After waking up the neighborhood with The Morning Show Murders, and keeping readers up late solving The Midnight Show Murders, Al Roker returns with his most tantalizing mystery to date. Celebrity chef turned sleuth Billy Blessing finds his plate full of danger once again, as secrets from his long-buried past threaten to make a comeback.
Before Billy had his five-star restaurant in New York, before he was tapped to co-host the morning show Wake Up, America! and travel with it for a week in the Windy City--before he even assumed the name Billy Blessing--he lived a totally different life under a very different identity: as wily con man Billy Blanchard. Caught trying to run a scam on a shady Detroit businessman, Billy did time for his crimes, reinvented himself, and has successfully kept that part of his past covered up ever since. But when he and Eddie Patton, a nosy ex-cop with a long memory, are guests on a popular Chicago TV talk show, the off-camera chat turns to blackmail. And Billy may have no choice but to pay up or see the embarrassing truth from being blogcast to the world on Patton's true crime website.
This being Chicago, secrets have a way of getting out--and getting people killed. When Patton winds up dead in his apartment only hours after trying to shake Billy down, it's just the first in a string of killings that has America's most beloved TV host scrambling for clues, unsure who his friends are, and desperate to clear his name before he becomes the media's latest poster child for celebrity scandal. Throw in a budding romance with a visiting movie star and Billy Blessing may have finally gotten himself into one sticky situation even he can't talk his way out of.
Fast-paced, funny, and bubbling over with inside scoop on the business they call show, The Talk Show Murders is Al Roker mystery fiction at its delicious, dishy best.
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December 06, 2011
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Excerpt from The Talk Show Murders: A Billy Blessing Novel by Al Roker
At roughly six--thirty on a Thursday morning that dawned bright and clear, members of the Chicago Police Department's Homicide Division and Forensic Services were lured to the city's Oak Street Beach by a body that had been deposited on the sand by Lake Michigan's ebbing tide. A drowning in the lake, accidental or otherwise, was not exactly remarkable. But this one was clearly unique, though that fact was not presented immediately to the public.
The CPD had dropped a cone of silence over the discovery. Even the hapless early--morning jogger who'd nearly stumbled over the corpse was being forced to pursue his cardio perfection in seclusion somewhere off the grid.
Surprisingly, in this era of instant information, where members of the media are as persistent as they are plentiful, the news blackout lasted for nearly thirty hours. It was broken by a gray--haired, ill--tempered former cop named Edward "Pat" Patton. Since his retirement, Patton had begun a second career with a blog, Windy City Blowdown, devoted primarily to outspoken and often outrageous political critiques, right--wing rants and, adding a much--needed patina of credibility to his efforts, an ex--lawman's insider take on the city's criminal activity.
Blowdown's popularity had led to Patton's frequent appearances on local talk shows and on a few network offerings, such as Midday with Gemma, where the eponymous hostess Gemma Bright had just welcomed him to share a periwinkle--blue couch with her previous guest, Carrie Sands, a young vibrantly blond actress who was starring in a new motion picture filming in the city.
When the applause of the primarily female audience began to subside, Patton plopped down on the couch. He leaned in close to the actress and whispered something in her ear that caused her smile to lose its perk. Then he turned his attention toward the show's hostess, adjusting his face in what he probably believed resembled a Gene Hackman-Popeye Doyle half--grin. "Okay, Gemma, I'm here," he said in his familiar, gruff voice. "So what d'ya wanna talk about today?"
"Oh, I think you know, Pat." Gemma Bright's Australian accent was elaborate, slightly nasal, and made more distinctive by her odd habit of emphasizing words and syllables in a seemingly random fashion. This, combined with her fortysomething zaftig but stylish good looks, an extroverted personality, and an ability to convey what seemed like genuine interest, had positioned her as the second--most--popular television personality in the Second City. "We want some dish on that mysterious body that washed ashore yesterdye."
"Dish, huh? Well, lemme tell ya, babe, it ain't all that appetizing."
"Death rarely is," Gemma said.
"That's probably why all those health--conscious wimps kept jogging past the body without stopping," Patton said. "Or could it be that they were just too caught up in their own petty little lives to wanna get involved?"
"That's not fair," Carrie Sands chirped, evidently feeling he was talking about her people. "When you jog you get in the zone and you block out a lot of what's happening around you."
"That explains why most of you bubbleheads voted for our illus-trious illegal--alien president. You were in the zone." Patton winked at the audience, which, surprisingly, rewarded him with scattered applause and laughter.
"Holy shit, Billy," my assistant, Kiki Owens, said. "Who is this trog?"
"You know as much about him as I do," I said, which was the truth at the time.
"After the president's release of his full, authenticated birth certificate, this guy must be the last idiot spewing the birther crap. On our network!"
"Oh that pesky First Amendment," I told her.
We were in the studio--six greenroom of Worldwide Broadcasting's Chicago affiliate, WWBC, watching the midday show unfold while I awaited my turn on camera. We were sharing the space with a pale, undernourished--looking guy in his twenties. His black hair was bowl--cut in what may have been an homage to the late Moe Howard, may he rest in Three Stooges Heaven. His concave chest was wrapped in a black T‑shirt emblazoned with the statement "Down is the New Up" in yellow letters. His faded black jeans had slipped low enough on his hips to show an inch or two of candy--striped boxers, which in its way complimented his oversized pink high--top canvas shoes.
"Patton's a local celebrity," he said. "A real asshole who treats his employees like dirt."
"You work for him?" I asked.
He frowned. "Me? I'm Larry Kelsto. Why would I work . . . ? I'm a comic," he stated, adding defensively, "I've been on a bunch of network shows. Last Comic Standing, Comedy Brew, Last Call with Carson Daly. Anyway, if you want to know about Pat Patton . . ."
He then went on to provide a Wikipedia--lite explanation of Pat Patton's semi--fame, concluding with, "The guy never met anybody he didn't hate. He's the opposite of Roy Rogers."
"I think you mean Will Rogers," I said.
"Who the hell is Will Rogers?"
"Roy's father," I told him, dismayed that a comedian, even a young one, would have to ask that question.