Friday, June 16, 2017

Dream A Little Death by Susan Kandel | Blog Tour with Excerpt, Guest Post, and Giveaway

Dream A Little Death

by Susan Kandel

on Tour May 23 - June 23, 2017

The Blurb

From critically acclaimed author Susan Kandel comes a charming new mystery featuring Dreama Black and a cast of zany LA-based characters.

Dreama Black is almost famous. The daughter (and granddaughter) of groupies who captivated L.A.’s biggest rock stars, and muse to her own Grammy-winning ex-boyfriend Luke Cutt, Dreama seems doomed to remain on the periphery of stardom.

All that changes when Dreama is hired by record producer Miles McCoy to arrange an epic wedding celebration for his beautiful fiancée, Maya Duran.  The theme of the party? A noir-style tour through L.A.’s most infamous locations and hidden gems. It seems like Dreama’s big break, until Maya is rushed to the hospital with a self-inflicted bullet wound. The police and everyone involved assume it’s an attempted suicide, but Dreama isn’t convinced. For one thing, how did the weapon just vanish? Why has Maya been using two names? And then there’s the mysterious check for $40,000 that shows up on Dreama’s doorstep — the exact amount of money reportedly laundered by her beloved L.A. police detective uncle, and also the exact amount Miles promised as payment for Dreama’s party-planning services.

Now Dreama is at the center of a mystery worthy of a classic film noir, and must road-trip across L.A. to piece together the clues — before she becomes the next femme fatale.

Dream A Little Death by Susan Kandel
Series: A Dreama Black Mystery, #1
Genre: Mystery/Thriller  
Publication Date: May 23rd 2017
Publisher: Witness Impulse
Paperback: 320 pages
ISBN-10: 0062675001
ISBN-13: 978-0062675002
e-Book File Size: 1715 KB
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Google Play | Goodreads

The Excerpt

Chapter 1

The first time I set eyes on Miles McCoy, I worried he might try to eat me. He was the size and girth of a North American grizzly bear, with long silver-tipped hair, a long silver-tipped beard, and small dark eyes that bore into me like I was a particularly fine specimen of Chinook salmon. It couldn’t have helped that I’d used a honey scrub the morning we met. I should’ve known better. Not just about the scrub, but about a lot of things.

Like braving the freeway during rush hour.

Like thinking you can’t get a ticket for parking at a broken meter.

Like racing up to his penthouse in Balenciaga gladiator sandals, and expecting not to twist an ankle.

Like watching his fiancée shoot herself, and assuming it was suicide, instead of murder.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, which is another thing I should know better about. Because if I’ve learned anything at all from my study of film noir (which got me into the whole sordid Miles McCoy mess to begin with), it is to tell the story in the precise order in which it happened.

The trouble started the day before, which was Valentine’s Day, a pagan holiday named after the Roman priest who defied Claudius II by marrying Christian couples. After being hauled off in shackles, the soft-hearted cleric was beaten with clubs, stoned, and when that didn’t finish him off, publicly beheaded. Makes you think.

It had poured rain for eight days running, which isn’t what you sign on for when you live in Los Angeles. But that morning, as I stepped outside for a run, the sun was blinding—so blinding, in fact, that I didn’t see the fragrant valentine my neighbor’s dog, Engelbart, had left on the stoop for me. Not that I minded spending the next twenty minutes cleaning the grooves of my running shoe with a chopstick. It was a beautiful day. The rollerbladers were cruising the Venice boardwalk. The scent of medical marijuana was wafting through the air. Engelbart’s gastrointestinal tract was sound.

An hour later, I hopped into my mint green 1975 Mercedes convertible, and made my way up Lincoln to the freeway. I was headed to Larchmont, an incongruous stretch of Main Street, USA, sandwiched between Hollywood and Koreatown. This was where studio executives’ wives and their private school daughters came for green juice, yoga pants, and the occasional wrench from the general store that had served Hancock Park since the 1930s. It was also where my mother and grandmother ran Cellar Door, known for its chia seed porridge and life-positive service. I helped out whenever my coffers were running low. Which was most of the time.

You are probably frowning right about now. Surely a young woman who owns a classic convertible — as well as Balenciaga gladiators — should not be perennially low on funds. But it’s true.

The car came from my grandmother, who received it as part of her third (fourth?) divorce settlement and gave it to me as a gift when I strong-armed my mother into rehab for the fourth (fifth?) time. The sandals I purchased online in a frenzy of self-loathing shortly after watching my ex-boyfriend the rock god serenading his current girlfriend the supermodel on an otherwise uneventful episode of Ellen. I’d tried to return the sandals, but one of the studs had fallen off, making them damaged goods. Like their owner. Not that I’m hard on myself. It’s just that my career — I take clients on custom-designed, private tours of my hometown of L.A. — wasn’t exactly thriving, which is why I was easy prey for the likes of Miles McCoy. But I’m getting ahead of myself again. Here comes the good part. The part where I’m driving like the wind and almost don’t notice the flashing lights in my mirror. I knew I should have fixed that taillight.

