddenly under suspect circumstances while Rattigan concurrently becomes difficult to find. Is she the next victim or the murderer? The unnamed writer becomes obsessed with procuring answers. Entertaining sidekicks like Crumley, a lovable grouch, and Henry, a blind man that invariably sees more than everyone, accompanies the unnamed writer's search within fast-paced engaging dialog.

Brief chapters - many five pages or less - and simple word usage are effective throughout the novel. The climax is unclear as many twists abound, a given in a Bradbury production - remember the fireman Guy Montag from "Fahrenheit 451" who starts fires? Bradbury dazzles and boggles the mind till the final pages.

Bohdan Kot
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