While I Disappear
Set in postwar Los Angeles, While I Disappear is Wright’s second novel featuring former B-western actor John Ray Horn and his friend Joseph Mad Crow. The Indian had been Horn’s sidekick in the movies, but now the washed-up actor works for him, collecting gambling debts for Mad Crow’s casino, and living rent-free in exchange for caretaking duties on a run-down estate. While roughing up a man who assaulted Mad Crow’s niece, Horn is startled to see a former costar, Rose Galen, drunk and down on her luck. A mixture of curiosity and sympathy prompts Horn to reach out to her and then he finds her murdered. Anxious to do right by Rose, he reestablishes his contacts in the Hollywood studios to discover what in her past led to her murder.
Wright captures the mood and atmosphere of postwar LA perfectly, especially the shabbier side where people are on their way down rather than their way up. It’s populated with recognizable Hollywood types—the character actress who can’t get work as a leading lady, the hammy older actor reflecting on past glories, the director whose string of successes is behind him—and there’s a nod to the famous Fatty Arbuckle rape scandal in the secret that haunts Rose. Horn is a laconic and enigmatic but intriguing hero. This novel reads like a good film noir.