November 4, 2009
In my critical review of December 2008 I wrote that Good Girls Don’t Get Murdered was Percy Spurlark Parker’s only novel. In 2009, PublishAmerica published his second novel, The Good-Looking Dead Guy. The hero of The Good-Looking Dead Guy is Parker’s short story series character, the Black licensed private investigator and former University of Nevada Las Vegas football player, Trevor Oaks.
Five hours after he leaves Oaks’s office, pornography movie producer and wife of porn star Sinsa Sasion, Martin Gossinger is found dead in motel room in an unsavory section of Las Vegas. Gossinger had hired Oaks to bodyguard Sinsa during her show. Since he had Oaks’s business card, the detective was brought to the motel to identify the body. Only Gossinger’s wallet and car are missing. The killer left the jewelry and credit cards. The first impression of the police and Oaks is that the killing was a robbery gone bad.
When Oaks meets Sinsa, she tells him he still has a job. Later, Gossinger’s half brother Sam Brownlee, who hated him, hires Oaks to find Gossinger’s killer and explains that he is doing it because it is what their mother wants. Oaks decides he doesn’t have a conflict of interest between body-guarding the widow and finding the killer, but knows he will run into conflict with his friend homicide detective Joe.
Things get even more complicated when Oaks learns that several people hated Gossinger because, before going into the porn business, he walked away from several business deals, and that one of his boyfriends held a grudge because Gossinger walked out on him. As if he didn’t have enough problems, Belle Navilone, the 90 year old widow of one of the mobsters who helped build Las Vegas, hires him to keep her name out of the news stories and police files. Oaks later learns that Belle, who has interests in many businesses in Las Vegas, has an interest in Party Pets, the escort service Sam Brownlee owns.
Except for the unconvincing character of the killer, I enjoyed the novel. The functional prose speeds up and slows the pace at the right moments, and. the colorful characters fit the Las Vegas milieu. I especially enjoyed Parker’s use of misdirection to distract the reader from the real culprit.
There were a couple of things that bothered me. First is the typographical errors. On page 6, the word “than” should be “then,” and on page 11, “tattered genes” should be “tattered jeans.” These are just two of several errors. The publisher’s disclaimer that “PublishAmerica has allowed this work to remain exactly as the author intended verbatim, without editorial input” does not excuse the typographical errors that a good proofreader could have prevented. The errors do not affect the story but does make the close reader hesitate.
The second thing that bothered and interested me is the name of the Black female porn performer. I don’t approve of symbol hunting, but when an author includes what seems to be an obvious symbol, it is incumbent upon the critic to at least try to interpret the symbol if it is a symbol. Names of characters some times convey the author’s feelings about a theme more so than about the character. Eboni Tart, the name of the Black female porn performer, suggests Parker may be trying to say something about the porn industry or Black female performers in the industry or both. Regarding the first name, does Parker mean to spell “Ebony” differently but at the same time convey the character’s Blackness? Or is he commenting on “ebonics,” the so-called black English. I don’t think it is the latter because Eboni is an intelligent, sexy, beautiful, and skillful performer. The Eboni spelling is an attention getter.
The last name is the problem. “Tart” can mean sweet, like the pastry, or it can be derogatory, suggesting Eboni is no better than a prostitute or a promiscuous woman. It can also mean sharp. I think it is meant to mean both sweet, as Eboni invites Trevor to her room, and sharp, as later she cuts him out of her life because it would be bad luck to sleep with him twice.