Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Killed in the Ratings: William L. DeAndrea

William L. Deandrea is an author I have been planning to read for years. Finally I have read one of his books and I will be reading more.

Description at The Mysterious Press:
This Edgar Award–winning debut novel introduces Matt Cobb, vice president of special projects at a large television network—where “special projects” means anything sensitive, or even fatal, that the company wants to keep quiet.
Cobb’s no stranger to following mysterious orders, so when he receives a telephone call asking him to visit a hotel room he obliges. The invitation, however, means a dead body, a sharp blow to the head, and suspicion from the police that he committed the crime. And while one of the detectives put on the case has known Cobb since he was a child, the other is convinced of his guilt.
It turns out that the dead man that Matt discovers in the hotel room was the ex-husband of Matt's old flame, Monica Teobaldi.  And he was also the person in charge of ARGUS, a computer that compiles the ratings for TV shows. So the case he is involved in mixes his personal life and his business responsibilities.

Here is Matt's description of the department he works in:
Special Projects is the guerrilla band of broadcasting. We wait in the weeds until some incident pops up that could harm or embarrass the Network. For example, if an important congressman has a favorite show, we'll find out what it is and whisper to the programming department not to cancel it until after the licensing bill is dealt with. We'll follow the kleptomaniac star around and pay for what she stole. We do everything that's too touchy for Public Relations, and too messy for the legal department.

He keeps hoping he will be moved up and out to a position in Programming or Production, but is probably stuck in his current job because he is very good at it.

What did I like about this book?

  • To start with, Matt Cobb is a very engaging narrator. I usually enjoy stories told in first person. It does mean that the reader gets a limited view of the story, but it also means that we get to know the narrator pretty well. And more than one reviewer noted that Matt is similar to Archie Goodwin (Nero Wolfe's assistant).
  • Another thing I loved was Matt's obsession with word usage and grammar (which also reminded me of the Nero Wolfe series). Don't get me wrong, this book is not at all like the books in Rex Stout's series, but it does have the same light, not too serious, feeling. 
  • I also like books written and set in the 1970s and 80s before computers and technology were so pervasive in our daily lives.
  • There is  a lot of action in this book and the characters are fun. Many of them (especially at the top of the corporation Matt works for) are unlikable and corrupt, but still interesting. 


I first became aware of William L. DeAndrea when he wrote a column ("J'Accuse") in The Armchair Detective magazine. He wrote eight books in the Matt Cobb series. He also published three other series, including an espionage series, and several standalone mysteries. A collection of short stories was published posthumously by Crippen & Landru. DeAndrea's books are easy to find in eBook format.

He was married to mystery writer Jane Haddam (pseud. of Orania Papazoglou), and died in 1996, at age 44. DeAndrea was awarded three Edgars.  One (as mentioned) for this book. One for The Hog Murders, his second novel, for Best Paperback Novel. The third was for Best Critical/Biographical Work in 1995, Encyclopedia Mysteriosa.

See Also:


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Publisher:   Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1986 (orig. publ. 1978)
Length:       243 pages
Format:      Paperback
Series:       Matt Cobb #1
Setting:      New York City
Genre:        Mystery
Source:      I purchased my copy in 2005.

16 comments:

  1. I was about to say this was an author with whose work I'm totally unfamiliar, but then i got to your last line. Yes, I have a copy of the Encyclopedia Mysteriosa somewhere!

    Sounds like I should give his fiction a try. Thanks for the tipoff!

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    1. Hi, I have a copy of Encyclopedia Mysteriosa also and I have enjoyed it over the years. I will probably read his second book, The Hog Murders, or continue on with the Matt Cobb series, because I have copies of most of those.

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  2. I had no idea he was married to Jane Haddam, Tracy! That's really interesting. And this story sounds good, too. As I read your description, I could see how there might be a few comparisons to the Nero Wolfe series, even if this one is different in a lot of ways. I'll have to try these books.

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    1. I am sure you would enjoy this series, Margot. Jane Haddam mentioned in an introduction to one of Rex Stout books that DeAndrea was a big Rex Stout fan, and she grew up in a Connecticut town near to where Stout lived, so it is not surprising to see a connection to Rex Stout in his writing.

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  3. Happy Thanksgiving!
    I have several of his books including the C&L collection, but have read just one. I too liked his column in Armchair Detective.

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    1. I wish I still had copies of those magazines, Rick, I would enjoy going back and reading them. I have the C&L collection too, and I should read it soonish.

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  4. So glad the Camp Fire did not cause you problems, or danger to you!

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    1. Thanks, Rick, the only problem we had was anxiety and smoke in the air for a short time, so we feel very lucky. The last time a fire came down from the same area toward Santa Barbara -- thirty years ago -- we had to evacuate, but we lived in a different area then.

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    2. Thirty years ago, a dear friend's parents got burned out. They ended up moving down to Orange County.

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    3. I have only known one person who lost their home to fire since being in Santa Barbara. A co-worker at the publishing co. I worked for over 10 years ago. But lately I have known a lot of people who had to evacuate.

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  5. I read this (my goodness, is it really 6 years ago?) and quite enjoyed it. The problem with books of this vintage is finding reading copies, but I really would like to continue with the series. My "review": https://www.exurbanis.com/archives/10139#killed

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    1. I have the same problem with finding copies to read, Debbie, but I lucked into a few at book sale 4 or 5 years ago.

      Thanks for the link to your review Debbie. I will add it to the list above.

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  6. The atmosphere and characters remind me of Ed Gorman's "Jack Dwyer" series, Tracy. If there are Kindle versions, I'm sold!

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    1. I should try the Jack Dwyer series, Mathew. I have Autumn Dead but that is a later book in the series and I would rather start at the beginning.

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  7. Not heard of this author before, Tracy. Thanks for the intro. Not sure if it's for me TBH, I reckon I'd enjoy it, but hey I have enough books for now.

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    1. I am not sure that you would like this series either, Col. But he did write others that I plan to try.

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