The Company Files: The Naming Game
The world has changed since J. Edgar Hoover but the era about McCarthy is brought to light in this book as Jack Marshall who is called to the murder scene of a script doctor or screenwriter from Warner Brothers Studio. The crime scene shows the body, the and Jack Marshall is called to investigate who would want to take out this write. Enlisting the help of Walker, engaging him as a script writer to infiltrate the studio but first meet John Hamilton an actor that seems bent on getting involved in the action and although he makes tons of money as an actor feels he is over paid and would rather be back in battle again alongside Jack.
Betty, Jack’s wife knows he cannot talk about his work and the author brings in the fact that Hamilton is victim of the witch hunt started during this era by McCarthy claiming he might be a communist and the note left by the body says the same in so man words.
From the time we meet Jack in the Company Files the Good Man and get to know him in this novel, we understand that American Culture was different back then and it accepted at times without question.
Listening to John Hamilton and Jack Marshall talk openly and frankly we realize that in this era blacklists contained the names of people that have been placed on single of individual lists and these people have been singled out, as John was in order to be punished and denied employment. Individuals were not the only ones, organizations were not exempt from this list. If you listen to the news today you begin to wonder what would have happened to some of the politicians today if they simply disagreed with policies set by those in charge, if someone disagreed with their employer, their political or social viewpoint. We get to understand John as he does his sessions with this psychiatrist who battles back and forth with him in verbal discords or arguments and you wonder just whose side this doctor is on and if he truly comprehends what John is trying to convey since he had encouraged him to testify. Being blacklisted he and others would no longer be able to seek a job or any type of job in that field, Is this legal? Is it discrimination of a different kind?
This plot has much more as we see Walker now working as a script writer and editor at Warner Brothers and really feeling like a fish out of water.
Listening to Walker talk with Terry and another man named Joe Teague you begin to wonder who the mole in the studio that is reporting those they think are communists and getting them blacklisted. Walker tries to befriend both but, he realizes that Terry is probably the most honest, teaching him what he needs to know about editing and being a script writer but the reason he is there is to solve the murder. In a sense he too is a mole for the Company.
Leslie returns from the first book but this time as Maggie who is no employed by Dr. Ernest and who is Vera’s companion. With the members of the writing and editing teams and other higher ups at a party that she hosts we learn more about Terry Doyle, his position, we meet Reagan and Holden and the reader learns more about the actors and HUAC. The House Un-American Activities Committee (HCUA, or House Committee on Un-American Activities, or HCUA) was an investigative committee of the United States House of Representatives.
Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives, established in 1938 under Martin Dies as chairman, that conducted investigations through the 1940s and ’50s into alleged communist activities. Those investigated included many artists and entertainers, including the Hollywood Ten, Elia Kazan, Pete Seeger, Bertolt Brecht, and Arthur Miller. Richard Nixon was an active member in the late 1940s, and the committee’s most celebrated case was perhaps that of Alger Hiss. Its actions resulted in several contempt-of-Congress convictions and the blacklisting of many who refused to answer its questions. Highly controversial for its tactics, it was criticized for violating First Amendment rights. Its influence had waned by the 1960s; in 1969 it was renamed the Internal Security Committee, and in 1975 it was dissolved. A discussion about this took place during this party but the conversation comes back to Walker wanting to know more about Charlie and who might have killed him and why. After all he was gold to Warner Brothers and his death seemed to be pulled under the rug and no one there seemed to want to learn more. Warning Walker to drop it only made him want to do what he was sent to do: Find the killer.
Things spiral out of control at the party when two men take Walker to be questioned by someone working for Warner in order to decide if he is a communist or not. His questions are answered and his honesty noted but he is trying to determine if he knows anything about Hamilton and all he offers is his military record but will it stop there. He is only working there for one month as an editor then writer and the answers that he gives when questioned formally must be scripted and perfectly answered. During this period the people focused on by McCarthy were suspected to have ties to the Communist party and Hollywood was hit hard as not only actors, but screenwriters, directors and producers were blacklisted.
The plot is in two parts as Walker and his reason for being in the studio is one plus the blacklists and then Leslie/Margaret the other as why she is there and snuggling up to Dr. Ernest has yet to be revealed. What is the real reason she took a job with him?
Warner seemed to take a liking to Walker/Thompson and suggested that he write a flashback about Dachau and create a real life flashback about the war from the point of view of a prisoner. The author includes the history of many of the films from RKO studios and some that started at Warner. Things take on a different turn but Walker is still concerned about Moore and the Blacklist.
Unusual events and we learn the link between Dr. Ernest and Warner, the fact that Walker needs to watch his step at the studio when others find out he is doing a special project for Warner plus Leslie/Margaret was sent there to learn more about what Ernest has in his file cabinet as he as we suspect if filtering information to Moore for Warner hopefully not for the HUAC.
When Mr. Edwards the elevator operator is attacked when someone is trying to burglarize the office of Dr. Ernest, he is the victim in more ways than one and the issue of prejudice because he is Negro comes into play.
Besides the blacklist, the reasons why Warner can get any film or script made or even a copy of anything from another studio, leads readers to wonder where his connections are linked and just how powerful is this man and why?
The media is relentless and a photo appears and things start to fall into dangerous places as Vera and Margaret are seen in a compromising position. No one seems safe from whomever is on this witch hunt and it is evident that the first murder victim was into the mob and possibly the next was linked in some way as Leslie/Maggie finds herself coming face to face with a dead body but first searching for some missing files.
Walker seems to be at the heart of Moore’s hunt to learn more about him but when documents are delivered and truths are uncovered to safe face he claims that he is far from done with Walker.
Just who is behind the murders? Why? What does Warner have to do with Harry Cohen and is he connected too? The final scenes are quite interesting as the author connects the dots and we learn more about Dr. Ernest, his blackmailing, what he was doing for Hoover and how the list that Charlie created might have gotten him killed.
With Terry Doyle, John Hamilton and Walker together for a meeting a trap was set but the end result will reveal the killer or killers. Someone killed Dr. Ernest why? Someone killed Charlie Loew. Blackmail, blacklisted, fear, hate, prejudice, greed and two people targeted for the sexual preferences as voices are heard, drinks are poured and the end result will surprise readers as the final names and the final lists and someone was cleared on the HUAC list and the final words in the script will be written and seal the fate of so many. When Hoover meets Marshall and we learn the truth behind the murders what was in the ledgers, what was stolen from Ernest’s office and what will be the final outcoming of those that centered their lives on profiting from being part of the NAMING GAME!
The author takes us back to the McCarthy era reminds us of HUAC and blacklisting, Hoover wanting to take down those he thought were Communists, the blackmailing, the lies, betrayals and those that benefitted by feeding Hoover names, a novel that reminds us that the past is not so far from the present.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews