Write to Die, by Charles Rosenberg

We’ve had this talk before, you and I. I have searched for the book with a pun in its title that doesn’t irritate the hell out of me. The search continues.

This waste of several hours of my life by Charles Rosenberg is a convoluted book about a Hollywood attorney named Rory Calburton. Calburton is called to a meeting with the general counsel of the studio his firm represents. When he arrives at the studio he finds the attorney dead. Does this have to do with the lawsuit Calburton has been defending for the studio? The suit deals with a former actress now devotee of an Indian guru who claims that the major film the studio is about to release was based on a script stolen from her.

Meanwhile, back at the firm, Calburton, who has just been made partner, is teamed up with Sarah Gold, a new associate so beautiful that Calburton has trouble maintaining eye contact with her. There is page after page of rank “banter” between the two that clogs the book until the last paragraph.

I think what surprised me most about this book is the the author is a working attorney himself. Courtroom scenes seem contrived, odd legal technical issues seem researched by a non-attorney and at one point the narrator states “They even wrote a book about it.” Characters say things that aren’t remotely amusing and then laugh “uproariously”. There’s not a person with a soul in the entire book. Strange motivations are tacked on like the work of an amateur carpenter. Some dialogue is clearly dropped in to explain something that will happen shortly in the book, usually something that a good writer might have worked in artfully. Even the final solution is probably the most contrived thing I’ve read in a mystery. I’m half tempted to do a complete spoiler just to save anyone the trouble of picking up a copy but, for as little respect as I have for this writer, I have too much respect for the experience of reading to do something like that.

I used to give up on a book like this after the first few pages but now it’s become a compulsion to work my way through the whole unholy tome just to find out how bad it can get. It gets bad here. This is the reading equivalent of trying to walk Death Valley in a speedo with nothing but a slurpee.