Cover image for Let's all kill Constance : a novel
Let's all kill Constance : a novel
Bradbury, Ray, 1920-2012.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : William Morrow, [2003]

Physical Description:
210 pages ; 22 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense

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On a dismal evening, an unnamed writer in Venice, California, answers a furious pounding at his beachfront bungalow door -- and once again admits a dangerous icon into his life. Constance Rattigan, an aging, once-glamorous Hollywood star, stands soaked and shivering in his foyer, clutching two anonymously delivered books that have sent her running in fear from something she dares not acknowledge: twin lists of the Tinseltown dead and soon-to-be dead . . . with Constance's name included among them.

And, just as suddenly, she vanishes into the stormy night, leaving the narrator with her macabre "gifts" and an unshakable determination to get to the root of the actress's grand terror.

So begins an odyssey as dark as it is wondrous, as the writer sets off in a broken-down jalopy with his irascible sidekick, Crumley, to sift through the ashes of a bygone Hollywood. But a world that once sparkled with larger- than-life luminaries -- Dietrich, Valentino, Harlow -- is now a graveyard of ghosts and secrets. Each twisted road our heroes travel leads to grim shrines and shattered dreams -- a remote cabin where history is preserved in mountains of yellowed newsprint; a cathedral where sinners hold sway; a forgotten projection booth where the past lives eternally on in an endless loop of cinematic youth and beauty. And always the road turns back to lost filmdom's temple, a fading movie palace called Grauman's Chinese, and to the murky hidden catacombs beneath.

Prepare yourself for a mystery as enthralling as the most well-crafted whodunit; a satire as keen as the edge of a straight razor, a phantasmagoric celebration of a lost world built on equal parts dream and nightmare -- the latest fantastic flight of glorious imagination by Ray Bradbury, the one and only.

Author Notes

Ray Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Illinois on August 22, 1920. At the age of fifteen, he started submitting short stories to national magazines. During his lifetime, he wrote more than 600 stories, poems, essays, plays, films, television plays, radio, music, and comic books. His books include The Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, The Illustrated Man, Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and Bradbury Speaks. He won numerous awards for his works including a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1977, 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.

He wrote the screen play for John Huston's classic film adaptation of Moby Dick, and was nominated for an Academy Award. He adapted 65 of his stories for television's The Ray Bradbury Theater, and won an Emmy for his teleplay of The Halloween Tree. The film The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit was written by Ray Bradbury and was based on his story The Magic White Suit.

He was the idea consultant and wrote the basic scenario for the United States pavilion at the 1964 World's Fair, as well as being an imagineer for Walt Disney Enterprises, where he designed the Spaceship Earth exhibition at Walt Disney World's Epcot Center. He died after a long illness on June 5, 2012 at the age of 91.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The very famous Bradbury, he of Fahrenheit 451, more than 100 books, and countless stories, has also written mystery novels: Death Is a Lonely Business (1985) and A Graveyard for Lunatics (1990). His third noir mystery continues with the same setting, Venice, California; detective, an unnamed struggling screenwriter; and hard-bitten prose. The story is high camp, almost a parody of Sunset Boulevard. The screenwriter, alone at his beach bungalow, hears a knocking on his door during a violent thunderstorm. Constance Rattigan, a washed-up movie star of yesteryear appears, demanding that the screenwriter save her. Rattigan is tortured by the receipt of a Book of the Dead, a phone-book listing of long-dead Hollywood stars, with the names of those still living marked. Rattigan believes she and other stars are marked for death. The screenwriter and his equally noir sidekick, Detective Elmo Crumley, move through the Hollywood netherworld for clues. A very odd, almost ludicrous book, but worth inclusion for the Bradbury canon. --Connie Fletcher

