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From the Isle of Islay to the Isle of LA!

June 23, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Death by Parking: Book One’

Astrid Ambroziak

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss, “I Can Read with My Eyes Shut!”


It’s 9 on a Tuesday evening, and you just got home from a long, boring dinner meeting. Out of respect for your clients, and to be a fully engaged listener, you have avoided having a drink. After all, conscious listening is “in” and talking too much is not.


Your mind is fried. You have processed the information on the drive home. And now, all you want to do is relax for an hour or two before you are ready to fall asleep.


So what do you do? So many choices. You can turn on TV. You can talk or listen more to your partners. You can tweet your heart out or catch up with the daily newspapers.


Or you can pick up a good book to read. You are pretty tired, so scholarly philosophy books might be too much now. You must relax, because you have a few more long days before the weekend. So you reach out for a read that is fun, easy and entertaining, and where you can simply be an observer.


If you pour yourself a single-malt scotch and enjoy the mystery genre, pick up “Death by Parking” – by PT Editor John Van Horn — and enjoy a ride with LA’s finest Private Investigator, Paul Manning.


We first meet PI Manning in the 1950s. He drives a 1955 Pontiac Star Chief convertible and has an office in Hollywood near the Egyptian Theatre.


One early morning before his coffee kicks in, he gets a call from a mysterious, silky voiced Betty Beeson, who works for AB Parking. Some money is missing at the garage she manages on Hollywood and Vine. Paul’s paramour, Shirley, had suggested that Betty call Paul to help her so that she can keep her job.


From the very beginning, Paul’s intuition kicks in that something doesn’t add up with the 7 a.m. phone call. Business is slow, so he jumps on the case. Immediately, a first body comes on the scene.


A decade earlier, Paul had left the LAPD because of a “misunderstanding” with a suspect. Then, as he said, he “cleaned up after prima donnas” for the Bel Air Patrol. Now being on his own as a PI, he still knows the rules and calls the cops. It helps that he can reach out to his former partner on the force, Detective Sgt. Bill Vose.


And that is how it begins. Parking in the ’50s is a shady business, with “irregularities” and scams. Cash business can invite some dishonesty, to say the least. It is all a contradiction to flamboyant, independent, ladies’ man, yet most ethical, Paul.


And his first parking job, with bodies showing up left and right, makes PI Manning ask: “What in the heck did the Mob, Howard Hughes, the CIA, and J. Edgar Hoover have to do with the takeover of parking operations in Los Angeles?”


Because that is what Paul has to figure out, while showing us the history of Los Angeles, from Mulholland Drive, through the nooks of Bel Air and down to Pacific Coast Highway. Through his first parking job, Paul introduces us to myriad characters, including a retired parking pro who spends most of his time on a golf course and a beautiful woman whose sultry accent reminds Paul of the “moonlight dancing on the Spanish Steps in Rome.”


Did I mention that Paul Manning loves single-malt scotch, beautiful women and especially beautifully sounding women?


And thank goodness, for one of these beautiful women tames Paul, so when we meet him in the second episode of the book, he is 30 years into his thriving PI operations. He is married to this blonde beauty — his best friend, partner and the manager of his office, Shirley. And now there is a Paulo Jr. on the scene.


Through Shirley and Paulo, the smooth, not-so-likable Paul from the first episode of “Death by Parking” shows some vulnerability. He clearly loves his wife and son. His business is successful, his friendship with the LAPD’s Voss stronger than ever, and all is good in LA in the late ’90s — until Paulo’s friend spots “something funny” going on at a local parking garage. And Manning and Co. get involved.


The city also has a lot of secrets, some deeply hidden in its parking culture, some just beneath the concrete of a parking deck.


Something might be hidden in this garage. More secrets get revealed, and there is more to do with that famous family name that supplied three senators and a president. It is a fun and surprising ride through 1990s LA, and a few garages here and there. The best is that we get to know a Paul Manning with depth to him: not only as a PI, but also as a human being.


It’s his humanity that leads us to part three of the book, where Paulo is grown up and has joined his father in the PI business. It is officially now Manning and Son Private Investigators. Forty years into his successful practice, Paul Sr. hands more assignments to his clever son, while striving to enjoy the view from his Hollywood Hills home and time with wife Shirley. Until another issue in another garage shows up.


From her office window, a beautiful woman named Grace sees some peculiar events taking place daily on a roof of a Westside LA parking garage. Here we are in Los Angeles in the late 20th century, and the laundry from famous AB Parking from 40 years ago is at play again.


Did you know that Library Tower in downtown LA is tallest building west of Mississippi? As Paul says, “contrary to popular belief, Los Angeles does have a downtown.” And, according to Paul and Paul Jr., the city also has a lot of secrets, some deeply hidden in its parking culture, some just beneath the concrete of a parking deck.


If you want to unwind your mind, talk less and listen more.


If you want to have some fun with parking and learn about LA, its history and its top PI team, pour yourself a double Laphroaig, settle in, and read JVH’s “Death by Parking: Book One.”


You will forget your problems of the day past, and relax while going on an outback journey with the Mannings, Private Investigators. It’s a journey that, just like the protagonist’s (and the author’s) beloved scotch from the Isle of Islay, will taste “tough, rough, peaty, with just a hint of sea.”


And most of all, it will taste like a good time!


Death by Parking, Book One, by John Van Horn. Available now on Amazon in both print and Kindle formats.


Contact Astrid Ambroziak, Editor of Parking Today Media’s parknews.biz website, at astrid@parkingtoday.com.



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