Henry Keating. Murder by Death (1976) 189 pp. [pbo]
Novelization of the motion picture screenplay written by Neil Simon and filmed by Robert Moore, starring Eileen Brennan, Truman Capote, James Coco, Peter Falk, Alec Guinness, Elsa Lanchester, David Niven, Peter Sellers, Maggie Smith, Nancy Walker, and Estelle Winwood. In this murder mystery spoof, the enigmatic, eccentric, and fabulously wealthy Lionel Twain, frustrated by the predictability and implausibility of the mystery novels he devours, invites the world’s five greatest living detectives to his San Francisco mansion for dinner—and a murder. The detectives are thinly disguised pastiches of some of literature’s most famous sleuths: Sidney Wang (Charlie Chan), Milo Perrier (Hercule Poirot), Dick and Dora Charleston (Nick and Nora Charles), Miss Marbles (Miss Marple), and San Francisco’s hard-boiled P.I. Sam Diamond (Sam Spade). Since all of the action takes place inside Twain’s spooky mansion, there is really no need to set the story specifically in San Francisco, except, perhaps for the fog:
    “Fog everywhere. Fog down in San Francisco Bay where it flowed past Goat Island and Angel Island and Alcatraz. Fog in the streets where it rolled defiled among the blocks of high-rises and the curbside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog in Chinatown, fog on Nob Hill. Fog creeping into the cabins of the cable cars, fog lying up on the roofs and hovering in the TV aerials of tall buildings; fog drooping on the signboards of restaurants and nightclubs. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient waterfront hookers, wheezing by the screens of their TV sets; fog in the stem and bowl of the evening pipe of the dreamy addict, down in his close cellar; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little girl friend on her way to the liquor store. Chance people on the Golden Gate Bridge peered from their cars into a sky of fog underneath them, with fog all around them, as if they were in a helicopter and hovering in the mist clouds.
    The raw evening was at its rawest, though, and the dense fog was at its densest near those high old Victorian piles that dot either side of Lola Lane out in the remote countryside. [?] And No. 22 Lola Lane was at the very heart of the fog.”