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Sf great Bradbury may have written more than 100 books, but he's only on his third mystery. In this follow-up to Death Is a Lonely Business and A Graveyard of Lunatics, set in seedy 1950s Southern California, the screenwriter hero is intent on saving an aging movie star from murder. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Let's All Kill Constance A Novel Chapter One It was a dark and stormy night. Is that one way to catch your reader? Well, then, it was a stormy night with dark rain pouring in drenches on Venice, California, the sky shattered by lightning at midnight. It had rained from sunset going headlong toward dawn. No creature stirred in that downfall. The shades in the bungalows were drawn on faint blue glimmers where night owls deathwatched bad news or worse. The only thing that moved in all that flood ten miles south and ten miles north was Death. And someone running fast ahead of Death. To bang on my paper-thin oceanfront bungalow door. Shocking me, hunched at my typewriter, digging graves, my cure for insomnia. I was trapped in a tomb when the hammering hit my door, midstorm. I flung the door wide to find: Constance Rattigan. Or, as she was widely known, The Rattigan. A series of flicker-flash lightning bolts cracked the sky and photographed, dark, light, light, dark, a dozen times: Rattigan. Forty years of triumphs and disasters crammed in one brown surf-seal body. Golden tan, five feet two inches tall, here she comes, there she goes, swimming far out at sunset, bodysurfing back, they said, at dawn, to be beached at all hours, barking with the sea beasts half a mile out, or idling in her oceanside pool, a martini in each hand, stark naked to the sun. Or whiplashing down into her basement projection room to watch herself run, timeless, on the pale ceiling with Eric Von Stroheim, Jack Gilbert, or Rod La Rocque's ghosts, then abandoning her silent laughter on the cellar walls, vanishing in the surf again, a quick target that Time and Death could never catch. Constance. The Rattigan. "My God, what are you doing here ?" she cried, rain, or tears, on her wild suntanned face. "My God," I said. "What are you ?" "Answer my question!" "Maggie's east at a teachers' conference. I'm trying to finish my new novel. Our house, inland, is deserted. My old landlord said, your beach apartment's empty, come write, swim. And here I am. My God, Constance, get inside. You'll drown!" "I already have. Stand back!" But Constance did not move. For a long moment she stood shivering in the light of great sheets of lightning and the following sound of thunder. One moment I thought I saw the woman that I had known for years, larger than life, leaping into and jumping out of the sea, whose image I had witnessed on the ceiling and walls of her basement's projection room, backstroking through the lives of Von Stroheim and other silent ghosts. Then, that changed. She stood in the doorway, diminished by light and sound. She shrank to a child, clutching a black bag to her chest, holding herself from the cold, eyes shut with some unguessed dread. It was hard for me to believe that Rattigan, the eternal film star, had come to visit in the midst of thunders. I finally said again, "Come in, come in." She repeated her whisper, "Stand back!" She swarmed on me, and with one vacuum-suction kiss, harassed my tongue like saltwater taffy, and fled. Halfway across the room she thought to come back and buss my cheek lightly. "Jeez, that's some flavor," she said. "But wait, I'm scared!" Hugging her elbows, she sogged down to dampen my sofa. I brought a huge towel, pulled off her dress, and wrapped her. "You do this to all your women?" she said, teeth chattering. "Only on dark and stormy nights." "I won't tell Maggie." "Hold still, Rattigan, for God's sake." "Men have said that all my life. Then they drive a stake through my heart." "Are your teeth gritting because you're half-drowned or scared?" "Let's see." She sank back, exhausted. "I ran all the way from my place. I knew you weren't here, it's been years since you left, but Christ, how great to find you! Save me!" "From what, for God's sake?" "Death." "No one gets saved from that, Constance." "Don't say that! I didn't come to die. I'm here, Christ, to live forever!" "That's just a prayer, Constance, not reality." "You're going to live forever. Your books!" "Forty years, maybe." "Don't knock forty years. I could use a few." "You could use a drink. Sit still." I brought out a half bottle of Cold Duck. "Jesus! What's that?" "I hate scotch and this is el cheapo writer's stuff. Drink." "It's hemlock." She drank and grimaced. "Quick! Something else!" In our midget bathroom I found a small flask of vodka, kept for nights when dawn was far off. Constance seized it. "Come to Mama!" She chugalugged. "Easy, Constance." "You don't have my death cramps." She finished three more shots and handed me the flask, eyes shut. "God is good." She fell back on the pillows. "You wanna hear about that damn thing that chased me down the shore?" "Wait." I put the bottle of Cold Duck to my lips and drank. "Shoot." "Well," she said. " Death ." Let's All Kill Constance A Novel . Copyright © by Ray Bradbury. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Let's All Kill Constance by Ray Bradbury All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.