Although he never rose to the commercial success of his contemporaries, Robert Colby was a productive author of paperback original novels for Fawcett Gold Medal and Ace during the 1950s and 1960s. Meanwhile, he was also a regular contributor of short stories to ‘Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine’ and ‘Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.’ “The Star Trap” was Colby’s 1960 release for Fawcett Gold Medal. The book was also reprinted by Manor Books in 1974, and it exists as an affordable eBook today.
Our narrator is Hollywood B-list actor Glenn Harley who is awakened by a 3 a.m. hysterical phone call from starlet Nancy Rhymer - a mere acquaintance - needing help. Glenn rushes to Nancy’s home to find her in a revealing nightgown with a fellow actor lying dead on the floor with a knife wound in his chest. For reasons not fully revealed at first, Nancy wants Glenn’s help in concealing the murder.
The act of stashing a body to get in good with a beautiful girl inevitably involves complications, and it wouldn’t be a femme fatale noir story without them. I won’t give away the store in this review, but suffice to say I found myself muttering, “Oh man, this is getting good,” several times throughout the short novel. At points, there is a disappearing corpse, a missing bundle of cash, some crooked cops, and an honest-to-goodness nymphomaniac. Fun for everyone.
“The Star Trap” isn’t a masterpiece of the genre by any means, but it’s a pretty enjoyable - and very short - paperback to kill a few hours. I’ve heard that Colby’s best work was his 1959 thriller, “The Captain Must Die,” and I intend to check that one out in the near future. Stay tuned.