Zeb Larson reviews The Fade Out #6…
BRUBAKER and PHILLIPS’ best-selling series ever just keeps hitting! Charlie and his blacklisted friend Gil hunt Hollywood’s back alleys for answers to Valeria Sommer’s murder and cover-up, but the one man who might know something, ex-child star “Flapjack” Jones, has gone into hiding…unless he’s dead in a ditch by the side of the road.
A few different plot points which have been smoldering finally burst into flame in this issue. Gil is hellbent on getting somebody to pay for Valeria’s death, while Charlie can’t seem to get his thoughts away from Maya. Both of them are going to make decisions with long-term consequences. I will be discussing spoilers in this review, so do not read if you haven’t read the issue.
Charlie has been tasked with escorting Maya Silver to a movie premiere after Tyler Grave’s car accident. While Charlie is out trying to be “nonthreatening” for the cameras, Gil is seeking some advice from another friend about what to do next. He goes to none other than Dashiell Hammett about how to handle a murder “story,” and Hammett is happy to provide some friendly advice: provoke the perpetrators and bring them into the open. While out with Maya, he sees ex-child star Jack “Flapjack” Jones playing with Desi Arnaz’s band and tries to get some information about what went on between Kamp and Valeria. That leads nowhere, but he ends up going home with Maya. Meanwhile, Gil has sent a note to Thursby, saying he knows who killed Valeria.
Dashiell Hammett’s presence in this story is a brilliant cameo, both for the fact that he helped to birth the noir genre and the nod to his role in assisting victims of the blacklist, which eventually landed him in prison. Yet there are deeper twists on the genre here as Charlie tries his hand at being a detective. He acknowledges that he’s written murder mysteries, but now he has to try and be the private detective, pretending to fit into roles that he’s written. Can a writer becomes what he writes? (Hammett is off the hook because he was a detective before he was a novelist). That’s the brilliant juxtaposition: Hammett is a detective who became a writer, and Charlie is a writer trying to become a detective.
Up until now, I haven’t feel suspicious toward Maya, but what game is she playing in all of this? She seems to fully recognize that everything in Hollywood is a publicity stunt, so why does she want to do it? And what has brought her to Charlie? Charlie is hopelessly broken, and it’s clear that she’s carrying some pretty heavy baggage herself. They certainly have world-weariness in common. She’s been the more aggressive one with him though, throughout the past few issues. Is he she attracted to him, or is she not just playing at being a femme fatale? Still, it would be nice to get inside her head again for a little while.
In terms of action, this was a very productive issue. This has really been a slow-burn series, and I haven’t complained because Brubaker is so good at setting the atmosphere and writing that beautiful noir prose. Still, after several issues of not learning very much at all about the mystery, it’s nice that Gil has decided to try and break it open. We’ve had several issues of background creation, and now there’s forward movement. The real question now is whether he can contain what he’s going to unleash, or whether he’ll drown in the coming deluge. And where will Charlie stand in all of this, especially as he knows nothing about what is going to happen?