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THE KEPT GIRL by Kim Cooper

L.A. historian Kim Cooper's indie-published debut novel, The Kept Girl, is inspired by a sensational real-life Los Angeles cult murder spree which exploded into the public consciousness when fraud charges were filed against the cult's leaders in 1929.

The victim was the nephew of oil company president Joseph Dabney, Raymond Chandler's boss. In the novel, Chandler, still several years away from publishing his first short story, is one of three amateur detectives who uncover the ghastly truth about the Great Eleven cult over one frenetic week.

Informed by the author's extensive research into the literary, spiritual, criminal and architectural history of Southern California,
The Kept Girl is a terrifying noir love story, set against the backdrop of a glittering pre-crash metropolis.


The first chapter-and-a-half of The Kept Girl is written in first-person from Chandler's viewpoint as he's tasked with tracing $40,000 scammed from Joseph Dabney's nephew, Clifford. With no illusions of being a detective himself, Chandler enlists the help of his secretary and a cop friend, and the story splits into three third-person viewpoints: our three protagonists pursuing different angles of the investigation.

I forgave this narrative hiccup. If Cooper had spent all or most of the novel in Chandler's head, the resulting prose might have seemed an imitation of his eloquence or an attempt to romanticize him into Philip Marlowe. Instead, The Kept Girl's portrait of Chandler is realistic and sad, the action more driven by Chandler's secretary, who infiltrates the cult, and the cop friend, who handles the "hard business".

The Kept Girl is best read as a fun, what-if scenario. What if Chandler and friends had some part in exposing this real cult? Cooper's level of detail took me to the place and time to make that imaginative leap. I hope she continues writing fiction.


Kim's second blog tour stop at Chatterrific is a February 19 guest post about how she oversaw the book's publication.

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