I pulled over, cut the motor, handed the cop my license and registration. He looked down, then did a double take. “Dreama Black?”

That would be me.

“The Dreama Black?” he continued. “As in ‘Dreama, Little Dreama’?”

Perhaps I should explain.

I am a twenty-eight-year-old, third-generation rock ’n’ roll groupie — or “muse,” as the women in my family like to put it.

My grandmother, a fine-boned blonde who never met a gossamer shawl or Victorian boot she didn’t like, spent the sixties sleeping her way through Laurel Canyon, winding up in a house on Rothdell Trail (a.k.a. “Love Street”) purchased for her by a certain lead singer of a certain iconic band whose name is the plural of the thing that hits you on the way out.

My mother, blessed with thick, dark tresses and a way with mousse, was consort to many of the pseudo-androgynous alpha males of American hair metal, her chief claim to fame an MTV video in which she writhed across the hood of a Porsche wearing a white leotard and black, thigh-high boots. She also bought Axl Rose his first kilt.

As for me, well, I was on my way to freshman orientation when this guy I’d been seeing, who’d played a couple of no-name clubs with some friends from summer camp, intercepted me at LAX, put his lips to my ear, and hummed the opening bars of a new song I’d apparently inspired. Instead of boarding the plane for Berkeley, I boarded the tour bus with Luke Cutt and the other skinny, pimply members of Rocket Science. Four world tours, three hit albums, two Grammys, and one breakup later, “Dreama, Little Dreama” — an emo pop anthem that went gold in seven days and has sold eleven million copies to date — had made me almost famous forever.

“Step out of the car, please.”

The cop removed his sunglasses. Peach fuzz. Straight out of the academy. “So.”

He wanted to get a picture with me.

“I’d love to get a picture with you,” he said.

I smoothed down my cut-offs and striped T-shirt, removed my red Ray-Bans, ran my fingers through my long, straight, freshly balayaged auburn hair. The cop put his arm around me, leaned in close, took a couple of snaps on his phone. Let me guess. He’d had a crush on me since tenth grade, when he saw me in a white tank and no bra on the cover of Rocket Science’s debut C.D., and now he was going to post the pictures on Instagram to show all his buddies.

“Awesome.” He gave me a brotherly punch on the arm. “No way is my wife going to believe this. She’s crazy about Luke Cutt. Hey, is he really dating that Victoria’s Secret Angel? She is smoking hot.”

At least I didn’t get the ticket.

Excerpt from Dream A Little Death by Susan Kandel. Copyright © 2017 by Susan Kandel.
Reproduced with permission from HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.

Tune in Monday for my review!

Author Guest Post

A Half-dozen of the Best-dressed Film Noir Femmes Fatales

In DREAM A LITTLE DREAM, L.A.-based custom tour guide Dreama Black is organizing a film noir tour as a wedding present for the fiancée of a rap producer obsessed with the great noir scribe, Raymond Chandler. Dreama soon finds herself enmeshed in a mystery that boasts more than a few Chandler-esque touches: a mysterious $40,000 that keeps appearing and disappearing; a mogul who has secrets to hide, and is willing to cross the line to keep them; and a pair of femmes fatales who may just be the same person. One of the best parts of researching this book was delving deep into the history of the Hollywood cinema, and one of the best parts of that was getting to know the dangerous women of film noir, their red lips perfectly lined to bestow their deadly kisses, their wardrobes perfectly designed to seduce the hapless males standing in their way. 

Here are some unforgettable examples:

1. Cora Smith (Lana Turner), The Postman Always Rings Twice

The producer and director of this superlative film instructed the costume designer, Irene, to attire their platinum-haired star exclusively in white -- an inspired, if perverse, choice for a femme fatale with murder on her mind. Murder, however, doesn’t seem to be what the iconic beauty is thinking about when she’s first spotted by dim-witted Frank Chambers (John Garfield) in one of the most unforgettable sequences in film history: a lipstick rolling across the floor; a glimpse of white peep-toed shoes, copied from a pair of Ferragamos Turner already owned; and finally a full shot of Turner as Cora, wearing a white turban, white shorts, and a white crop top exposing her legendary décolleté. “No mercy” might as well have been tattooed across her forehead. 

