In Fletch's Moxie, the prolific Gregory Mcdonald tests his incomparable investigative journalist once again with a caper that is as perfectly plotted as Fletch is brilliant.
It seems just about everyone in Hollywood had a reason to want Steve Peterman dead. But how someone managed to put a knife in his back on a live broadcast without being seen is anyone's guess. Unfortunately for Fletch, his girlfriend, Moxie Mooney, a huge star at the box office, is also the number one suspect. With the police asking way too many questions, Fletch whisks Moxie and her drunken father, O.L., off to Key West for a little privacy. But before he can even check out the beach, the rest of the suspects decide to check in. Now, in a house full of Hollywood's elite, Fletch is increasingly amazed at how ruthless the movie business can be.
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Knopf Group E-Books
July 11, 2005
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Excerpt from Fletch's Moxie by Gregory Mcdonald
1 "What happened to Steve?" The woman in the canvas chair leaned forward. She had not looked around from the television screen since Fletch entered the pavillion. No one else was there. She was speaking to herself, or to the air. "For God's sake, what's wrong?" she said in a tight, low voice. Even under the canopy on a sunless day, the screen of the television monitor was blanched by daylight from the beach. From where Fletch was standing, he could see the pale images flickering on the screen. Across a few meters of beach, between the cameras, standing lights, reflectors, and sound booms, he could see the reality of what was on the screen, the set of The Dan Buckley Show, host and guests. In the middle chair sat Dan Buckley wearing white trousers, loafers, and a light blue Palm Beach shirt. Even at a distance, amiability seemed stuck on his face like a decal. To his left, in a long, white bulky dressing gown sat Moxie Mooney--the gorgeous, perky, healthy, fresh-faced young film star called away from her make-up table to oblige an on location talk show. To Buckley's right sat Moxie's agent, manager, and executive producer, Steve Peterman in three-piece, pearl-gray suit, black shoes, and cravat. Only Steve Peterman wasn't sitting properly in his chair. He was slumped sideways. His head was on his right shoulder. Fletch looked at his watch. At the back of the talk-show set a heavy, brightly colored, split curtain moved slightly in the breeze. Behind the set, down the beach the Gulf of Mexico was gray-blue in that light. On all sides of the set was the paraphernalia of a much bigger set, the location of the film-in-progress, Midsummer Night's Madness, starring Moxie Mooney and Gerry Littleford. Odd-shaped trailers were parked on the beach, each facing a different direction, as if dropped there. False palm-thatched huts were here and there. Thick black cables ran every which way over the sand. Low wooden platforms, like portable dance floors, were tilted on the beach. Strewn everywhere were the odd-shaped light rigs, reflectors, cameras, and sound cranes. The whole beach looked like a sandbox of toys abandoned by a giant, rich child. Among all these trappings moved the film crew of Midsummer Night's Madness, working, apparently oblivious of the taping going on in their midst. "What happened?" the woman repeated in a hoarse whisper. Fletch put his glass of orange juice back on the bar table. He stood quietly behind the woman in her canvas chair. She still hadn't looked around at him. Closer, he could see the monitor more clearly. In a loose head-shot, Moxie was alone on screen, laughing. Then she looked to her right, as if seeking confirmation from Steve Peterman, as if turning the conversation over to him. Moxie stopped talking with a short, sharp inhale. Laughter left her face. One eyebrow rose. The camera pulled back to include Buckley. He looked to his right, to see what had surprised Moxie. His eyes widened. His lips did not move. The camera pulled back farther. Steve Peterman's eyes stared blankly into the camera. His head was at such an odd angle resting on his shoulder his neck seemed broken. Blood oozed from the lower, right corner of his mouth. It dribbled down his cheek past his ear and onto his cravat. In the pavillion, the woman in the canvas chair screamed. She stood up. She screamed again. People everywhere on the beach, even on the talkshow set, were looking at her. She clasped her hands over her mouth. Fletch took her arm. Gently, firmly, he turned her body toward him. Her eyes were affixed to the monitor. "Come on," he said. "Time for a break." "What's happening? What happened to Steve?" "Coffee," he said. "They'll be right back." He turned her away from the reality of what was happening on the set and away from the unreality of what was happening focused on the television sc