Really good noir fiction about a bygone era in Hollywood can be scarcer than hens’ teeth, but Kanon provides a fine tale, with historical overtones. The period is set immediately after WWII, and a returning GI is traveling across country, after learning his brother, a successful screen writer, has had a fatal accident. Or was it? As Ben Collier becomes familiar with his brother’s life, marriage, and somewhat clandestine activities, the Communist witch hunt begins with forays into studio politics and the émigrés who have sought asylum in the US from Eastern Europe. The division between real life and fantasy on the screen dissolves, taking characters and political figures with it and lending an increased air of unreality to the Hollywood setting.
Kanon’s characters at first glance are somewhat formulaic, but as the book progresses, reveal deeper layers and nuances, and the backstory becomes the focal point of the mystery. Will the recent history of the Jews in Europe be repeated in the United States? Will the witch hunt for communists in the movie industry net any big players? Will the burgeoning labor unrest undo Hollywood? Will Ben find himself in Hollywood with his brother’s wife? Kanon manages all the plot elements until the very end of the story.
And for further insight, read the author’s note at the end!