Los Angeles, California. 1949.
Scott Kelly is a World War Two Marine veteran and mob hitman confined to a Tuberculosis sanatorium suffering from consumption, flashbacks and nightmares from his experiences of The Battle of Okinawa and a botched hit for Bugsy Siegel.
When his movie actress girlfriend disappears, he bribes his way out of the sanatorium to search for her.
What follows is a frantic search, a manic murder spree, stolen contraband, and a briefcase full of cash.
A story that stretches from the war torn beaches of Okinawa, all the way to the playground of the rich and famous, Palm Springs, California.
An exploration into the depths of L.A crime, PTSD and twisted love.
A semi-fictional novel based around the disappearance of Jean Spangler.
Hi and welcome to my review of Always the Dead!
Always the Dead tells the story of Scott Kelly, born in Ireland but raised across the ocean by parents looking for a better life. Scott served the Marines in the Second World War and worked as a mob hitman. Now, his body is in a sanatorium in California in 1949 where he’s being treated for tuberculosis, but part of his mind is stuck in Okinawa, Japan, on the atrocities he’s seen and done there, and also on the crimes he’s since committed.
The one highlight of Scott’s life is his relationship with Jean Spangler, whom he loves more than he dares admit. The name might ring a bell because this is where Always the Dead is based on actual facts and events: in 1947 an actress by the name of Jean Spangler went missing and a dozen theories have been voiced about her disappearance. Always the Dead tells her story from the viewpoint of her lover Scott Kelly.
Always the Dead evokes memories of the black and white gangster movies of yore, where blood flows darkly and gunshots ring through the night, where the men are tough and the women are beautiful, albeit perhaps slightly ditzy. It doesn’t get any more noir than this.
There’s just something about Stephen J. Golds’ writing that never fails to draw me in, something that seems to cast a spell over me. He is the absolute master of rather short books that pack an enormous punch written in a prose that is pitch-black and anything but flowery, yet strangely poetic, and beautifully so.
I loved everything about Always the Dead, it’s violent and it’s dark and it’s beautiful, and the protagonist is portrayed in such a way that you can’t help but care about him, no matter his criminal ways. If you’re looking for a hard-hitting crime noir novel, be sure to check out Always the Dead!
Always the Dead is available to buy directly from Red Dog Press here.