Monday, February 7, 2022

Framed in Guilt by Day Keene

Day Keene’s 1949 murder mystery, Framed in Guilt, is an almost tongue-in-cheek, not-quite comic novel about a successful Hollywood writer framed for the killing of a young woman.

Robert Stanton, former World War II pilot and later a prisoner of war, now a best-selling novelist with an enormous salary from a movie studio, receives a call from a woman just arrived from England who tries to blackmail him. She has proof that during the war, Stanton married a London girl then abandoned her and her child.

Stanton meets her, kills her, and leaves a trail of clues. The body is discovered early the next day. Police arrive and Stanton, suffering after a heavy night of drinking, claims he never heard of the dead woman. He cannot account for himself at the time the murder and he cannot explain the clues that brought the police to his door.

How the crime was committed is not too tough to figure out, but who actually did the killing is well concealed until the exciting end of the story.

Day Keene was having some fun, taking pot shots at the typical Hollywood types. There is the beautiful, self-centered starlet, and the handsome, self-centered leading man, the sniveling producer married to the daughter of the studio chief, the boorish gossip columnist, and the snappy, fast-talking newspaper reporter trying to nail Stanton and get a scoop. And then there are the detectives of the Los Angeles Police Department who routinely take suspects into a back room of a precinct and beat confessions out of them.

Stanton’s sidekick is an Oxford educated, Native American who speaks like an English barrister, but also enjoys acting the part of the powerful and stoic Indian.

A bit of dialogue that may be unintentionally funny occurred when a leading man complains that Stanton purposely gives supporting players the best lines, Stanton fires back:
“Oh, so I let my personal feelings enter into my writing?”
God forbid any personal feelings enter into the making of a Hollywood movie – back then or today.

Keene freely switches points of view between characters whenever he needs a convenient way to hide a fact or an identity.

Overall, Framed in Guilt is a decent whodunit, a breezy read, and a fun peek behind the scenes of Hollywood in its Golden Age.

Information on Day Keene is sketchy and inconsistent. Most say he wrote more than 50 novels, as well as short stories and scripts for radio and television. Some say he was born in Chicago in 1903, others claim 1904. All agree he died in 1969, although I could not find an obituary for him. Sources all agree that “Day Keene” was his pseudonym, but there is some confusion about his actual name, which was either Gunard Hjertstedt or Gunnar Hjerstedt. Anyone who can lend some clarity to this is welcome to comment.

1 comment:

  1. The book seems compelling, Elgin. Never heard of this author but have found a copy of the book at Open Library. Looking forward to reading it.