The bit that amused me most, however, comes in an aside, when the star is recounting his life story and tells of a new house he and his wife moved into, which had until recently been owned by
a television star named Holt who'd committed suicide when his series was canceled.That, Westlake fans will quickly realize, is surely Samuel Holt, star of a Magnum, PI-style crime show--and author of four books about his inadvertent real-life adventures solving crimes . . . which were written by Westlake in the early 1980s and published under Holt's name as a Richard Bachman-esque test of the market. In the foreword to the Felony and Mayhem editions of the books, Westlake explains that he'd gotten his publisher to agree not to put his name on the books, and he was ready to see whether he could sell just on the strength of his writing--but then
The first book was published, and in the window of my local bookstore was a sign saying Samuel Holt was me. The publisher had told his sales staff the "secret," and encouraged them to pass the news on to the bookstores.Coming at this from the other end--working in a publisher's marketing department--I have to admit that it would be very hard to grit my teeth and not share the secret.
Despite what we learn in Sacred Monster, however, I'm not at all convinced that Holt actually killed himself. He just didn't seem like that kind of guy: he's not exactly happy-go-lucky, but he's resourceful and determined, and while his show was clearly important to him you don't get the sense from the books that it's a matter of life and death. All these years later, we'll likely never know, but I suspect foul play. Does that loose-lipped publisher have an alibi?