Since we’ve been talking about Crossover Artists this week, just for fun I am crossing over to the literary side to chat you up on Robert J. Randisi’s six-pack of Rat Pack Mystery novels.

Fun is definitely the operative word with these books … at least if you’re a fan of “the Pack” and enjoy fast breaking private-eye style mysteries. We’re not talking Pulitzer prize winning stuff here, but Randisi uses the first-person PI style to great effect and immerses the reader in the lively (hot!) action packed Vegas that was home to Frank, Dean, Sammy and Joey in their hey day.

All the trappings are here with scads of Hollywood stars, show girls, booze and all manner of trouble for Eddie Gianelli — former Brooklyn CPA, now a blackjack pit boss at the Sands. Eddie finds himself in the middle of it when Jack Entratter asks him for a small favor … he just wants Eddie to help his friend Frank Sinatra out with a little blackmail issue!

Thats’s the thumbnail for the first book in the series — Everybody Kills Somebody Sometime — where it turns out Frank needs someone “expendable” to help Dean out of a nasty fix. 

I’ve read the first four of the six pack but won’t go into detailed review mode on each of these books … hit up Amazon or B&N to get the full kahuna reviews. That said, I will give you the lowdown on why I enjoy them so much.

Like I mentioned above, Bob Randisi does a great job of steeping the reader in Rat Pack era Las Vegas with all the sexy excess and lavishness that entails. Though there are some coarse moments in the books (dead people often make the scene in these scenarios) it’s not gratuitous. Randisi is more focused on weaving the atmospheric ambiance of that special time and the “bigger than life” stature of Frank, Dean, Sammy and their extended gang into the plot. The immersive nature of these books makes them a pleasure to read and hard to put down.

Each book has a major Rat Pack player at the center of the plot … usually one of “the Pack” runs Eddie to ground and hit’s him up for a favor. For instance in the second book — Luck Be a Lady, Don’t Die — Dean Martin returns the favor from book one when he asks Eddie to help Frank find the girl that disappeared from his hotel room!

Tahoe and Frank’s Cal Neva hotel/casino become part of the backdrop as Sammy Davis takes his turn in the hot zone in Hey There (You with the Gun in Your Hand). Things look dodgy for Sammy and he reaches out to Eddie once again for a favor — this time to help recover some photos Sammy’s being blackmailed for.

All this action starts to get Eddie (and his sidekick “wise guy” muscle Jerry Epstein) some unwanted exposure to the Las Vegas police, the FBI and the Mob! Eddie and Jerry ping-pong between the the law and the mafia with increasing frequency … not always to good ends for their health and well-being, so Frank lines up Sam Giancana’s help … wild and fun stuff!

Though the venue is still Vegas, Hollywood characters move toward the center of the action when Dean Martin seeks out Eddie to help Marilyn Monroe out of a tough spot in You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Kills You. Though the core plot is formulaic with more of the same as the previous books, the additional characters Randisi brings to play each time, and the mounting pressure on Eddie as he continues to do favors for Frank and the gang keeps it fresh. That and the fact that the ’60s Rat Pack immersion therapy each book delivers keeps you coming back.

I’m rushing to finish my current read so I can drop back in at the Sands circa mid ’60s with the next Rat Pack Mystery installment — I’m a Fool to Kill You. This time it looks like Frank seeks a favor for his ex wife Ava Gardner. Then I’m queuing up the sixth edition — Fly Me To the Morgue (too funny) for the holidays … hey, it apparently features Bing Crosby in a horse racing scandal, and who doesn’t love Bing around the holidays!

Sorry for wandering off the music for this post, but these books are fun trips back in time and fun reads. Give ’em a try and let me know what you think. Now, back to the music…

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  • Wild Bill

    The books are thoroughly amusing. Robert Randisi researched the good old days of Las Vegas and tied some interesting facts in his novel. Eddie G and Jerry form an unlikely, but cool duo. I poured through all six in about two weeks. Now if I could only travel to 1961 Vegas, I’d have a dandy road trip to get excited about. I hope Mr. Randisi continues the series.

    • vs_guy

      Hey Wild Bill, thanks for stopping by. I’m with you on the fun diversion Randisi’s Rat Pack Mysteries deliver. The relationship between Mr. “G” and Jerry has definitely become rich and interesting over the six book arch RR has provided thus far. Like you I can’t wait for the next serving of RR’s rich Rat Pack fare … and can’t help wondering who the next friend Frank or Dean are going to bring to Eddie for “assistance”.