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Keep It Real    by Bill Bryan order for
Keep It Real
by Bill Bryan
Order:  USA  Can
Bleak House, 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by Anise Hollingshead

Bill Bryan, a TV producer and writer of shows such as Night Court and Coach skewers the strange world of reality TV in his comic murder mystery, Keep it Real. He uses his experience in the entertainment business, coupled with his comedic writing background, to write an interesting, if uneven, murder satire.

The plot centers on the disappearance of rap video model Patrice. Our protagonist, Ted Collins, witnesses a violent encounter between Patrice and her boyfriend, gangsta musician Boney, while Ted is visiting his young daughter at her mother Sara's home during a court-supervised visit. When Patrice comes up missing, Ted feels a personal connection to her. As he used to be an investigative reporter in his former life before the divorce, he is motivated to discover what really happened to her. Alas, he's no longer a reporter, but maybe, just maybe, he can use his new career as a producer for The Mogul reality show to get inside Boney's world. What gangsta rapper wouldn't jump at the chance to be featured as a Mogul?

This story takes a hilarious look at the odd worlds of reality TV, music, and the broader realm of media entertainment in general, Los Angeles style. The book immediately hooks us by a humorous description of Ted's manner of coping with the frustrations inherent in having to see his daughter only in the company of a social worker, at his former wife's new home. The dialogue is breezy, fast-moving, and really funny. It's also very coarse and profane at times, which can be wearing on the senses and is unnecessary for effect, as evidenced by the success of authors of comedic crime novels like Donald E. Westlake.

In order to get inside Boney's inner circle, Ted manages to set up the possibility of using him on The Mogul. Bill Bryan then proceeds to send up the music industry, reality TV, LA's finest, and many media icons. The dialogue is inspired, but the plotting is less so, in that some plot points seem forced, especially the mystery's unbelievable ending. Still, this is a great first novel, and one that will definitely amuse if the reader doesn't mind the constant profanity and sometimes sketchy plotting.

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