2. Jane Palmer (Lizabeth Scott), Too Late for Tears

This is one of the most pitiless films noirs, in terms of its unflinching take on one housewife’s struggle with boredom, and the existential threat of a looming future of more of the same. With her throaty voice and a knowing look that belied her tender years, the film’s star, Lizabeth Scott, was groomed to be the next Lauren Bacall. You see that referenced in her wardrobe (jaunty berets, starched shirt-dresses, dramatic belts), which recalls some of the unforgettable looks in The Big Sleep. But the plucky Lizabeth Scott never quite rises to the level of Bacall’s hauteur. She is a B-movie actress through and through  and at a moment when B-movies were as iconic as this one, that’s quite a compliment.

3. Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner), Body Heat

In this contemporary neo-noir set in Florida in the middle of a heat wave, femme fatale Matty Walker teaches a master class in how to get a gullible suitor (William Hurt, pitch-perfect as Ned Racine) to a) break down a door to get to you; and b) murder your husband. In nearly every scene, the two lovers are dripping with sweat (I’m not counting the scene in the aspirational black bathtub), which provides a brilliant diegetic justification for plastering Matty’s white silk blouses and slit pencil skirts to her ample curves. Designed by Renie, who was eighty years old at the time and the winner of an Oscar for Cleopatra, Matty’s wardrobe eschewed the tacky excess of the eighties for a classic retro vibe that felt extremely grown-up. Like murder, come to think of it.

4. Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), Sunset Boulevard

Let’s have a quick chat about Norma Desmond’s gondola bed first, shall we? Purchased by the studio’s prop department from the estate of dancer Gaby Deslys, this carved and gilded wonder was inspired by the boat in “Tannhauser,” was decorated with boiseries taken from Rococo painter Boucher’s “Cupid’s Target,” and after it was used in Sunset Boulevard, found its way into the collection of Lili St. Cyr, the last queen of burlesque. It’s the perfect embodiment of Norma Desmond’s outsized, if faded, glamour, underscored by the brilliant Edith Head fashions she’s swathed in, which evoked the character’s silent film heyday while being aggressively contemporary  Dior’s New Look crossed with Fitzgerald’s flappers. One thing is for sure: no cougar has ever looked more predatory than Norma Desmond in an animal print turban and a finger-mounted cigarette holder.

5. Ellen Berent (Gene Tierney), Leave Her to Heaven

I’m not going to lie. It certainly helps if you are the most beautiful woman ever to grace the silver screen, and Gene Tierney by all accounts was. She also suffered from manic-depression, had difficulties with concentration, attempted suicide, and gave birth under complicated circumstances to a child with severe lifelong congenital disabilities (a tragic turn of events that became a plot point in Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Crack’d from Side to Side). Tierney’s real-life struggles no doubt fed into her film noir roles,  in particular, that of psychopathic Ellen Berent, as evil as she was exquisite, and never more so than in that infamous boat scene, where she incarnates forties style in red lipstick, sultry waved hair, padded shoulders and dark glasses. Whether in a slinky negligee, a regal white fur stole, a pink mock-cheongsam, or wide-legged pants and checked shirts, the flawlessness of Ellen’s self-presentation only heightens our perception of the tortured and broken soul within. This is costume design (thank you, Kay Nelson) at its finest.

6. Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck), Double Indemnity

Edith Head worked with Barbara Stanwyck on twelve films, and she can largely be credited with figuring out how to highlight the considerable charms of the diminutive actress the studio deemed “un-attractive” (one of Head’s hacks was to drop Stanwyck’s waistbands to elongate her figure). Never, however, did style serve story as consummately as it did in Double Indemnity. Take something as simple as jewelry. Phyllis Dietrichson is dripping with shiny, pretty things  bracelets, rings  which suggest the extent to which she is obsessed with money. Even when we first glimpse her, at the top of the stairs and basically naked, she’s showing off her “honey of an anklet.” Part of her seduction is precisely that tawdriness  director Billy Wilder referred to the character’s “sleazy phoniness,” and insisted she wear a cheap blonde wig to underscore that point  but obviousness was hardly a deterrent for Fred MacMurray’s Walter Neff, who didn’t hesitate going 90 in a 45 mph zone. Poor guy never knew what hit him  or more likely, didn’t care.

The Author

About Susan Kandel

An Agatha, Edgar, and SCIBA nominee, Susan Kandel is the author of the nationally best-selling and critically acclaimed Cece Caruso series, the most recent of which, Dial H for Hitchcock (Morrow), was named by NPR as one of the five best mysteries of the year. 

A Los Angeles native, she was trained as an art historian, taught at NYU and UCLA, and spent a decade as an art critic at the Los Angeles Times. When not writing, she volunteers as a court-appointed advocate for foster children, and loves to explore secret, forgotten, and kitschy L.A. She lives with her husband in West Hollywood.

Find Susan on the web at

The Giveaway

This is a rafflecopter giveaway
hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours
for Susan Kandel and Harper Collins. 
There will be 5 winners of one (1) eBook copy of
Dream A Little Death by Susan Kandel. 
The giveaway begins on May 23 and runs through June 27, 2017.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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