Written by Stephen Jared – Ten-a-Week Steale is a tale of old Hollywood written by someone who has spent his fair share of time in new Hollywood: actor Stephen Jared. Jared has previously written a pulp adventure story, Jack and the Jungle Lion, and his love of old fashioned pulp entertainment shines through in his new book as well. Ten-a-Week Steale is a full-throated nostalgia piece, thanks to Jared’s meticulous research and clear passion for Golden Age Hollywood.
The novel’s title refers Walter Steale, a World War I veteran who now works as hired muscle for his brother Samuel. Sam Steale is California’s lieutenant governor, and allied with the corrupt governor. Sam puts his brother to work leaning on political opponents, and digging up dirt on the governor’s opponent in the upcoming election.
Walter Steale is a tough guy who doesn’t mind taking his lumps, and always gives as good as he gets. He doesn’t mind doing his brother’s dirty work for $10 a week. But Steale becomes disenchanted when he finds that his brother has been lying to him. It seems that Sam Steale and the governor have no shortage of corruption on their part.
Walter Steale has a knack for making enemies of gangsters and various political factions, and he soon finds himself framed for a bombing he didn’t commit. But if he makes plenty of enemies, Walter also makes a very important friend. Virginia Joy is an up-and-coming starlet, and Steale is smitten with her. Ginny gives the novel a chance to revel in the Hollywood of the Roaring Twenties. She also proves to be a much-needed ally for Walter Steale. He has to go on the run, and Ginny is the only one he can count on. But he refuses to give up. The Great War left Walter Steale pretty hopeless, but he is animated by his desire to find the truth and bring the corrupt to justice.
Stephen Jared brings his setting to life with aplomb. Classic Hollywood personalities like Adolphe Menjou wander across the pages of Ten-a-Week Steale. If EL Doctorow wrote pulpy mysteries, they would probably look like this one. But more than that, the novel’s dialogue reads like a screenplay from Classic Hollywood. Ten-a-Week Steale is clearly a labour of love, and will no doubt prove entrancing to readers who miss Hollywood’s Golden Age.
Unfortunately, plot and characterisation are not as well developed. It is not very clear why Walter and Ginny fall in love – except that he is the strong hero and she is the beautiful leading lady. Additionally, plot pacing seems somewhat haphazard. Jared will hold readers with the pulpy atmosphere and dialogue he generates so well.
Despite the hardboiled story, Ten-a-Week Steale is a work of unabashed romanticism. Jared kindles the romance of old Hollywood, and the romance of a hard guy pairing with a soft girl. The tough-guy patter is gratifying, but gives way to a happy ending. Readers who miss the good old days – or who want an occasional change of pace – will enjoy Ten-a-Week Steale’s B-movie optimism.
CFL Rating: 3 Stars
US readers can click here to order a copy from Amazon.com.