“Play Him Again” by Jeffrey Stone takes you back to the Roaring 20’s with its gangsters, Prohibition and silent movies. However, things are on the verge of change. The movie “The Jazz Singer” with its dialogue and music has brought the movie business to a crossroads. Matt Hudson, a West Coast rumrunner believes the future of movies in “talkies” and he wants to be a part of it.
He’s a good man in a bad business and those two things come into conflict when Hud’s best friend Danny is murdered. It looks like Danny was running a con based on Hud’s dream of making a talking movie. Hud sets out to track down Danny’s killer, but doing so puts his personal ethics in conflict with the job that needs doing and the life he has built for himself.
I enjoyed “Play Him Again,” which promises to be the first of a series. Stone obviously did a great deal of research into the era and the movie business. It allows him to put a lot of interesting details into the story. However, too often he resorts to what I call “data dumps” where he stops the action to deliver a lot of background information. While it can be interesting at times, a lot of times I thought it could have been cut because it had nothing to do with the story at hand.
The other thing that bothered me was when he uses lingo and then inserts in brackets what the slang means. Related to this, I wondered if some of the slang was era-appropriate. It may have been, but it struck me as out of place and you don’t want anything that jolts you from the story, which the brackets and questionable slang do.
A final issue I have is that Stone not only switches viewpoints in a scene, but he switches where you are with no transition. For instance, one paragraph might take place topside on a yacht and then suddenly, next paragraph you’re belowdeck.
Maybe the original manuscript had line breaks, if so, they were lost when the story was formatted for e-readers.
All in all, I enjoyed the story and definitely felt like I was in the 1920’s. I’ll be looking forward to where Stone goes from here since he left a few loose ends to follow up on.