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LA 3-Way by Ben Borland
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Genre/Category: Crime, Thriller, Mystery
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LA 3-Way by Ben Borland
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Synopsis

Advisory reader age for this book is 17+

A comedy crime caper about the intertwining lives of a British pop star in Hollywood and an ordinary young man in Scotland who looks just like him. The pop star's attempt to atone for his wife's death leads him into deadly territory; his hapless double, meanwhile, becomes embroiled in a money-making scheme which puts him on a collision course with ruthless gangsters and a mysterious assassin.

Paul Crombie is in a mess – he’s lost his job, his girlfriend’s dumped him and he’s a dead ringer for the most unpopular celebrity on the planet, the ego-maniac pop star Zack Keane. But when a friend suggests a job as a ‘hate-a-like’ in order to make a few quid from the newspapers, he has no idea it will put him on the front pages and ultimately leave him fighting for his life against psychotic Glaswegian gangsters, ruthless glamour models, greedy talent agents and a mysterious assassin.

Meanwhile in Hollywood Zack Keane is attempting to rebuild himself and his public image by solving the disappearance of his housekeeper’s daughter. Dogged by paparazzi, teenage hoodlums and nymphomaniac French exchange students, the trail leads him to the shocking discovery that the death of his wife – for which he has wrongly taken the blame – may not have been all that it seemed.

And all the while, the two men – so similar in appearance and yet so radically different in almost every other way – are on a collision course that will propel them into a finale that is beyond their wildest dreams…

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Excerpt:

Zack Keane’s black Corvette Grand Sport eased to a halt by the loudspeaker at the start of the drive-thru lane. “Take yo’ order,” drawled the kid on the mike.

“Big Mac meal with a strawberry milkshake to take away, please,” said Zack, and immediately cursed himself for sounding far too British. It was also the same thing he always used to have back home. “And a side of onion rings,” he added quickly, trying to Americanize his request.

“You wanna go large?” asked the kid.

“Yeah,” said Zack. Money was no object to a big star like the Zackster.

However, another problem was becoming painfully apparent. In the cooling breeze of the freeway, with his new Ray-Bans absorbing the glare of the sun, eating lunch in the convertible had seemed like a great idea. Now, with the southern California heat already frying the top of his head, he realised it obviously was not.

“…have a nice day,” the drive-thru kid was saying, as he finished recapping the order.

“Er, sorry, but I think I should come inside after all,” Zack said, and cringed. This was the most British thing he had said all week.

“Move along to the checkout window now, sir.”

“I said I wanna make it eat in,” he tried again, putting a bit of LA attitude into it this time, although he was unable to resist adding a plaintive, “Please.”

“British asshole…” mumbled the kid before the connection was lost in a burst of static.

Zack chose a table by the window to eat his lunch, thinking that although the air conditioning was pleasantly cool, it failed to completely dispel the familiar aromas of child’s sick, cheap cooking oil and industrial cleaner. He watched, chewing his burger mechanically, as a large silver Toyota SUV pulled into the parking lot.

Paparazzi.

They had been following Zack ever since Easy Town had won Pop Quest all those years ago, so in theory he should have been used to them by now. Only that was like saying you should get used to mosquitoes if you lived in a swamp, when, in fact, they would always be annoying little sh*ts.

He forced himself to look away and found his attention diverted by a new superhero movie advertised on the paper liner on his tray. The female star was an English actress who had once been part of his late wife Stacey’s West End clubbing gang in London. Zack thought back to one wild night in the Met Bar, when the actress – then best known for a low-budget horror set in the Welsh mountains, called Night of the Killer Sheep - had stroked his leg under the table and started licking his ear, whispering hoarsely that she wanted to shag him in the toilets.

He had been only too happy to oblige, of course, although he had at least felt as guilty as hell afterwards. Zack shook his head, wondering how anybody could have been such a thoroughly rotten bastard to the woman he loved. He didn’t even recognise his former self these days. It was hard to imagine now, but his loyalty to Stace had simply been washed away by hundreds, or was it thousands, of similar offers. Like a castle made of the sand, washed into the sea.

That would be a good line for a song, he thought, brightening up a bit. Then he remembered Jimi Hendrix had already done it and the newspapers would nail him for stealing ideas again.

Zack glared at the impossibly pretty face on his tray. He had seen the actress recently in an organic supermarket in Beverly Hills, accompanied by her assistant who was pushing a trolley full of ludicrously overpriced shopping, and she had completely blanked him. Zack had wanted some beers but he had been unwilling to pay $100 for a six pack, even if they were brewed using water from a Japanese mountain stream, and he had left without buying a thing.

He turned his attention to a property guide he had brought with him and spent the next ten minutes circling a number of homes in South Central LA. Then he got up to go, leaving the guide behind him on the counter.

As he accelerated the Corvette back onto the Hollywood Freeway he saw in his rear view mirror a fat bloke wearing surf shorts and a sleeveless T-shirt get out of the Toyota and jog into the McDonald’s. Keane grinned as he thought of the portly paparazzo lurking on some street corner in Compton and the potential headlines in the British tabloids – Loser Keano Hunts for Ghetto Hideaway.

Not that he felt any more confident about his own destination. He knew very little about East LA, other than the fact it was the traditional hub of the city’s Hispanic population and had its own problems with drugs and gangs. He drove on, admiring the glass towers of Downtown, before taking the El Monte Busway to the San Bernadino Freeway. After a couple of miles he dutifully followed his sat nav, which somebody had equipped with the voice of Billy Connolly, and took the exit for the Long Beach Freeway, southbound. He turned off at East Chavez Avenue and headed east until he reached the address he was looking for – a two-storey row of social housing apartments across the road from Belvedere Park.

He parked and looked around him, noticing a gritty undercurrent that was quite unlike anything he had come across in LA so far. Sure, there were some pretty dodgy sections of Hollywood Boulevard, and parts of Venice Beach and Santa Monica were not exactly safe to walk around after dark, but this was different somehow. There were no crack dealers on the corner, no gang bangers in souped-up cars and most of the people he could see walking past looked fairly sane, which was a reasonable percentage for anywhere in LA, but still there was something about the area that made him edgy.

It was just a poor, workaday part of town that was not at all glamorous and a little bit depressing...

Of course! Keane realised with a start that it reminded him of home.

The thought galvanised him into action – he was, after all, supposed to be a working class kid made good from the mean streets of Belfast. Surely East Chavez Avenue could have nothing on the Falls Road (although in fact he had grown up in Bangor and had visited the more dangerous areas of his home city very few times in his life).

He got out of the car and pressed a button on the key to lock the doors, acutely aware that they did so with a loud beep and an ostentatious double flash of the indicator lights. Would it not make more sense for the doors to lock silently, drawing as little attention as possible from any would-be muggers within earshot?

The address he was after was on the ground floor of the flats, which were accessed by an outer door fitted with security bars and an intercom. He pressed the buzzer for the home of Rosa Velasco and waited, belching softly and thinking of the Big Mac meal that was now residing uncomfortably in his stomach. Perhaps it had been a bad idea to order those onion rings, after all.