Los Angeles Times Bestselling Author Paul Haddad (10,000 Steps a Day in L.A.;High-Fives, Pennant Drives, and Fernandomania) has released his new book Paradise Palms: Red Menace Mob (published by Black Rose Writing on July 8, 2021).
Paradise Palms: Red Menace Mob is a hard-boiled noir crime fiction set in Los Angeles. As a native Angeleno himself, Haddad has leveraged his deep knowledge of the city to inform the book’s historical fiction, with many scenes based on real-life locations and events.
Recommended for readers who enjoy family sagas and crime fiction – fans of Elmore Leonard, L.A. Confidential, The Godfather, and The Sopranos. Paradise Palms is driven by a gangster underworld and a family with dark secrets emanating from a Jewish family patriarch. Though it takes place in the ‘50s, its themes resonate today. Systemic racism and LGBTQ stigmas form important subplots. It would appeal to readers who appreciate more depth and humanity in their characters.
Kirkus Reviews says “the writing is vividly descriptive, snarky, and funny, but it doesn’t shy away from engaging with serious issues, such as homophobia, racism, and police corruption” while the U.S. Review of Books calls it “an intricate tale that rings with authenticity.”
It is October 1957. A time of Eisenhower conformity, police and mob strongholds, and Red Scare paranoia. A relic of Hollywood’s Golden Age, the aging Paradise Palms Hotel is on the brink of change. David Shapiro – eldest son of recently widowed Max Shapiro – has assumed a leadership role. But the more he digs into the hotel’s business, the more he questions who his father is. It’s not just the tenuous ties to gangster Mickey Cohen, who is trying to commandeer ‘The Palms,” but also the sudden appearance of a mysterious African American guest named Rae Lynn, who improbably rises in stature. As long-buried secrets come to light, David’s battle to keep the family intact takes a tragic turn. His actions mirror an America lurching from the surface simplicity of the ’50s to the turmoil of the 1960s in this riveting neo-noir family saga.
Book Trailer: Available on YouTube
NOTE: This book contains a criminal character who, on very rare occasions, utters ethnic and racial epithets in a manner consistent with social mores of the time (America in the 1950s). Please be advised the book is not for children or those who may take issue with reading offensive language.
“A neo-noir flash bang with heart and dark humor… the Cohen Brothers meet James Ellroy.” — Donald H. Hewitt, Screenwriter, Oscar-winning Spirited Away
“Paradise Palms is a hopeless hotel located at the bitter end of Hollywood’s Golden Age. The story hums, the historic setting shines, and the colorful cast of characters keeps the pages turning.”— S.W. Lauden, Author of the Greg Salem PI series
“A finely-detailed story that recalls the period aesthetics of Mad Men and mixes it up with a noirish vibe… The read goes down smooth as champagne and leaves the reader wanting more.”— Slamdance Film Festival, Writers’ judges
“The setting is ‘50s L.A., but it plays contemporary. Racial prejudice, LGBTQ stigmas, and law/order corruption are among the themes effortlessly woven into this coil-tight yarn.”— Jake Gerhardt, Author, My Future Ex-Girlfriend
“A very strong historical period drama, revealing just enough compelling information without deflating the suspense with too much too soon… A lot of intriguing characters, placed in a clear moment of Hollywood and U.S. history.”— Austin Film Festival, Writers’ judges
EXCERPT FROM CHAPTER 7:
The Shapiro family’s declining Paradise Palms Hotel is a microcosm of late-1950s Hollywood, renting out to hangers-on and misfits amidst a sea of vacant rooms. And things just haven’t been the same since the death of MARTA SHAPIRO, who ran the hotel’s small dinette, The Easy.
But The Easy gets an unexpected shot in the arm with the arrival of a mysterious 18-year-old African American guest named RAE LYNN. Longtime tenant DIRK HAVENHURST is the first to notice, putting LEO, one of Marta’s adult sons, in an awkward position.
The dining room is sparsely filled with the usual cast of characters. Dirk peruses the Daily Variety between sips of a Bloody Mary while Elron regales a doe-eyed betty with his Hollywood misadventures as a “can’t miss” actor. Leo pores over receipts on the bar counter, nursing a glass of milk. Squinting over his specs, he asks Art, “How was the birthday party?”
