John Ray Horn has had about as much trouble in life as a man can stand. He was once Sierra Lane, hero to countless youngsters in a series of cheap Westerns. Now, after a spell in prison, he lives on the margins of 1940s Los Angeles. In the early evening of an LA autumn, the air has a harsh edge to it - a hint that somewhere in the hills, a slow-moving fire is eating at the dry grass. And there is another source of unease - the news that subpoenas are being served all over Hollywood, ordering people to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee. John Ray is approached by Maggie O' Dare, an old friend and former lover. She has a favour to ask: Will Bruder, a brilliantly talented but notoriously difficult screenwriter, has been called to testify before the Committee. Bruder is accused of having belonged to the Communist Party - a claim he strongly denies. If John Ray can discover Bruder's secret accuser, they might have a chance to clear his name. But no one is willing to talk. People are scared - perhaps more frightened than they were in the depression, or even the war.
Hollywood has become a place driven by fear and suspicion, where a name, whispered in anger or malice, can see an innocent man persecuted. And now there's no mistaking the smell of fire in the air. It is just over the mountains, still unseen, but it's coming this way...
Edward Wright grew up in Arkansas and has degrees from Vanderbilt and Northwestern Universities. His major career has been journalism, and he has worked as an editor at the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times. Edward was awarded the coveted CWA Ellis Peters Memorial Dagger for his novel RED SKY LAMENT in October 2006. He and his wife, Cathy, live in the Los Angeles area.