Franny returns with a large salad for Dirk, a scotch for Art. “Everything was peachy till I got to the balloon animals,” Art asserts, taking a satisfying sip. “The mom accused me of making a penis and kicked me out!”
“What were you trying to make?” Leo asks. “A dachshund?”
The room breaks out in dirty laughter – all except Dirk. Chewing on his first bite of salad, he works the lettuce around his mouth and furrows his brow as if discovering a hair ball. He drops his fork with dramatic flourish.
“What the hell’s eating him?” Art says, drawn by the fork’s clank.
Dirk peers down at his plate, slack-jawed. All heads are now turned in his direction.
Leo drops his pencil. “Dirk?”
Dirk slides out of his booth and decamps for the kitchen.
“Shit,” Leo says, taking off after him, Franny on his tail.
Dirk swings through the doors and ambushes the food prep station, where Francisco is chopping onions. Seeing the excitable Dirk come toward him, he steps away from his stall, butcher’s knife between them. Leo and Franny linger at the doorway, ready to pounce if need be.
Dirk lifts his walking staff and shakes it at Francisco. “What did you do to the Shrimp Louie?!”
“W-what do you mean?”
“It hasn’t tasted this good since Marta died. She was the only one who did it right. You always use too much mayo and not enough lemon zest.”
Francisco lowers the knife, visibly relieved. “Heh. Must’ve just gotten lucky.”
Dirk’s not buying it. He thrusts his stick at Rae, who watches the stand-off from her post at the sink. An epiphany dawns on Dirk’s face.
“It was… yoooouuu,” he says slowly to the part-time dishwasher. He turns to Leo. “She did it. She brought it back to the way it was.”
Rae returns to her dishes. For a long moment, no one says or does anything. Finally, Francisco places his knife on the counter and walks over to Rae. He gently spins her around to face the others – a united front.
Leo looks confused. “Rae? Are you… cooking?”
Francisco slings an avuncular arm over her shoulder. Rae gazes at the floor, toying with her apron strings, embarrassed by all the fuss.
“I needed help,” Francisco maintains. “We never replaced your mother, y’know. I kept telling you” – he looks at Franny – “me and Franny, we can’t do everything. I was overwhelmed!”
Leo, ignoring his cook’s protestations, says to Rae, “You’re not even earning anything close to cook’s wages…”
“It’s okay.” She looks at Francisco. “I wanted to prove myself first.”
“Last few weeks, I’ve had more customers than usual complimenting my dishes,” Francisco attests. “But it’s been all her.”
“Not so sure I’d want to admit to something like that…” quips Dirk to no one in particular.
“You should try her desserts,” Francisco raves. “Word is out among the guests. We can barely keep up with the to-go orders.”
Leo scans the kitchen’s takeout counter. His eyes feast on an array of culinary treats that have heretofore never passed through these kitchen doors – blueberry muffins, peanut-butter cookies, lemon squares and sweet potato pie.
“Where’d you learn to make all this?” asks Leo.
“Val Verde Residential,” Rae says.
“What is that, like, a group home?”
“Yes, sir. I learned to cook for sixty-five kids. Ran the whole kitchen by the time I left.”
“Why’d you leave?”
Rae shrugs. “Turned eighteen. I had no choice.”
Leo bobs his head, lost in thought. “If we hire you as a full-time cook, you’d practically be living in the kitchen. But understand” – he winces in embarrassment – “living at the hotel… that would be problematic.”
Francisco gives Rae a squeeze. “She’s not looking to move in. She’s got a place at Nickerson Gardens.”
Rae offers Leo a tight-lipped smile. Leo forces one back, still trying to process it all. Once again, Dirk breaks the silence.
“Well, hell… someone hire this young lady, because if you don’t, I’ll make her my personal chef.”
About the Author:
Paul Haddad is a Los Angeles Times Bestselling Author and multiple-Emmy nominated television writer/producer. Paradise Palms: Red Menace Mob, his third novel, was inspired by dark family secrets that coincided with his obsession with old Hollywood. Also the author of several nonfiction books about L.A., he can found at www.paulhaddadbooks.com and on Instagram and Twitter: @la_dorkout
To request a copy of Paradise Palms to review or an interview with Paul Haddad, please contact Kelsey Butts at Book Publicity Services at Kelsey@BookPublicityServices.com or (805) 807-9027.